The best-selling author David Baldacci has just released The Forgotten, the latest in his thriller series featuring the army special agent John Puller. Set in the town of Paradise, Florida, Puller soon discovers that Paradise doesn't live up to its name when he's forced to tackle one of his hardest cases ever - and this time it's personal. The death of his aunt raises questions when Puller's father receives a letter from her, telling him that beneath the shiny veneer of Paradise, all is not as it seems.
Baldacci has published 24 novels which have been translated into 45 languages in more than 80 countries: 110 million copies of his works are in print. His big break came with the publication of his first novel Absolute Power, which, not long after its release, was made into a major film starring and directed by the veteran actor Clint Eastwood. From there, Baldacci left his career as a lawyer to write full-time and is now one of the most successful novelists in print.
"I wanted to make my living writing novels but I had a family and couldn't do it. I couldn't have gone the starving writers' route, my wife would have never understood," he says.
"It's what I've always wanted to do, but I practised law really to support myself day to day and pay my bills. Fortunately, at some point my career really took off and I was able to become a full-time writer," he adds.
A new career
Taking on his new career wasn't a huge shock to Baldacci's system, he says, after having worked on legal cases for several years involving hundreds of hours of preparation. Thinking about sitting down to write a novel wasn't as daunting a task for the lawyer as it might have been for others crafting their first book.
"I would prepare and work a little bit on it each day and not have an expectation to finish a book in a weekend, so that was one of the chief attributes of working as a lawyer," he says.
The new novel The Forgotten highlights how evil and darkness can "lurk anywhere", he says, "and while the surface might seem really beautiful, not just in this book but in life in general, what lurks beneath can be much darker".
On the craft
While some novelists and writers like to outline their entire book before crafting each chapter, Baldacci prefers to rely on creative spontaneity and doesn't even know how his own books will end.
"I love going on a journey with these novels and I never know the ending until I get there … I feel if I surprise myself, I'm certainly going to surprise my readers - and that's not a bad thing," he says.
At 52 years old and a married father of two, Baldacci has had a certain degree of life experience. This, he says, is essential for any writer - to have experience and maturity and apply this to the craft.
"Writing is a craft and there are very few products you use in the writing field; a lot of it is based on experience and maturity … The world grafts skills onto you as a writer and you have to keep working at it - no-one will ever really master it, we all just kind of practise it and try to get better at it."
The 1996 adaption of Absolute Power isn't the only chance viewers will have to see his work on the big screen, however. Baldacci has just finished writing and producing the independent film Wish You Well, starring Mackenzie Foy (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn) with Ellen Burstyn and Josh Lucas. It's due to be released next year.
The Forgotten is out now, published by Macmillan, priced at Dh114.
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