Thursday, September 17, 2009

Interview With Andrew Klavan

One of the great perks about being an author and speaker is that I get the opportunity to meet and hang out with other writers (usually ones a lot more famous and talented than me). One of the incredible authors I have been fortunate enough to get to know a little is Andrew Klavan. Andrew is an Edgar Award winning author of a bunch of great books such as Hunting Down Amanda, Shotgun Alley, Dynamite Road, and Empire of Lies. In addition, two of his New York Times bestselling novels were made into commercially successful films: Don’t Say a Word starring Michael Douglas, and True Crime starring Clint Eastwood.

Klavan recently released his first novel for young adults, The Last Thing I Remember, by Thomas Nelson, and it quickly became a CBA bestseller. It’s the story of Charlie West, an ordinary, straight arrow teenager who goes to bed one night and wakes up strapped to a chair being tortured by jihadists. Charlie's desperate struggle to find out how he got into a situation like this will challenge him in every way, forcing him to rely on his faith, his courage and his fighting skills to stay alive. The second in the series, The Long way Home, will be released next February.

Andrew was kind enough to let me use one of his quotes in my first book and has put up with my barrage of emails and newsletters over the years. You can find out more about Andrew and his work on his web site at Here are a few questions Andrew agreed to answer for our readers:

1) Let me start with the question that everyone always wants to know—how did you become a writer?

You know, the truth is, I never wanted to be anything else. I mean, when I was little, I wanted to be an astronaut and a cowboy or whatever, but by the time I was thinking seriously about who I was, I felt I was a novelist. I took jobs to earn money, but I was always writing at night, and the minute I scraped together enough money, I would quit and write full time until I was broke again. Looking back on it, it was a dumb way to do it, but I was obsessed with doing this one thing I wanted to do.

2) Second obligatory question—where do you get your ideas from?

I don’t really have a good answer to that. The fact that I get ideas is what I started with. If I didn’t have ideas, I wouldn’t be a novelist. If stories didn’t come to me that I had to tell, felt compelled to tell, believe me, I would do something far more secure, far less dependent on the opinions and tastes of others. I’d’ve gone to law school or whatever. The fact that I have ideas for stories is why I do what I do.

3) What was it like having several of your books turned into successful Hollywood movies? Did you get to meet any of the stars?

Oh hey, it’s cool. Just the fact that it goes from being such a private act of creation to such a public show on such a big screen is sort of wild. But to be perfectly honest, I’ve always loved books first. I’d always rather read a good book than see a movie, so I’m not always as impressed by the whole movie thing as people around me are. Mostly I stayed out of the process – although I did write an early script of Don’t Say A Word. And yes, I did get to meet Clint Eastwood at the premiere of True Crime. A totally gracious, classy guy.

4) I absolutely love your videos on PJTV. How did the “Klavan on the Culture” series get started? [;jsessionid=abc_4BOdUHcWNhXQlalps]

Well, Roger Simon, the CEO of PJTV, had given me a webcam and invited me to come on some of their talk shows. So I was watching these shows and thinking, you know, this is really different, a whole new medium, and I’d like to do something with this that no one’s quite doing. So I pitched the idea of Klavan on the Culture to Roger as sort of a weird blend of social commentary and Monty Python. And Roger’s a creative guy and he was, like, sure, try it. So I did and it’s been an absolute blast.

5) Some of the videos in the series are probably considered quite politically incorrect. I suspect I know the answer to this but why jeopardize your career?

LOL, dude, that is my career! Not being politically incorrect per se, but saying what I mean, trying to get as close as I can to my vision of the truth. I always think: what’s the point of putting words down on paper if you’re not trying to get at the truth about things? And if the truth is politically incorrect then that’s where you go. I get a lot of relativist feedback, a lot of people who say, oh, you know, you’re being moralistic, nothing’s really objectively good or bad but thinking makes it so. But I don’t believe that and, you know what? Neither do they, not really. There’s such a thing as truth, we all know it, and writing—art, in general—is one of the ways we try to approach it.

6) Having been a long time fan of your work I have observed that you have gotten progressively less secular in nature and more faith-based in your writing style over the years. What is the motivation behind this? Why go from a big New York house publisher to Thomas Nelson, a CBA publisher?

Well, I wrestled with questions of faith for more than thirty years, and finally felt free to believe and it’s unnatural for me to force that down. I think it took me all that time, not to convince myself that God was real, but to convince myself that there were no intellectual objections that couldn’t be overcome. I had to clear the way, if you see what I mean, so I was sure my faith was authentic and not a form of escapism. Still, I try very hard not to write about things I don’t know. I don’t have angels fluttering around my books because I’ve never seen an angel. I just feel freer to allow characters to express their faith—which in the end makes my stuff just that much more realistic, I think.

7) Your last several books have been specifically about men (and boys) of faith. However, you appear to be pretty realistic in your portrayal of the struggles that Christian men deal with. Have you gotten much flack from the Christian community for this depiction?

A little flack, yeah. People saying why do I have to show men’s thoughts as being so highly sexualized, why do I have to show so much doubt, why aren’t I more sunny, more positive. I find this attitude kind of baffling. If the world were sunny and positive, you wouldn’t need faith! In True Crime, there’s a minister, who says something like, “If you want to believe in God, you have to believe in a god of the sad world.” I’m not trying to be unpleasant or disgusting or anything, I just want my stories to take place in the world as it is, not the world as we would like it to be.

8) You mentioned that you were “Getting attacked in the press for believing in God and being patriotic.” As a successful New York Times bestseller and Edgar Award winning author are you concerned that you and your work will be blacklisted or banned by Hollywood or the secular media because of your conservative stance?

You know, I’ve taken a big economic hit since I became so outspoken, and it can be tough at times, but I’ve never lost a moment’s sleep over it. I know there are people who won’t work with me anymore and, conversely, I know there are stories I’m no longer willing to tell because I think they’re dishonest or abhorrent. But I’ve never felt so at peace or so joyful about what I’m doing—and there’s not enough money in the world to buy that feeling from me. So doors will close, but I believe others will open, are opening even as we speak. We’ll see.

9) What do you think is the greatest threat to our country today?

Ignorance. We’re ignorant of the meaning of liberty. We don’t understand what it is, how rare it is, how important it is, how difficult it is to preserve—our young people especially. Al Qaeda and the Islamists attack from without and they’re a danger, but there’s a danger from within too—a danger of people selling away their birthright of freedom for easy comfort and security. Everything truly worthwhile—faith, love, the journey to your best self—they all require freedom. We should be teaching the meaning of the word on every street corner so that people remember.

10) What’s the best thing about being Andrew Klavan?

Oh, that’s an easy one. Being married to Mrs. Klavan. Thirty years and I’m still just absolutely crazy about her. I’m not just talking either. I wake up every morning and wrap myself around her in gratitude. Frankly, I think she finds it a thorough-going pain in the neck! LOL!

Find Andrew's great books at:

Empire of Lies:

The Last Thing I Remember: