By Virna DePaul
About THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY: A nation shattered by its president’s murder. Two diaries that reveal the true scope of an American conspiracy. A detective determined to bring the truth to light, no matter what it costs him. THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY is a vivid tale of intrigue, riddles, and murder in post-Civil War Washington.
“History as a dangerous, inventive game. Fascinating.”—Martin Cruz Smith
“THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY is a hell of a good read. It’s an exciting thriller full of believable characters and absorbing history, and the end result is a page-turning blend of research and imagination.”—David Liss
Recently, I interviewed author Tim O’Brien. Here’s what Mr. O’Brien had to say about his upcoming release.
You have amazing writing credentials as an award-winning journalist and Executive Editor of THE HUFFINGTON POST. Now you’re writing historical thrillers for Random House that are set in the years after the Lincoln assassination. Can you tell us about the first novel, THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY?
THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY is set in Washington and New York just after the assassination and the plot and action revolve around an Irish-American detective who stumbles upon a pair of diaries (one of them coded) at a chaotic and confusing murder scene. From then on, he and his wife have to alternately avoid and bait government officials, Pinkertons, and others who want the diaries and who will kill them to get them.
According to PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY, you offer “an intriguing theory for the motive behind the assassination.” How much of THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY is fact versus fiction?
It’s a novel, so it’s built around fictional characters and their thoughts and motivations. But it’s set in a precise, revolutionary moment with real historical figures present and characterized — and I researched it deeply so readers would feel immersed in the realities and actual tensions of the era. Much of the novel is fact-based and it relies on the historical record to propel the story forward.
What are some of the challenges encountered by your protagonist, police detective Temple McFadden?
Temple, who has a profound disability, is pushing up against the most powerful players of his time and for the entire book, he, his wife Fiona, and their friends are engaged in an intricate game of cat-and-mouse revolving around the Lincoln assassination. He and Fiona have to rely on their smarts and instincts to survive. While he is elaborately gifted in some ways, Temple also has flaws that hold him back and complicate his relationship with Fiona.
Given you’d already published two non-fiction novels, did your journey in publishing THE LINCOLN CONSPIRACY hold any surprises for you?
Fiction gives you a narrative control you don’t completely enjoy with non-fiction. I also have become attached to and enmeshed with Temple, Fiona, Augustus and other characters in the novel and they live and breath in my imagination in a way that I haven’t experienced with non-fiction. Perhaps that’s because non-fiction is observational and, of necessity, has to cleave to the fact pattern. Fiction is much more personal and interior, I think.
How involved are you with social media platforms and do you feel being so is an important part of being an author?
I was an early adopter of social media and enjoy all of it. It’s the imaginative lobe of the Web and it’s great tool for connecting with people (in a disciplined, respectful way!) and for research. I think you have to put tight parameters around your use of it, because it can become a waste of time and silly. For a novel, I’ve found Facebook to be a great, visual platform for extending the creative reach of the work. I’m not sure I’ve succeeded, but here is the Facebook page for my novel.
What are your thoughts on the e-revolution and how it’s impacted publishing?
It’s inevitable and transformative (in the same way that the Internet has transformed journalism, music, entertainment, retail, public engagement). But I don’t see hardcover books entirely evaporating. What matters most is that people find a way to read – either on paper or digitally.
What do you read for fun?
Thrillers, of course! I’ve always loved Martin Cruz Smith’s work and am honored he blurbed my book. Conan Doyle, Christie, Alan Furst, le Carre, Follett, Stephen King, David Liss. And, on the non-thriller side, I have to add Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, Conrad, Elizabeth Bishop and Toni Morrison to that list.
What is your next writing project?
I’m back in the saddle with Temple McFadden again. The saga continues. I hope the entire series can capture the social arc of the early industrial years in America because so much was set in motion around politics, wealth, women, African-Americans, work and power — all of which we are still living with today. It’s a great tableau for storytelling.
TIMOTHY O’BRIEN is the Executive Editor of THE HUFFINGTON POST, where he edited the 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning series about wounded war veterans, “Beyond the Battlefield.” Previously, he was an editor and reporter at THE NEW YORK TIMES. There, he helped to lead a team of TIMES reporters that was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in Public Service in 2009 for coverage of the financial crisis.
To learn more about Timothy, please visit his website.