By Nate Kenyon
The author of more than forty novels, Stuart Woods has been penning thrillers for over thirty years. The NEW YORK TIMES has called him “the Nora Roberts of mystery best-sellerdom.” His latest bestselling series features Former NYPD detective and lawyer Stone Barrington. Woods won an Edgar Award with his first novel, CHIEFS, which was made into a TV miniseries starring Charlton Heston. He has written a sailing memoir, BLUE WATER, GREEN SKIPPER, which chronicles the birth of his longtime passion for sailing and the first race he competed in, the ’76 Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic Race. Boats and sailing feature prominently in a number of his novels, as does flying: Woods is a licensed pilot and flies a Cessna Citation M-2 jet. He splits his time between Florida, Maine, and New York City.
THE BIG THRILL sat down recently with the author to discuss his career and upcoming Barrington novel, STANDUP GUY:
Stone Barrington’s newest client does not seem the type to bring mayhem in his wake. A polite, well-deported gentleman, he comes to Stone seeking legal expertise on an unusual—and potentially lucrative—dilemma. Stone points him in the right direction and sends him on his way, but it’s soon clear Stone hasn’t seen the end of the case. Several people are keenly interested in this gentleman’s activities and how they may relate to a long-ago crime . . . and some of them will stop at nothing to find the information they desire.
On a hunt that leads from Florida’s tropical beaches to the posh vacation homes of the Northeast, Stone finds himself walking a tightrope between ambitious authorities and seedy lowlifes who all have the same prize in their sights. In this cutthroat contest of wills, it’s winner-takes-all . . . and Stone will need every bit of his cunning and resourcefulness to be the last man standing.
Tell us where the idea for STANDUP GUY began.
In my fevered imagination.
Through the course of more than two-dozen novels, Stone Barrington has progressed from an NYPD detective to a practicing lawyer (and wealthy man). Did you have an idea where his life would lead early on in the series?
I’m a very improvisational writer, from chapter to chapter and from book to book. It all happens as it happens; there is no grand plan.
How do you keep track of all Stone has been through when you write the next novel?
I have a gift for keeping story lines in my head. Unfortunately, the gift is not infallible.
Has your writing process changed since your first few novels?
It’s gotten faster, as I’ve gained confidence. It used to take me four hours to write a chapter; now I do it in an hour. I work an hour a day, seven days a week for eight months a year. The rest of the time I just fool around.
You are known for writing “page-turners”. How do you keep readers hooked and wanting to know what happens next?
It helps that I, myself, want to know what happens next.
You have traveled extensively in your life. Tell us about one or two of your favorite places.
London, first of all, and I’ve just come back from spending a month in Paris, so that’s become a favorite. I’m also very fond of the Isle of Wight, in England, which is a microcosm of the country. I had a house there for ten years in the 80s and 90s.
Of all your novels, which is your personal favorite, and why?
CHIEFS, because it is my first-born, and because the story is all caught up in my family and hometown history. I don’t know if it’s my best; others will have to judge that.
Your plots seem well suited for the movies, and CHIEFS was a success as a TV miniseries. Are there any film projects in development now?
One—White Cargo—but like most deals, it will probably never get made.
What piece of advice would you give aspiring writers?
Write something. It’s surprising how many aspiring writers forget to do that.
Stuart Woods is the author of more than fifty novels, including the NEW YORK TIMES–bestselling Stone Barrington and Holly Barker series. He is a native of Georgia and began his writing career in the advertising industry. CHIEFS, his debut in 1981, won the Edgar Award. An avid sailor and pilot, Woods lives in New York City, Florida, and Maine.
To learn more about Stuart, please visit his website.
Photography credit: Harry Benson