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Author Talk: July 31, 2009


July 31, 2009

In this interview, Glenn Cooper --- whose book SECRET OF THE SEVENTH SON is now available in stores --- discusses how the plot of his debut novel was inspired by philosophical questions he grappled with at a young age, and explains how he relied on his background in science and archaeology to enrich the story. He also describes the book's unusual editing process and shares details about its sequel, BOOK OF SOULS, to be published in 2010.

Question: What inspired SECRET OF THE SEVENTH SON?
Glenn Cooper: I vividly remember first learning about the concept of predestination when I was a teenager. I recall wrestling with the notion that the course of human events might be preordained. It seemed like an absurd idea --- what about free will and personal choice? Clearly an individual’s decisions have specific consequences, no? Still, the subject percolated in my head for a very long time until recently, in a daydream, I had a "what if?" moment that proved to be the seed for the book.
Q: Did you draw upon any personal experiences in writing the book?
GC: Specific experiences, no, but areas of knowledge and expertise, definitely yes. My background in science and archaeology came in handy, and my lifelong interest in medieval Europe and the history of religion also came into play. The book is heavily researched and I’ve tried to be as factually-grounded as I could in the historical underpinnings of the story.
Q: You’ve written many screenplays but this is your first novel. Which form is easier?
GC: They’re both extremely hard to do well. I’ve tried to blend the pacing and dialogue skills I’ve learned writing scripts with the more languid and satisfying aspects of novelistic prose. Neither is easier than the other; each form can be gratifying one day and cruel the next.
Q: There’s a sequel to SECRET OF THE SEVENTH SON you’ve already written, BOOK OF SOULS. Will that be the only one?
GC: I think so. Will Piper, the book’s protagonist, deserved a few more pages and a few more adventures but I don’t think I’m necessarily wired to write a series. I’m already working on two more stand-alone thrillers, but on the other hand, Will Piper is a special guy to me….
Q: The book was purchased by publishers in Europe before you did a deal in the United States. Is that unusual for an American author?
GC: I believe it is relatively unusual. Our first sale was actually in the UK, which pleased me to no end since I’ve lived and worked in England, I’m married to a Brit and a good portion of the book is based there. I think the genre of arcane conspiracies which have past and present narratives and big global repercussions is very much in the vogue in Europe right now --- not that it’s chopped liver in the United States. Perhaps that’s why we were able to sell translation rights in over 25 languages, and I’m pretty sure that this is very unusual for a debut novel.
Q: Apparently there were some unique aspects to the way the book was edited. Is this true?
GC: Three sets of English-language editors, Kate Elton and Georgina Hawtrey-Woore at Random House UK, Lyssa Keusch at HarperCollins US and Iris Tupholme at HarperCollins Canada, agreed to collaborate on editorial notes. When we lacked consensus on an issue, we all kept collaborating and talking until blessedly, we had one version that everyone bought into.
Q: Why is the title different in the US and the other worldwide markets?
GC: LIBRARY OF THE DEAD was my original title and it was chosen for all territories except the US. The US publisher preferred SECRET OF THE SEVENTH SON. Book titles are funny things and I’m told this happens all the time. I like both of them.

© Copyright 2009, Glenn Cooper. All rights reserved.

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