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Eric Van Lustbader Interview, after First Daughter

August 10, 2008

Here is an author interview I conducted with Eric Van Lustbader via email, after reading “First Daughter.”

Q: What was the original element that began the idea for “First Daughter?”

A: I have two surrogate daughters, one of whom is just about Emma’s age. I have a very interesting and complex relationship with them as they have difficult relationships with their biological fathers. I wanted to write about that.

Q: How did you decide to make dyslexia part of Jack McClure’s character?

A: From the beginning, I envisioned Jack as being damaged, and began searching the Net for what his problem could be. When I came across a certain dyslexia site I was immediately hooked. Like almost everyone else I’d always had a rather simplistic view of what this disability really was. Then I found out the truth and how parents could help their dyslexic children learn; it was a beautiful experience I wanted to share with others.

Q: What struggles with dyslexia have you seen firsthand?

A: I have a number of friends who are dyslexic, but to be honest I think I have a number of dyslexic traits myself, because I always did better learning by doing rather than studying. I went to an elementary school, City & Country, where I learned by doing and I flourished there. As soon as I went on to high school and college, where the emphasis was on rote learning by memorization, I struggled and pretty much lost interest.

Q: How did you research dyslexia, and the way McClure’s different way of seeing leads him to insights that push the solution of the mystery forward? What resources were particularly helpful?

A: As I said, I did most of my research online at sites such as But a lot of Jack’s thinking comes from my own personal experience. I tend to se everything in three dimensions, I also see the big picture first, and for a long time I was astonished that no one around me saw things the same way, that I had to explain to other people what was so obvious to me.

Q: Where, and when, did you get the idea for the First American Secular Revivalists? Did any particular news items help inspire your ideas for a secular activist movement in your novel?

A: I’d begun to hear a lot about a new form of secularists, mainly in Europe, composed of both philosophers and scientists, who were concerned with the undue influence organized religion was having over the average individual. About this time, a neighbor of mine mentioned that she’d read an interesting book by Christopher Hitchens called God Is Not Great, which I read with great interest. It became the springboard for much of my more intensive research.

Q: What was it like to research the histories of killers like Ian Brady and Charles Whitman? Where did that research fall in the writing process? (I’m curious whether it was part of the original constellation of ideas, and how you made the decision to have your kidnapper draw his identity and his menace from historical killers.)

A:These people were not part of my original outline, but the fact is I’ve always been influenced by Colin Wilson, especially his seminal work, The Outsider, which I read and re-read while in college and which has influenced my life perhaps more than any other book. As the personality of the kidnapper began to emerge through my writing I recognized certain traits in him. Sure enough, when I checked through Wilson’s exhaustive A Criminal History of Mankind, I discovered Brady and Whitman. I must have been channeling something.

Q: Is there another Jack McClure novel on the horizon? What are you working on now?

A: Oh yes, I have the idea for the next Jack McClure novel, but first I have a contractual obligation to finish the next Jason Bourne novel, which will be published in June of 2009. But, as they say in the movies, Jack McClure will return.

Q: What are the main differences between the writing process for the Bourne books you have written, and the process you went through to write “First Daughter?”

A: Aside from the fact that by design there are more action scenes in the Bourne books, I don’t think there’s all that much difference. In fact, some of the techniques I learned while writing “First Daughter” can be found in my current Bourne novel, The Bourne Sanction. To give you an example, Bourne is pitted against his most dangerous and psychologically complex foe, who I’ve given a fascinating back story, just as I did with Jack.

Q: With Emma McClure’s iPod, Jack McClure’s fondness for James Brown, and Alli Carter listening to Arcade Fire helping shape the plot of “First Daughter” I have to ask- what are the 10 most played songs on your iPod? And what do you listen to most often when you write?

A: The ten most played songs change all the time, as I’m a restless listener — I’m always searching for new music to listen to. That said, right now:

Out of Control – Clear Static

Empty World – Bombay Monkey

Ocean Beach (Cybophobia Cinematic Remix) – Black Mighty Orchestra [a perennial favorite]

Waiting For You – D:Fuse & Hiratzka

Dry Drunk Emperor – TV on the Radio

Christmas Valley – The Walkabouts

The Leaving Kind – The Walkabouts

Monkey Forest Road – Takka Takka

Right Here – Bombay Monkey

Mine Host – Oceansize

What I listen to while I’m writing depends on the scene. If it’s action lately, then something like Semifinalists, The Notwist, or Blood Red Shoes.

Otherwise, something a bit more mellow, such as Bombay Monkey, Silver Mt. Zion, Snowy or, more familiar bands, The National, Film School, and Devics.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 1, 2008 4:58 am

    What a fun interview! I just love getting a little more insight on the books by reading the interviews of the author!!

    Your interview has been added to About the Author – An Author Interview Index!

    🙂 Wendi


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