INTERVIEW WITH KATHERINE NEVILLE

AUTHOR'S WEBSITE:  http://www.katherineneville.com/

                      JULY 9, 2002

From all the books you have written, do you have a favorite?

I love all my books, but I love THE MAGIC CIRCLE best. It is the first
book I tried to write, sort of like the first child you tried to conceive, and
as such will always have an important place in my heart.

At what point in time did you realize that writing was "the thing for you"?

When I was eight years old, I had already written a book. So
I would have to say, like Isadora Duncan, that my calling was already
there in the womb.

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a writer?

It's something most people do not realize until you say it.
To be a full-time writer, you have to LOVE being alone. Most
successful writers have had major difficulties dealing with the fact
that one hundred percent of their productive life MUST be spent
completely alone, listening to your own ideas, to the voices of your
characters, not of your boss, your spouse, your children, or your
fans.

What is the name of your favorite mystery movie?

Wow, that is tough. I'd have to say off the op of my head,
WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, because it contains so
many elements of suspense and humor. Plus I love Billy Wilder.

What other authors do you enjoy reading?

All of them. The biggies are all dead, unfortunately: Dumas
Pere, Voltaire, Rafael Sabatini, Zola, etc etc. I confess, I love
swashbuckling adventure novels laden with history.

Do you normally do a lot of research when writing a book?

Life is research.

What other types of jobs have you had?

Banker, international consultant, computer expert, painter,
waiter, photographer, model...of all these, working in a restaurant
was my favorite.

Do you attend conventions and signings?

Always, if time permits.

Is there anyone, in particular, who influenced you?

Marie Curie. She had an attitude I really love: Why shouldn't I
discover radiation--and name it? Why shouldn't I be admitted to the
national academy? Why shouldn't I be the first person to win two
Nobel Prizes?

What led you to write mysteries?

Life is a mystery. Whenever I am asked this question by authors, I say,
what's interesting about a life lived alone in a room? (Which describes the
life of most authors.) What is truly interesting about life  is: What's going to
happen next?

Do you read reviews of your books?

As a reviewer myself, and lit major, I used to love the entire review process,
the input from literary experts who knew the intellectual context within which
an author's works were placed. I have framed and hung in the library my own
reviews of Don DeLillo and Milorad Pavic.

Those days are over. I sometimes feel I have to chew a rag to bring myself
to read a review of anyone's work, including my own. Many reviewers now do
not even provide the courtesy of skimming the work they are reviewing. I call
these Flap Copy Reviews. It is no wonder that most major periodicals have
stopped or limited the literary review sections. I still read them--and I weep.

How would you like to be remembered?

With total recall.

What do you believe is the highlight of your writing career so far?

I think the national poll in Spain, by El Pais, where my first book, THE EIGHT,
was chosen (along with Don Quixote) as one of the top ten books of all time.

Do you write on a fixed schedule or do you wait until thoughts come to you?

Since thoughts come to me even in my sleep, a fixed writing schedule, and a
ruthless editor with a short attention span, are both necessary.

How did you get started in writing?

I started before the age of eight. But in grammar school, we were asked to
write a story on a Saturday Evening Post cover (stories in themselves.) So
I learned, at an early age, the additional discipline of writing around someone
else's "snapshot" of a story.

How do you come up with plots?

I paraphrase Saint-Saens on music: plots fall from me like apples from a tree.
The secret ingredient is curiosity: about life, about fiction, about mystery,
about everything. It is a trait I share with my readers.

Did you take any classes on how to write?

Too many to count. All at university. All nearly useless. I now believe, for those
who are writers and aspire to become authors, the highly intensive workshop
with someone whose style or approach is like what you want to write.

Do you ever get writer's block?

I do not seem to be a good candidate for writers block, since I have ten or
twelve books already in outline; but the events of life can often prevent us
from writing fiction. My solution, so far, is to say that when crises descend,
STOP WRITING until you can get back to that clear space you can live in,
which is the fictional domain.

My own opinion is that much of writers block, for published authors, is the
demand by readers, and especially publishers, to Do the Same Thing Again.
That's enough to make me fall on the ground in a stupor.

If you are writing what you want, what you love, no one can stop you--even
snow, rain or hail, screaming children, pets, or spouse, will prevent the postman
from delivering a manuscript worth reading.

What are your hobbies and interests?

I have no hobbies. I am interested in everything.

How do you spend your free time?

Free time? What's that? Is this a Science Fiction concept?--surely not a part
of reality?

Do you have a message you would like to give to all the readers out there?

Readers don't need a message. Readers (and I am one) know what we like
and we know who delivers it.

But for writers, I do have a message: Don't write for anyone but yourself,
not your family, not your publisher, not your friends, not your fans. If you write
a book that you yourself love to read over and over, there will be enough readers
out there who feel the same way you do. If you please yourself, you don't have
to worry about pleasing all of the people all of the time. If you please yourself,
you will have a great book.

                                               ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katherine Neville was born in the Midwest and attended school there and in the Rocky Mountains, spending summers in the Pacific Northwest. She developed an early interest in the myths and tales of other cultures like those of the Native Americans and the Mountain Men of the Rockies. From childhood she wanted to be a writer, and began writing at the age of eight. After college, Neville went to New York City and entered the new and fast-growing computer field. Over the next five years, her work was diverse; she wrote programs for the stock exchanges and for the transportation industry, developing systems for railroads, motor freight and ocean shipping. Her career in computers and subsequent interests would take her, over the next twenty years, to countries on three continents, as well as half of the United States.

In New York, Neville was inspired by her African American colleagues to learn more about African cultures. Among her other interests, she worked mornings for the Black Panthers' breakfast program and began studying and collecting African art. She still has her first acquisition, a hundred-year-old Mende female dancing mask from Sierra Leone. While continuing in the computer field, Neville did her postgraduate work on "Form in Black Literature in French and English, in Africa, Europe, and America."

In the 1970s, Neville went to North Africa as an international consultant to the Algerian government, and was living there when the OPEC petroleum embargo took place. These experiences--her first-hand view of global turmoil caused by the shift in economic power from the Cold War confrontation toward the Third World--would provide the fodder for her first published novel,
The Eight, a story revolving around a chess game plot set in two different time frames: the French Revolution of the 1790s and the OPEC embargo of the 1970s. In the ten years since its publication, The Eight has become a cult classic translated into 15 languages.

Whenever in school or between jobs, Neville often supported herself by painting and fashion modeling. These activities, and working with photographers over the years, helped her develop her own photography skills. Upon returning from North Africa and finding computer jobs scarce, Neville started her own photography business with the aid and support of male photographer friends, and operated for several years as one of the first female commercial photographers in Colorado.

In the late 1970s, thanks to her previous work in the energy field, Neville was called to Idaho as a consultant at the Department of Energy's nuclear research site in the high desert where she helped develop automated methods to identify, track and manage toxic, hazardous and transuranic materials. This experience, along with her re-acquaintance with the northwest of her youth and a year spent in Austria and Germany, would later provide the core of
The Magic Circle--a novel about Uranus, uranium, the Rockies, the Russians, and the millennium.

In 1980, Neville moved to San Francisco where she remained for the next ten years and became a vice president of the Bank of America. Having initiated her career on the stock exchanges of New York and finding herself now, twenty years later, in the world banking arena inspired her international caper,
A Calculated Risk, a tale of high-stakes intrigue and skullduggery in the world of global money markets.

At age forty, Neville left the computer world behind and moved to Europe with her best friend and "significant other," Dr. Karl Pribram, the world-famous brain scientist renowned for his holographic theory of memory storage, and for his discovery of the functions of the brains limbic systems and frontal lobes. After living for some time abroad, Neville and Pribram settled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with their cockatiel-atura named Cosie fan Tootie, and Tyger, the cat.

Neville is presently working on her new novel about painters, set in the sixteenth century and in modern times, in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
Listen to a message from Katherine Neville on Book Talk! Call 818-788-9722 and request recording number 4277 to hear Katherine talk to readers about The Magic Circle. (If you browse the recordings instead of going straight to Katherine's, hers will be after Kurt Vonnegut's.)
More on Katherine Neville and her books (including reviews, comments from the author, and a list of books for similar tastes) can be found at
The Unofficial Katherine Neville Home Page, maintained by Vicki Kondelik.