Editors Blog

Debut Author Interview: Chris Pavone, Author of THE EXPATS, a 2012 Thriller

Along with plenty of agent interviews on this blog, I’m hoping to do more interviews of up-and-coming writers (especially debut authors in 2012) that I like or I think you should know. Today please enjoy an interview with author Chris Pavone, author of the buzzed about novel, The Expats (March 6, 2012, Crown). The thriller debut received starred reviews from Booklist (“A must for espionage fans”), as well as Library Journal (“Brilliant, insanely clever, and delectably readable”), as well as Publishers Weekly (“Fans of John le Carre and Robert Ludlum will welcome [this] meticulously plotted, psychologically complex spy thriller”).

GIVEAWAY: Chris is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Mattkrol won.)

 

 

       

 

What is the book’s genre/category?

The Expats is a thriller, but one that tends more toward general fiction than toward breathless pulp.

Tell us what the story is about.

An American moves abroad and soon finds herself in a complex web of intrigue, where no one is who they claim to be, and the most profound deceptions lurk beneath the most normal-looking of marriages.

(What types of novel beginnings get an agent or editor to keep reading?)

Where do you write from?

I live in Greenwich Village in New York City, but I rarely write at home, where there’s too much else to do. So after I drop my kids at school, I proceed directly to a private club nearby, where there are other people doing exactly what I’m doing, and waiters to bring us coffee and food, and in summer a swimming pool on the roof.

Briefly, what led up this book? 

I worked in the book publishing business for nearly two decades before I turned my attention to writing, first with a couple ghostwriting projects, plus a crappy novel that absolutely no one wanted to publish. Then I moved to Luxembourg, for my wife’s job, and found the inspiration for The Expats.

What was the time frame for writing this book?

It took me four months of actual writing to produce the first draft, divided by a two-month interruption to move back to New York from Europe. I then sent the first draft to some readers—a fiction editor, a magazine writer, and my wife—and revised. Then a second draft to different readers, including a literary novelist, and revised again. Then to a friend who runs a publishing house, as well as an agent. At some party, those two found themselves in a corner, discussing what I needed to do to improve the manuscript. So I revised it yet again. All told, the revisions took nine months, more than twice as long as the first draft.

How did you find your agent?

I met my agent David Gernert two decades ago, when he was the editor-in-chief of Doubleday and I was a young copy editor there, working as hard as I possibly could, for almost no money. David’s assistant Amy Williams was one of my best friends. And in fact Amy introduced me to my wife, in the elevator at what was then called Bantam Doubleday Dell, whose components are now part of Random House (where my wife is an executive), which includes Crown. And Crown is not only my publisher, but an outfit where I myself worked for six years. This circuitous route to representation is probably not a replicable path for most writers.

 

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What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?

I was aghast at how long it took to revise, and astounded at how much better my manuscript became when I heeded the intelligent suggestions of careful readers.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?

I spent the entirety of my adult life working in the publishing business, as has my wife and many of our friends. There are plenty of paths to becoming a writer, but I think the most reliable ones involve total commitment: writing for magazines and newspapers, teaching writing, editing books, representing authors . . . If you devote your career to pursuits like these, you’ve put yourself in the existing paths of book contracts. But if you do something unrelated, you have to create that path yourself.

(How to create an effective synopsis for your novel or memoir.)

On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?

I’m outlining my next novel much more diligently that I did The Expats, hoping to trim my revision time to something less than the human gestational period.

Did you have a platform in place? 

I did not have a platform in place, nor do I now. There are a lot of people in the world who are doing everything they possibly can to become famous, but I’m not one of them. All I can do is write the best possible books I can.

Website(s)?

www.chrispavone.com

What’s next?

I’m a good way through a first draft of a new novel. And this time around, I already know how it’s going to end! (At least, I think I do.)

GIVEAWAY: Chris is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Mattkrol won.)

 

 

 

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15 thoughts on “Debut Author Interview: Chris Pavone, Author of THE EXPATS, a 2012 Thriller

  1. skir

    I am really looking forward to reading this, as an expat myself -from Europe to US- I expect to have an interesting perspective.
    and congratulations.

  2. geurts

    I was especially caught by your comment after you described your experience working up through the publishers’ houses: “This circuitous route to representation is probably not a replicable path for most writers.” In response, neither is any other writer’s. The more stories I hear about how people found their vocations, the more I am amazed how unlikely it all sounds. I think the non-scientific, non-replicable path is in fact the only one out there.

    I have also had the experience of being startled at how a collection of friends’ comments can really shine up a work. Even when, taken separately, they seem unremarkable, in the end the cloud precipitates some mightily refreshing rain.

  3. sefmac20

    Congratulations! I love hearing about, and reading, debut authors. It builds my confidence as a writer and fuels my drive to one day be giving my book away.

    Thanks Mr. Marleau for the “Beat Sheet” reference. Looking forward to checking that out, along with “The Expats”

  4. Daniel Marleau

    Chris is absolutely right about the power of outlining to jump start your novel. I spend at least 1-2 months in this stage before starting the journey. But nothing in great detail, just the tent pole moments and big story beats. Leave room for detours. I’m big fan of using Blake Snyder’s “beat sheet” as a start to the outline.

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