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Philip Kaplan: On When the Book Writes Itself

Ambassador Philip Kaplan discusses how the characters came to him through the magic of the writing process in his debut novel, Night In Tehran.

Ambassador Philip Kaplan had a 27-year career as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service, including being U.S. minister, deputy chief of mission, and Charge d'Affaires, to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines during the tumultuous overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos.

Now retired from the State Department, Kaplan is currently a partner in Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe LLP's Washington, D.C. law office, where his practice is focused on public and private international law. He lives in Bethesda, MD.

Philip Kaplan: On When the Book Writes Itself

Philip Kaplan

In this post, Philip discusses how the characters came to him through the magic of the writing process in his debut novel, Night In Tehran, how sometimes the stories seem to write themselves, and more!

Name: Philip Kaplan
Literary agent: Ronald Goldfarb
Book title: Night in Tehran
Publisher: Melville House
Release date: October 26, 2021 (paperback)
Genre/category: Thriller/Historical spy novel
Elevator pitch for the book: If you’re curious to see how diplomacy and espionage really work, dive in.

Philip Kaplan: On When the Book Writes Itself

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What prompted you to write this book?

While I was working in the U.S. State Department in the late 1970s, I dealt with Iran policy. I was disturbed by what I considered policy errors that led to the takeover of Iran by a fundamentalist regime of ayatollahs. These ayatollahs have become a dangerous adversary of the United States that has lasted 40 years.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

It took some years for this story to form. I remained a diplomat and ambassador, and later became a partner in a Washington, D.C. law firm. This led to more ideas for my work of fiction, but the general plot always remained the same in my mind. The biggest challenge was that I also had much to learn about writing fiction.

I constantly encountered the challenges of publishing a debut novel as well as the process of altering my submitted drafts. There was also a lot of good advice from my publisher.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

There were tons of surprises. The amount of time that goes into editing as well as the work that goes into a book once you’ve written it on the post-production side. It was also surprising how my characters took form naturally. My intimate familiarity with the events in Iran, and further research and interviews with former U.S. officials, facilitated a general outline. But the book wrote itself.

Philip Kaplan: On When the Book Writes Itself

My fictional characters appeared and developed though the magic of the writing process. My protagonist, diplomat David Weiseman worked for the CIA Director, and formed a love/espionage partnership with a French agent. David dealt with leaders in Iran and spies from several European and Middle East countries. David faced challenges which tested his diplomatic skills, courage, and moral character. All this and more emerged in the writing process. As a debut author persistence finally paid off in publication, but it did take time.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

First, I hope this book is entertaining. Between the romance between David and Francoise as well as the political storyline that was drawn out to hook a reader. Second, the intrigue of diplomacy and espionage. The double dealing and betrayals, but ultimately identification with the hero and heroine who are trying desperately to do the right thing … together. Third, the delicate interaction of espionage, romance, and the historical context. It makes for a compelling read.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Never give up.

Historical Fiction

Join Donna Russo Morin to learn the definition of historical markers and how and where to unearth them. And uncover the tools to integrate history, research, and the fiction plot arc. Most of all, find out how to honor verisimilitude—the goal of any historical writing—and avoid the dreaded anachronism.

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