February 20, 2011

Authors Q&A: Fresh thrills

Round Pond's Douglas Preston and writing partner Lincoln Child introduce a new protagonist in their latest cliffhanger, 'Gideon's Sword.'

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Best-selling thriller writer Douglas Preston likes living in Maine because people are not all that impressed when they find out who he is and what he does for a living.

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click image to enlarge

Douglas Preston

"There are so many writers in Maine," Preston said recently from his home in Round Pond, where he lives with his wife, Christine, a photographer. "It's just a great place to work, I think."

Preston and his longtime writing partner, Lincoln Child, are about to launch a fictional character, Gideon Crew, in their new book "Gideon's Sword" (Grand Central Publishing, $26.99), which hits bookstores Tuesday. The movie rights have already been picked up by Paramount Pictures and producer/director Michael Bay (producer of "Armageddon" and other films).

Another Preston book, the true crime story "The Monster of Florence" (Grand Central Publishing, $25.99), is also being made into a movie, with George Clooney playing the author. It's the story of Preston's investigation into a series of murders by a real-life Italian Jack the Ripper between 1968 and 1985. During the course of his research, Preston wrangled with the same Italian district attorney who is now involved in the Amanda Knox case, and was thrown in jail for a time. (Knox is an American college student convicted of the 2007 murder of her British roommate while studying abroad in Italy.)

Preston recently spoke with the Maine Sunday Telegram about his life in Maine, his new book and his interest in the Knox case. 

Q: How did you discover Round Pond?

A: Actually, it was discovered by my grandfather back in the '30s, who bought a farmhouse in Round Pond, and he brought his family up there in the summertime. Then my grandparents retired to Round Pond, so we spent a lot of time up here as kids. And then my parents retired up here, and my brother lives in Waterville. He's a doctor. So it seemed like a good place for us to live. I built a house in 2000 on family land. We moved here in 2004, and we live here year-round now. 

Q: What's your writing life like? Do you write every day?

A: I do. I treat it as a job, just like any other. Morning is my best time, so I usually get out to the office fairly early and put in a good eight-hour day, although I'm not writing all eight hours. Then I try to write a little bit early in the morning on weekends too, before the kids get up and things start happening. It's not that romantic. It's spending a lot of time alone staring at a computer screen. I suppose it's not that much different from a bank clerk.

Q: It sounds like you have your own special place to go to.

A: I have a little writing shack in the woods which suits me very well. It's 8-by-10, very small. You can only get here by hiking, so no one bothers me, and I've got everything I need here, so it's perfect. 

Q: Please don't take this the wrong way, but I never realized that you and Richard Preston are brothers. I was a big fan of "The Hot Zone." Does writing run in your family, or is it just coincidence that you two both became best-selling authors?

A: One of our ancestors was Emily Dickinson. She was like a great-great-great aunt or something, so that's the only writer in our family that I know of. I don't know where it comes from. I think it comes from telling tall tales at the dinner table when we were kids and trying to outdo each other with gross stories and getting sent away from the dining-room table. That happened often. 

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