What to Do When You’re Stuck (Or How Scorpion Deception Almost Didn’t Get Created)

Guest Blogger: Andrew Kaplan

You know you’re in trouble when you’ve got a contract to write the next book in a popular series (OK, not top of the NY TIMES bestseller list popular, but Bookscan and Amazon top 20 popular), a looming deadline, and you don’t have an idea in your head. Not a clue. For those of you who haven’t read any of my past books, or any of the books in the Scorpion series, then you need to know is that what sets them apart in the spy thriller genre is that they are not simple slam-bang “take-no-prisoners” action entertainments for guys or girl in jeopardy defusing a bomb with a nail file for the ladies. Nothing wrong with those if you like them, but Scorpion books, while hopefully suspenseful, action-filled, and all the rest, are not that. Except by that point, I was ready to embrace any idea, even slam-bang. If you had told me then that I was about to write my most timely and important book, I’d have suggested you have a long talk with your doctor.

My previous books had all come from ideas I’d been thinking about, “percolating” to use an old-fashioned word, for a long time before I actually wrote them. But I had run out. There wasn’t anything on a back shelf I could reach for. If I had time to come up with one, I was sure I could, but the clock was ticking. I did have one dusty old idea. About a spy (a mole) who had suddenly gone silent. What interested me was not the fact that he had gone silent or what the handlers tried to do about it, but why the silence. All very well, except it wasn’t a Scorpion book. That story wasn’t about the ex-CIA agent code-named “Scorpion” on a mission, it was the mole’s story. And it began in childhood. Although surprisingly, that’s often what Scorpion books are ultimately about. For example, SCORPION BETRAYAL was at its core about two Palestinian children and an unspeakable tragedy. SCORPION WINTER too is about something that occurs in childhood, although to tell you what or who would be giving too much away.

I had to use the idea about the spy because it was the only idea I had. But the structure wouldn’t work. Then I had an idea. The only way to tell the story would be not to tell it. Like Hemingway, keep what’s important submerged. It’s like the movie CASABLANCA. Even though you never see soldiers or a battle, it’s World War Two that gives it resonance. Without the backdrop of the War, CASABLANCA is just a Warner’s B-movie backlot romance. With it, (and the Epstein brothers’ sparkling dialogue) it’s one of the greatest movies of all time. I would have to leave my spy story untold and twist the rest like a pretzel to make it work as a Scorpion book, but I could do that. The rest is writing. The result is my latest book, SCORPION DECEPTION.

My publisher, HarperCollins, asked me to describe my thoughts about SCORPION DECEPTION for their publicity release. Here’s what I wrote:

“With Syria in the news and the U.S. contemplating military action against Iran that could escalate into war, I can’t think of a book that will give readers greater insight into what’s happening today in the undercover world of espionage and more importantly, what’s going on inside Iran, posht-e pardeh “behind the curtain”, than SCORPION DECEPTION. All this in an incredibly suspenseful story about love – Scorpion’s most passionate love ever – and deception that rockets from the refugee camps of Africa and across Europe to Tehran’s ruling inner circles. This is by far, the most timely and important book I’ve ever written.”

I’ve told you about my book, now I’m hoping you can tell me, because I’m always looking: What’s the best and most important book you’ve read in the past year or so?

Andrew Kaplan is the internationally known author of the NY TIMES bestselling Scorpion spy thriller series, including his latest, SCORPION DECEPTION. A former journalist and war correspondent, he covered events around the world and served in both the U.S. Army and the Israeli Army. His books have sold millions of copies and have been translated into twenty languages. His film writing career includes the James Bond classic, GOLDENEYE. He is the author of the highly-anticipated, HOMELAND: CARRIE’S RUN from William Morrow; an original prequel novel based on the award-winning hit television series, HOMELAND.

 

 

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