Catherine Coulter is the wildly popular author of 89 novels, almost all of them New York Times bestsellers. She began her incredible career writing historical romances before turning to suspense thrillers. The Cove, the first book in her bestselling “FBI Suspense Thriller Series” spent nine weeks on the New York Times list and has to date sold 4 million copies.
Her latest book, Reckoning, was published on August 2nd and it’s the 26th novel in that series.
It was such a thrill talking to a legend of the genre like Catherine Coulter.
Connect with Catherine Coulter
Latest Novel by Catherine Coulter
Other books by Catherine Coulter
Please note, I create this transcript using automated software, not a human, and it’s only lightly edited by a human… me!
[00:01:12.990] – Alan Petersen
All right, here is my interview with Catherine Coulter. Hey, everybody. This is Alan with meet the thriller author. And on the podcast today, I have Catherine Coulter who is a number one New York Times best selling author of 89 novels, including her FBI suspense thriller series. Her latest book, Recording, was published on August 2. It’s a 26 books in that series bringing back Savage and Sherlock who are enlisted to help women with traumatic past who are in mortal danger. We’ll get all to that in here in a moment, but first, welcome up to the podcast, Catherine.
[00:02:05.200] – Catherine Coulter
Well, thank you, Alan. Great to be here.
[00:02:07.570] – Alan Petersen
Yeah, so excited to talk to you. 89 novels. That’s so amazing. So how did you get started in this business and writing that first novel?
[00:02:16.010] – Catherine Coulter
I don’t like to think about 89 either. It just makes me start quaking. That’s a lot of words. That’s a whole oodle number of birds and I just don’t like to think about it. Well, you know, I’m an elder and I started my first book came out at the end of 1978. And this was when New York publishing was the center of the universe, literally in the world and nobody knew nothing. This was before the beginning of any of the writer organizations, so again, it was just a matter of ignorance. And what happened was I was a speechwriter on Wall Street, and my husband was in medical school, up at Presbyterian Medical School, and I’d seem like 30 minutes a night over spaghetti, which was what I really cooked well. And I was reading probably ten to 15 books a week. And I’ll never forget one night, and I don’t remember the book, but I threw the book across the room and said, I can do better, and went in and told my husband, and he said, well, yeah, let’s go for it. And he managed to trade out time and take the next weekend off.
[00:03:41.710] – Catherine Coulter
And he and I plotted the first book. And actually, that was the first and last book that he and I applauded together. I started writing, and when it was done, I remember on the A train, which is the express train from 14th down to Wall Street, I had met a guy I don’t remember what he did at William Morrow, but he was up there. And so I said, Well, I’ve written a book, and I’m sure he wanted to pat me on the head because as I have learned over the years, everybody either wants to write a book or can write a book or is writing a book. But what he gave me was the name of a freelance editor, and she was also a model. And, oh, I couldn’t believe what she looked like. Let’s not go there. I’ll just get depressed. But she read it and she said, let’s go for it. Now, what she had that, of course, I had no idea about was this was a Regency romance. Let me just back up a second. And at that time, I just had the sense that if you’re going to do something brand new like write a freaking book, you want to know some stuff going in.
[00:04:58.990] – Catherine Coulter
And my master’s degree is an early European 19th century with an emphasis on England. And I had been raised region Georgia hair who started the Regency genre. So I knew the Regency period backwards and forwards. I knew all the politics going on at the time. So I had, in essence, eliminated two big, huge unknowns. And so what she had was a list of the editors and the imprints that did the agencies. And of course, I knew some of the imprints because I wasn’t stupid. But what she had was the name Hilary Ross, who was the stigma imprint at the time in New American Library, which was the top class act in the Regency romance at the time. So, Alan, you know now that you can take Query Letter Writing 101, but there was no such animal then. So I’ll never forget I wrote this dumb but letter, something like, dear Miss Ross, I wrote this book. I like it. I hope you do, too. Anyway, and she called me at my office three days later, took me out to lunch and offered me a three book contract. Everybody would be excited to hear that until you kind of delve into it.
[00:06:24.850] – Catherine Coulter
And there are a couple of reasons why publishers would do that. One, which I love to think was indeed the case, but probably wasn’t, was that the editor absolutely loves the book. But the second most overwhelming reason is that over 60% of authors under contract to a publishing house are late. Can you believe that?
[00:06:47.700] – Alan Petersen
[00:06:48.200] – Catherine Coulter
They are late. And so when a book doesn’t come in that’s been scheduled, they’re harried, and they’ve got to find somebody to fill those slots. So that was probably why she picked me or published me at that time. So that’s how it all started. The book came out in December of 1978. And I’ll tell you, in life, we have some specific memories that you’ll die remembering. They’re just like a picture clicks, and you got that forever. But I’ll never forget we lived in a big high rise in Central Park South, right across from Lincoln Center, and a great big what do you call it, kind of like a hotel entrance and all the mail and so forth packages were at the front desk, like in a hotel. And I walked up there and I knew everybody, and so there were some smiles, and everybody knew about the book, and they said, Catherine, you have a package. And I stood there and I opened that up, and there was the Autumn Count as Smart, a very first paperback book. Like, it had my name on it, and it had this picture, and I just stared at it.
[00:08:13.300] – Catherine Coulter
And I’ll never forget I walked to the elevator, and we lived on 36th floor, and I had my briefcase between my legs, and I was still holding the book in my hand, just about ready to faint, and this guy behind me said over my shoulder, hey, Catherine, your book. Wow, that is fantastic. And look at that. I love the cover. This is great. Wonderful. And then we parted ways, and I got off at the 36th floor. And this was Frank Gifford.
[00:08:46.540] – Alan Petersen
[00:08:47.390] – Catherine Coulter
And I’ll never forget I don’t care if he screwed around on his wife. What was her name?
[00:08:54.850] – Alan Petersen
Is it Kathie Lee Gifford?
[00:08:56.920] – Catherine Coulter
Yeah. I don’t care if he screwed around on her. He was so generous to say that, and I’ve never forgotten it as Long as I Will Live. And so that was the very first book, and it was so exciting. And of course, I still knew absolutely nothing. And when we finished the first three, oh, it was interesting because the editor, Hilary Ross, normally what houses still do, if they don’t like your name, they will give you another name or ask you to pick another name, and then they own it. And that can lead to all sorts of dire consequences for you as a writer. But instead, my husband’s name is Pelvani, which is Hungarian. And she said, well, that’s really not going to work on a Regency. And then instead of suggesting a new name, she said, what’s your maiden name? And I said, it’s Colter. Catherine Calder. And it’s so pretty, people think it’s fake, but it’s not, and it’s also my legal name, so there was never an issue. And so she said, well, you know what? You really need to get yourself an agent. And because I was such an ignoramus at the time, I accepted the agent who was one of her best friends, and yes, I could have negotiated a minor contract myself.
[00:10:21.390] – Catherine Coulter
But then what happened was this would be in, I guess. I contacted Peter Hege, who was the secretary of the Authors Guild at that time in New York, and the only reason I knew of him was because he’s Hungarian. And so I called him up, and I said, I want an agent, and I want a woman. So he gave me three names. He gave me two women and one man. And today I no longer I don’t even remember who the women were. But I went in to see the guy, and he was at William Morris, and his name was Robert Gottlieb, and he was six months out of the mail room. And at William Morris. This was Male room. And they still are kind of like that, but they’re not quite so bad as they were back in the Dark Ages. He was in kind of this broom closet with no window and all this kind of stuff. But I asked him, I’ll never forget I said, what do you want to do? What are your goals? And he said, I want to be on the board of directors of William Miles by the time I’m 45.
[00:11:30.150] – Catherine Coulter
I’ll never forget that.
[00:11:31.140] – Alan Petersen
[00:11:32.530] – Catherine Coulter
So then he negotiated I changed them to Long Historical Romances or Bodice Rippers, which they really were. They were hysterically fun. You have the virgin who meets Mr. True Love and loses her virginity to him by page 19. They get separated. She has all these adventures all over the world, and then at the end, the last 19 pages, they get back together and then live happily ever after. But they were such fun to do. And I’ll never forget my editor, he brought it to tears because he demanded, like, $10,000 a book.
[00:12:12.560] – Alan Petersen
[00:12:15.010] – Catherine Coulter
It was just hysterical. I’ll never forget that. But this is a cute factoid, is that in 1987, he called me up, and he was nearly hyperventilating, and he was 37, and he said, I’m now on the board of directors.
[00:12:34.810] – Alan Petersen
Well, seemingly almost about ten years shorter.
[00:12:37.270] – Catherine Coulter
You got it. And he is probably one of the top agents in the world, and we have been together since 1981, longer than any of his marriages. I give the greatest presence. I really do. He met August in 2001, actually, just before he split off from William Morris because he got out Shark by Michael Ovitz. But this was a great move for him. And he opened Trident Media Group. He’s just having a blast. And as I said, we’ve been together all this time and so many adventures, and I have to admit that I have published in the golden age of publishing. And then when, of course, ebooks, when Amazon came in and of course, their goal was to destroy Publishing New York, and they’ve done a pretty decent job. There are only four houses left now, and when Simon and Schuster sold, that will make three big houses. There’s the Antitrust.
[00:13:42.010] – Alan Petersen
Yeah. They keep merging with each other.
[00:13:44.240] – Catherine Coulter
Yeah. And I hope that they don’t let them take over. I really hope so, because we need to keep the houses as many well, we have four, but Simon and Shuster was kind of tanking, and Robert got me out of there just in time. So, I mean, he is on top of everything. He knows everyone. He loves the art of the deal. He was kind of like former President Trump. He loved the deal and very, very good at it. So that’s kind of the publishing industry has changed tremendously with ebooks. I had asked my editor at William Morrow about what would you say ebooks to hardcovers? And she said, Our most recent stats, yours are 3.5 ebooks sold to one hardcover. So you can really see how your books are taking over. And you have to admit, it’s so easy.
[00:14:50.690] – Alan Petersen
Yeah, I love my kindle. It’s just so easy to have, like, hundreds of books in there. Yeah.
[00:14:55.440] – Catherine Coulter
And I can remember traveling to Europe, packing three or four or five books, and now, whoa, baby. Not a problem. So it’s a very interesting time and a very exciting time for new authors because there are so many possibilities that weren’t available back in the golden age. And if you were lucky enough to get accepted by one of the big seven, you were set. But if you weren’t, you were screwed. You were screwed. But now the worship oyster, you can do whatever you want. It’s fantastic.
[00:15:33.710] – Alan Petersen
And when did you decide to transition to thrillers and mysteries? Were you a fan of that as a reader as well, but before you started to write your own thrillers?
[00:15:44.000] – Catherine Coulter
Yeah, that’s a really good question, Alan. I guess the trademark of all of my books is tons of dialogue, humor, and mysteries. In most of the long historical romances, there’s a mystery because my brain works that way, and the dialogue and humor hopefully follow through in all of them. But I’ll never forget, well, the ID came to me, and I wrote the first. It was a romantic suspense, and it was the first hardcover. And it was in the difference between you said romantic suspense because you can’t call it a romance unless it’s the center is the relationship. Okay. And then you can have anything else around it, really impacting on it. But if the center is the relationship in a thriller. It’s the conundrum or the mystery or finding out what the hell is going on is at the center. And then you can have life, romance, woo woo, whatever you want around it. So I wrote like three or four romantic suspense novels. And then what happened? Putnam offered me then I made the New York Times in, I guess, and then Phyllis Brand, who ran Putnam, was probably the smartest one of the smartest publishers in the world, certainly the most renowned woman publisher in the world.
[00:17:26.810] – Catherine Coulter
And she offered me this absolutely wonderful contract to come over and write historical romances. And so I did, and I wrote three trilogies in three years, and I was absolutely burned in my heels. And it was 1995, and again, like the camera clicking. You never forget certain things. My sister, who never done this before since, walked up to me and she said, have you ever heard of a little town on the coast of Oregon called The Cove? They make the world’s greatest ice cream and bad stuff happens. And I went on point. And so I told my publisher, I said, well, I want to write this, and it’s not a romance. I said, well, kind of on the periphery it is. And so I understand where they were coming for, because if it ain’t broke, why fix it? And they were doing very well with historicals, but I had enough leverage to dig in my heels and wrote The Cove. And then when they got it, they want to bring it out in hardcover. And I said, no, it’s okay to fail, but you do not want to fail in hardcover, not if you have a name, a track record.
[00:18:53.310] – Catherine Coulter
They brought it out on paper, and it did extraordinarily very well. And then I got a call and they said, okay, when’s the next one? And I said, what? It was a standalone. And then they said, well, yeah, we want an FBI series. It’s fantastic. And so I just was betwixt in between. And then I kid you not, and other authors know this well, attest to the fact I’m not insane, but there was a voice in the back of my head that said, how about me, Catherine? And it was Dylan Savage who appeared in the last third of The Cove, and he was the other FBI special agent’s partner. And so book two was basically Sherlock’s book. This was when they met. And there is some romance in it, but the wedding and all that stuff, because it’s not a romance, it’s offseen, just like the birth of their kid is offset. JT. Ellison, who co wrote the Brit series with me, remember her telling me, she says, well, a series isn’t really a series until book four. And I say, oh, don’t be silly. She is totally right. Totally right. I hit book for the Edge and all of a sudden everything clicked.
[00:20:21.700] – Catherine Coulter
And it was indeed a series started.
[00:20:25.480] – Alan Petersen
So it started out as a standalone. Now you got 26 novels in that series.
[00:20:28.170] – Catherine Coulter
Yeah. And then Dylan Savage came in, and Sherlock again, the second book was basically her book, and that’s where they meet and so forth. And then it went from there. And then it evolved into two plots that ran parallel to each other. Sometimes they crossed into one, sometimes they remain totally separate. But it just evolved over time. And I hope that I’m smart enough to know when to stop the series so that the characters do not become caricatures like I’m sure you’ve seen in series, and I certainly have. And you don’t want to fall into that because you should have stopped. So we’ll see. The next book I’m writing is the 27th, I guess, and it’s pretty exciting so far.
[00:21:21.030] – Alan Petersen
And I was kind of curious, too, because does it get easier to write a series like this with time, or does it become more difficult to find inspiration and new stories to tell? And how’s that process evolved for you over the years?
[00:21:34.510] – Catherine Coulter
Interesting question, actually. I used to just be overflowing with plot ideas. At one point, I was writing two, three books, sometimes even four books a year, and then it slows down as you get older. And what I was doing was writing one FBI thriller a year and one historical romance. And there are such disparate genres that it sort of kept your brain unconstituted, so you’d be really glad to write one and then ready to go back because it would be new again to an FBI series of back and forth. And then I got to a point where I really couldn’t do the two years. So I started doing historical otherworldly novella adventures with one of the main characters in one of the historical romance series, Grayson Sherbrook. And so I’ve got six of those. I try to do one a year, so everybody gets their fix and I get my fix, too. So it’s worked out in terms of, I don’t know, that inspiration is the word I would ever use. The fact of the matter is, you spark. It came down. I get a what if idea, for example, in The Target, which was the third book in the FBI series, all I knew going into it was, we have this guy.
[00:23:07.030] – Catherine Coulter
I didn’t know who he was or why he was there, but he was in the Rockies in Colorado because he was stressed out about something or he was escaping something, and one day he finds this little girl sexually and physically abused in the forest. What happens? And that’s how that book started. And then it kind of develops and evolves from there. So is that inspiration? I don’t know. It just comes. And if you’re a cancer, there’s a popular plant. I never heard those words in my life till maybe five years ago, but I’m definitely a pancake. You’re right by the seat of your pants. And what it means is it takes a lot of extra time if you’re that way, because you’ll right. And then you’ll think of all different ways to make it better. So you’ll have to go back and make all sorts of changes. I call it backward Build up. So things just evolve and the characters do what they want to do. And if you try to make them go in a direction they have no intention of going, they will make you pay. So is that inspiration? I don’t think so.
[00:24:19.820] – Catherine Coulter
I think the trick is always planting your butt in the chair at your computer every morning and writing. I say in writing classes, I’ve never met a blank page I could edit. And it doesn’t matter if you write crap. It does not matter because in your writing brain goes to work on it. So that’s really my process. This book that I just started, I had fans asked me about Autumn Backman, who appeared maybe eight books ago, and she’s mentioned, but she hasn’t been on stage in eight or nine books and she’s psychic. And it was a very exciting book. Some people love the woo woo psychic stuff, some people don’t. So maybe every four or five books, I will have it because Savage is psychic. And then there was another character in Nemesis. Her name is Lady Elizabeth Palmer in England, and this is the book where Sherlock kicks big butt. We’re talking a terrorist, we’re talking the attempted bombing of St paul’s Cathedral. And there was a character in there, and her name again was Elizabeth Palmer. And I found her fascinating and I wanted to see what happened to her. So she and Autumn come back in this book and there are two separate plots and they will probably come together a little bit.
[00:25:48.550] – Catherine Coulter
We’ll see. Right now, there’s absolutely no inspiration. There’s just seeing where they’re going to take me and where the plot takes me. And the plot’s always like an onion. You keep thinking onion peel one layer, there’s another peel. That layer always in the back of your head is complexify.
[00:26:08.250] – Alan Petersen
And do you write every day or.
[00:26:09.940] – Catherine Coulter
Do you have like oh, yeah, Monday through Friday. And if there’s no deadline or nothing cooking, then the weekends are always just fun.
[00:26:17.720] – Alan Petersen
And do you use Word or some other way of writing these?
[00:26:21.800] – Catherine Coulter
Yes, I use Words. In fact, I bought my first computer in 1981. It was a Vector. It had a five inch floppy disk, the green screens.
[00:26:33.210] – Alan Petersen
[00:26:34.110] – Catherine Coulter
And it cost $10,000.
[00:26:36.260] – Alan Petersen
[00:26:37.470] – Catherine Coulter
And it took me a week to learn how to use it. But they’re magic. It was magic. What it did was if you were typing on a typewriter and you made a mistake, you’d have to retype the freaking page. And even with the Vector, way back in the Dark Ages, you could delete and things were wonderful. So there are a lot more bells and whistles now, but I have no more liking than I did for that Betsy way back in the Ark days.
[00:27:10.770] – Alan Petersen
Yeah, I remember the first computer I got to the manuals, it came up with like ten books, like a car.
[00:27:17.070] – Catherine Coulter
Oh, boy. I would say. Well, I had somebody with me training me for three days. It was that intensive because nobody really knew all that much and everybody was trying to learn together. So it was very exciting. In terms of writing. I’m an early morning person, which discussed a lot of people, but I tend to stop writing about 1030. I write from like 730 to 1030 and answer all do Facebook every day. I always post every day on Facebook and anybody who wants to see what’s going on in my life, you know, I have quite a group of people. It’s probably about 60 or 70 people. And what it’s become is these people know each other. And I’m kind of like the center of the wheel in the community center, and they’ll respond to me and then they know each other. And I’ll never forget. I wrote in a post. I said, Where’s Michelle? I haven’t heard from her in three days. And I had ten people comment, her mother’s ill, her mother’s ill, her mother’s ill, but I’ll tell her to get to you. And she emailed me.
[00:28:33.760] – Alan Petersen
[00:28:36.810] – Catherine Coulter
It’S so interesting. Social media is a mess, needless to say, if you play politics or do any crap like that. And people are kind of off Facebook, in fact, I want to kill them right now, personally. But that platform has been perfect for me over the years since it’s been well over ten years, and it’s always a lot of fun. So if anybody wants to join up, just come to me on Facebook.
[00:29:08.650] – Alan Petersen
Yeah, absolutely. And I was just curious. So could you tell us a little bit now about the latest novel, about the reckoning? How did that come to you?
[00:29:19.670] – Catherine Coulter
Well, that was interesting because all I really knew was I had a character who was young, a woman, a girl, and her parents are murdered and she is almost murdered, but she manages to escape. And I have a person who’s a friend in Queensland, Australia. And so then I sent my character to Australia, which was wonderful. I had such fun with that and made sure I got everything right because we’re not Aussie’s. And so then where she led was amazing. I had no idea what was going to happen with her, but it was really amazing. And then Emma Hunt was in the third book and she was a little girl that our judge found physically and sexually abused. Then the Hunt family reappears in backfire, which was about six, seven books ago. And Emma is a piano prodigy, so everybody said, More Emma, more Emma. So I brought her back and the Hunt family, and everybody loves the Hunt family. And she’s going to be playing at Kennedy Center because she’s very famous now, and she’s twelve years old, and so that plot really turns itself on its ear. When I got to this one point, it just totally flipped on itself.
[00:30:52.790] – Catherine Coulter
I guess that’s things are going on in your medulla obligata back there, but I was really surprised at what happened, and it worked perfectly. Again, you keep peeling off the onion. Peeling off the onion, changing directions, keeping the reader guessing. That’s kind of the point. And one thing in all of the all of the books, every single one of them, I can always promise there’s going to be justice at the end. And I’m never really all that gnarly or gritty or bloody or that kind of thing. Very rarely. Very rarely. And none of the main characters are ever going to die. And certainly no pets.
[00:31:38.270] – Alan Petersen
Yeah, I’ve heard that. The pets the worst thing you can do.
[00:31:44.690] – Catherine Coulter
Oh, a friend of mine asked me to read her book, and it was set back, it was a western set back in about 1860, and there was this battle, and the dog got killed. And I said, you kill this dog, I will never speak to you again. So she ended up having the dog die of old age.
[00:32:04.670] – Alan Petersen
And so I was kind of curious too, because write this as you’re a pastor, like you said before, when you’re staring at the blank page till you’re done, how does that process take for you?
[00:32:16.900] – Catherine Coulter
Usually the words just come. Alan everybody has a gift, and it’s what you do with it that either gives you a chance to succeed or it becomes a hobby. My gift is the words just seem to come, things just come. And as I said, it can be total crap. It does not matter, because then I will work on it in my brain. Sometimes when characters are talking, I talk about 95 words a minute. I’m very fast.
[00:32:52.330] – Alan Petersen
[00:32:53.010] – Catherine Coulter
But sometimes when they’re talking, they’re talking so fast, I can’t keep up with them. Now, that doesn’t happen all that often, but it does happen. So if it’s a blank page for any length of time, it would mean to me that you’re trying to go in the wrong direction. And so it’s a course correction. It’s not writer’s block, it’s just a bad plot idea, or you need a course correction. That’s really all. So as I say, I write very quickly. Sometimes I’ll write ten pages a day and 3 hours, two and a half hours, sometimes five, sometimes three. Sometimes it’s all editing. If I’m going back to make a lot of changes, I would counsel people, don’t be tied in to, oh my god, I’ve got to write five pages. 1000 words are my failure. This is so silly. And don’t count your freaking words. Just write and have fun, that’s all.
[00:33:53.770] – Alan Petersen
And you mentioned before about writing the Britain, the FBI with JT. Ellison. How is that co authoring for you?
[00:34:02.210] – Catherine Coulter
Well, I. Closed down the series about three years ago, I guess because I felt it had come to its natural end. And as I tell readers who asked for more, it was getting really hard to come up with new and unique names to try to kill off the two main characters. JT has a very fertile imagination, though. So anyway, I canceled it and then I think we’re going to start it up again.
[00:34:33.420] – Alan Petersen
Oh, wow, that’s good.
[00:34:34.880] – Catherine Coulter
Yeah. In fact, I just spoke to my agent yesterday and he was very, very pleased about it. And I spoke to JT and she already has a plot idea. This is a wonderful thing. And the way we work it is usually people writing together is a nightmare and doesn’t work. I’ve never done it before, and she hadn’t either. And we are best friends. We usually email every day with or without writing. When we’re writing together, it would be three or four times a day because talking about this and that and the other. But since I’m the author, the main author, I drive the bus. You have to have somebody drive the bus, and it has to be well understood. In other words, if I don’t like something and she were to like it, my voice is the one that goes. It’s the one that makes the decision. Because again, if you don’t have somebody driving the bus, you’ve got chaos. So we’re going to have a lot of fun. If it works out, and I hope it does, it’ll be a blast. And it’ll be the 7th book, and as soon as we decide on it, I will announce it on Facebook and people will probably go, we’ll see.
[00:35:57.300] – Alan Petersen
Yeah, it’s exciting. And I was kind of curious too, because your books are so realistic with the FBI stuff on there, like investigating techniques and the lingo. When you do your research, do you have like a context at the FBI at this point? I’m just kind of curious about that process.
[00:36:13.720] – Catherine Coulter
Oh, good question. Yes. And Angela Bell was my contact, and I can’t believe it’s her call. She had to retire, but she signed me somebody new. But for example, in what book was it? I don’t remember the name of the book. Enigma. I had a newborn kidnapped out of the nursery in the hospital. And I had no idea how this would work because I knew that they have a special unit in the FBI that deals only with that. So I called them up. She set me up with the it’s called the Card unit. And I can’t remember what that means, but I spoke to the supervisor for an hour and he told me exactly what they did and exactly what went on in the nursery. So if there were any mistakes, it was on me, not them. So anything I need. And she knows people at the CIA, although they really don’t get along that well with the CIA, but if you can, you always go to the horse’s mouth, particularly when it’s something so utterly different, like kidnapping out of a hospital nursery. What the hell do you do? And so everything, you know oh, yeah, I could not live without these people.
[00:37:36.350] – Catherine Coulter
I’ll never forget back. It was six months before 911, because if it had happened after that, you couldn’t get a cockroach anywhere near Quantico or the Hoover Building. Everything was closed down. They asked me to come in to the Hoover Building. And so it was kind of a VIP tour. Let me just back up. They have a unit at the Hoover Building, and this unit knows everything that’s written about the FBI in the known universe. And they knew I was very pro FBI, and they had people reading and so forth. And so they invited me back, and we had an assistant director, and I went with Karen, my right and left hand. And we were toured. We got to meet everybody. We went to Quantico. I met all the people in the Behavioral services unit. I don’t know how those people do it, but the burnout rate there is like three years max. And then you just can’t take it anymore. Do you know about the Behavioral Unit, right?
[00:38:38.050] – Alan Petersen
Yeah, the most heinous.
[00:38:43.210] – Catherine Coulter
I did have a serial killer, and they were of immense assistance, cause I met the you know, I met the supervisor there. So I had a great deal of support from them when I needed it. Normally I know enough to just go, but if there’s something special, then I’m right on the phone to them or emailing and saying if they find something. But people go into the Hoover Building to visit, and they have people there scanning everybody, their ID, your driver’s license, making sure you’re not a freaking terrorist. And so if something is found on there, what do they do? What is the procedure? And so I simply ask, what is the procedure? Because I had that happen. And so I got all the procedure down and I told them, here’s what I want to have happen. Can that happen? They said, no, here’s what will happen. And so what they did was they worked with me together to figure out how to do it, to get to where I needed to be. So I found them to be very helpful. If I hadn’t been a best seller, would they have been that helpful? I do not know.
[00:39:59.850] – Catherine Coulter
And right now they’ve got big problems and I just feel really bad for them. And it’s the top, not the agents, the agents. I’ve met so many agents at Quantico, and you’d have mother, daughter, father, son, father, all these combos, and they wanted to help people, and they were fine people. And I just feel so sad what’s happening at the top. It’s just so sad. I hope things get cleaned up.
[00:40:32.150] – Alan Petersen
Yeah. So Catherine, I want to ask you too, because we have aspiring writers that listen to this podcast and you have such an amazing experience. Any advice for an aspiring thriller mystery suspense writer that’s listening? Kind of a weird question.
[00:40:49.410] – Catherine Coulter
Well, no, it’s a good question, I guess. Again, the most important thing, if you decide that you want to write thrillers, I would expect you or I would say that it’s imperative that you read all the top selling thriller writers. If you don’t like them, find drop them. Reach somebody and find somebody you really, really like, okay? And write down what you really like. Do you like their pacing? Do you like your dialogue? Do you like the complexity of their plots? You know, write this stuff down, what you really like about that particular writer, one or two of them, and then copy it. If they’re pacing, you want to try to copy how they paste. In other words, normally for a while, I wrote very short chapters with a cliffhanger. I changed that up. I changed it around, depending on the book, and you find out what works for you. But even after you’ve made all this list, the important thing, it doesn’t matter what your genre is, is to sit that butt in a chair in front of your computer and do it. Don’t procrastinate, don’t put it off. Otherwise you don’t even have a chance to fail, much less a chance to succeed.
[00:42:10.800] – Catherine Coulter
One other thing. It is critical that you know English grammar perfectly. You need to know it perfectly, so when you break the rules, you know what you’re doing. I have a lot of sentences that are sentences, but I’m sure you’ve read this too. But you have to know where you can do it and how to do it. So I would suggest that everybody memorized drunken whites elements of style. That’s the best book ever written. It’s short. The original book was written in 1912, and they’ve made new additions on forget the additions. Read the 1912 because it still fits you. Avoid adverbs like the plague. You said you do not use adverbs or any of that crap or blah, blah, blah, blah. He shouted. No, the way the person says it indicates that he shouted. So you’re just double dipping there. Anyway, there are all sorts of things that you can learn in Strunk and White, and also when you find like, one or two favorite thriller writers or romance writers or science fiction writers, whatever it is, see how they do dialogue, see how they do it and why you like it, and because if you like certain things, then you will probably do it yourself.
[00:43:36.690] – Catherine Coulter
And I ain’t got nothing else out. That’s it. You just sit down and you do it.
[00:43:41.930] – Alan Petersen
That’s good advice and yeah, so thank you so much, because if you don’t sit down and do it, it will never get done.
[00:43:49.050] – Catherine Coulter
I don’t think so.
[00:43:51.210] – Alan Petersen
It’s not magic, right?
[00:43:52.810] – Catherine Coulter
Yeah. Well, there’s no way I could write a book. If I had time, I wanted to smack those people.
[00:43:59.670] – Alan Petersen
All right, well, Catherine, thank you so much for being on the podcast, for talking to us. Reckoning is out now. Highly recommend people go check that out. It’s a lot of fun talking to you.
[00:44:09.410] – Catherine Coulter
Nice to talk to you, Alan.