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Bethanne
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Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

It's the last week of summer, but nothing's cooling down here at Center Stage -- we're hosting bestselling thriller novelist Joseph Finder, whose most recent book Vanished is already heating up the charts. Of course, like all Center Stage guests, Joe's got a lot of other books for visitors to discuss; feel free to ask him about any and all of them.  

 

Joseph Finder’s plan was to become a spy. Or maybe a professor of Russian history. Instead he became a bestselling thriller writer.

 

Born in Chicago, Joe spent his early childhood living around the world, including Afghanistan and the Philippines. In fact, Joe’s first language  -- even before English -- was Farsi, which he spoke as a child in Kabul. Finally, after a stint in Bellingham, WA, his family finally settled outside of Albany, NY.

 

After taking a high school seminar on the literature and history of Russia, Joe was hooked. He went on to major in Russian studies at Yale, where he also sang with the school's legendary a cappellagroup, the Whiffenpoofs (and likes to boast that he sang next to Ella Fitzgerald, an honorary Whiffenpoof). Joe graduated summa cum laude from Yale College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, then completed a master’s degree at the Harvard Russian Research Center, and later taught on the Harvard faculty. He was recruited to the Central Intelligence Agency, but after discovering that a career in the bureaucracy of the Agency was less exciting than it seemed to be in the novels of Robert Ludlum, Joe decided to write instead.

 

His first book, published in 1983 when Joe was only 24, was a non-fiction exposé that resulted in threats of a libel suit. Red Carpet: The Secret Connection between the Kremlin and America's Most Powerful Businessmen was the first book to reveal that the controversial multi-millionaire Dr. Armand Hammer, the CEO of Occidental Petroleum, had worked for Soviet intelligence in the 1920s and 1930s. Hammer’s attorneys threatened a massive lawsuit, but all of the book’s assertions were later confirmed when Soviet archives were briefly opened after the fall of the Soviet Union. (This book is no longer in print.)

 

But RED CARPET was only part of the story that Joe wanted to tell. So he wrote his first novel – the only way he could legally tell the whole Armand Hammer saga. Published in 1991, THE MOSCOW CLUB described events whose factual truth would only be revealed many years later. Ironically, Joe found confidential sources were more willing to reveal classified information to him as a novelist than when he was working as a journalist and academic. THE MOSCOW CLUB was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the ten best spy thrillers of all time and was published in thirty foreign countries.

 

What followed were three more critically-acclaimed thrillers – EXTRAORDINARY POWERS, THE ZERO HOUR (sold to Twentieth-Century Fox for a record sum) and HIGH CRIMES, which became a 2002 Fox film starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. Joe was invited on the movie set and even cast for a nonspeaking role as a JAG prosecutor.

 

Published in 2004, PARANOIA represented a major turning point in Joe’s career, landing on the New York TimesWall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists, among others. It was his first book to use the ruthless drive, corruption and conspiracy of the corporate world as riveting plotline. Called “fun...movie-ready...[with] twists aplenty...” by Entertainment Weekly, PARANOIA has been acquired by Gaumont, one of the world’s largest film production and distribution companies. The movie deal was announced in April 2009, with Barry Levy (“Vantage Point”) set to script the adaptation.  

 

Joe’s next three novels – COMPANY MAN, KILLER INSTINCT and POWER PLAY – were all bestsellers in which things were decidedly not business as usual. He was quickly hailed as “the CEO of suspense.”

 

Joe’s forthcoming novel VANISHED, to be published in August 2009 by St. Martin's Press, will launch a four-book series featuring corporate security specialist Nick Heller. Trained in the Special Forces, Nick is a high-powered intelligence investigator – exposing secrets that powerful people would rather keep hidden. He's a guy you don't want to mess with. He's also the man you call when you need a problem fixed.

In addition to his fiction, Joe does occasional work for Hollywood and has written on espionage and international affairs for a number of publications, including TheDailyBeast.com, ForbesThe New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The New Republic.

 

In an April 2006 New York Times Book Review article, Joe discussed his fascination with ambition as a subject for fiction. He roots for the Boston Red Sox and lives in Boston with his wife, daughter, and a needy golden retriever, Mia, a dropout from seeing-eye-dog school.

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Bethanne
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

[ Edited ]

Think you know everything there is to know about Joseph Finder? Think again! We've put Finder on the spot with a few questions, and we think you'll enjoy his answers.

 

Center Stage: Tell us about how your new novel fits in with OR stands out from your body of work/previous work.
 
Joseph Finder: I think anyone who's enjoyed the characters and the kind of stories and atmosphere in any of my books since PARANOIA is going to feel right at home in VANISHED.  But I've added a couple of new elements.  There's a government conspiracy, involving a scary defense contractor.   And, by popular demand - after years of requests from my readers -in VANISHED I'm introducing a new series hero who you'll see in the next book too.    

 

CS: What's the most interesting thing a reader has ever asked you?
 
JF: Someone once asked me at a signing: If you work so hard to get all the details right and put in all sorts of inside information that we can't get anywhere else -- how can we tell what's fact and what's fiction?"  That's a great and really tough question, and I don't know how to answer that.  But I think about it a lot now . . . 

 

CS: What's the one thing no one has ever asked you that you are dying to make known?

 

JF: Well, there are things I'm dying to make known about my own checkered past that I just can't.  Someday I will.  But no one's ever asked me about how I once almost got arrested by the KGB in Moscow.  That's pretty interesting . . . 

 

CS:  Whose books would you like to have written if not your own?  


JF: John D. McDonald's Travis McGee mysteries.  Nelson DeMille's Gold Coast.  Robert Ludlum's Matarese Circle.  Frederick Forsyth's Day of the Jackal.  John Le Carre's The Spy Who Came In From the Cold.  Oh, I could go on . . . 


CS: If you weren't a writer, you'd be?


JF: An executive producer of TV shows.  I love TV.  And I love being in charge. 

 

 

 

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Frequent Contributor
Larryb52
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

thanks for coming to the forum & I understand that Vanished is written with the character being used in a series?, I had hoped that the main character from Power Play would make that jump and he was such a stong character , was just wondering going forward what you intentions are for future books... series or non series writting? , thanks again... 

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Hotpen
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

So tell us about how you were arrested by the KGB? :smileyvery-happy:

 

What's your writing routine like? Do you write everyday?

Inspired Scribe
IBIS
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

Hello Mr. Finder,

 

Welcome to Center Stage, and thank you for generously sharing your time and creative thought processes with us.

 

Do you find that subsequent adventures in a continuing series becomes easier to write?


As a long-time fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, and Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels, looking back. I find that the first books are not always the best, since the characters (and style) develop over time in subsequent books.


A more recent example is the first installment of Stieg Larrson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. Readers spent a long time wading through mountains of intro material. “The Girl Who Played with Fire”, the 2nd installment, required less effort to get the story rolling.  Because we already knew the history, the backgrounds, of the characters.


When I started reading “Vanished” this weekend, getting to know Nick Heller was slow going. Being an adrenaline junkie, I felt a kind-of draggy "getting-to-know-you" cocktail party chit-chat. Chomping at the bit... okay okay, let's get to the real story here...


Will the second Nick Heller be easier for you to write? What are your thoughts?

 

IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
Author
JosephAFinder
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

HI all - this is my first post on Center Stage -- thanks for dropping by!  I'm glad you liked the Jake Landry character in POWER PLAY, and I thought about bringing him back.  But I realized that as much as I liked his personality and his skill set, I wanted for my recurring character someone with a broader expertise -- someone trained in intelligence who was a "private spy."  And that's Nick Heller.  If you like Jake Landry, you'll love Nick, I promise.  As for what's ahead, I plan to keep writing Nick Heller books, unless I get bored with him -- or have another idea that MUST be told with another hero -- , in which case I'll take a break and write a standalone novel. 

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JosephAFinder
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

Hello IBIS, and thanks for your feedback.  Everyone has their own opinion, which is the great thing about reading: the only opinion that counts is our own.  I've heard from a lot of people that their introduction to Nick -- in that private airport, discovering all that cash -- was a pretty dramatic and clever way for Nick to make his entrance.  But yeah, that was talk and detection, not cars flying through plate-glass windows.  Since you're a fan of Michael Connelly's books, as am I, you must have felt that your introduction to Mickey Haller (in the LIncoln Lawyer) dragged too, because it was all about meeting him and seeing him at work.  No guns!  So . . . different strokes for different folks.  My feeling is: you want to get to know your hero in the midst of action -- but not too extreme, or we'll never get to know the guy!

thanks

Author
JosephAFinder
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

Dear HotPen -- ALMOST got arrested by the KGB. I didn't get arrested.  I was in Moscow doing investigative journalism for my first book and the KGB called me and told me that if I didn't leave the country at once they would arrest me.  So I decided to leave the country.

When I'm writing -- which is 6 months out of the year -- I write every day, starting early in the morning, take a break in the middle of the day to work out, do some office work (business stuff) in the afternoon, then I usually get a second wind in the late afternoon and write some more!

Contributor
MerleG
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

Your novel HIGH Crimes was made into a successful movie starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. Having heard that you made a cameo appearance in the movie, we unsuccessfully  searched scenes for you until you sent me a hint, a link to a YouTube video trailer for the movie. Can you tell us what that experience was like...being in a major motion picture of a book that you had written?

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MerleG
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

Killer Instinct and Paranoia, I understand, are in the works to be made into major motion pictures. Both are fantastic books and will be awesome movies. What is the general process, from the time interest is expressed, movie rights sold, script completed, and production begins? Or as the author, does it end when the book is sold to be made into a movie? Just wondering as I expect more of your books to become major motion pictures! :smileyhappy: I am already anxiously awaiting your next thriller in the Nick Heller series.

Inspired Correspondent
Bethanne
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

Hi there, Joe! So glad you're here with us this week. You've already given some great answers. 

 

My first question for you today: What were your first impressions of the former Soviet Union on your first trip there? When did you last spend time in Russia? What are your thoughts about that country today?

 

Bethanne

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BrooksSigler
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

When you write, do you have a particular audience in mind? What do you hope the readers take from your books? Do you plan out your books in great detail before proeeding to write? (It is obvious you do a great deal of research.) Throughout your journeys (book tours, interviews, movies) as a writer, what has been the most memorable point for you?

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JosephAFinder
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

Hi Merle!  Yes, if you found that Youtube link, maybe you could post it here?  It was incredibly cool to be in the movie -- I got to play a government prosecutor -- really, a JAG officer, a sergeant -- and my job was to glare at Morgan Freeman and beat him up.  (Though they had someone else do the beating up.)  So there I was on the set that was designed based on the description that only a few years earlier existed only in my own head.  And acting with the characters who didn't exist until I made them up!  It was like that engraving by M.C. Escher of a hand drawing a hand drawing a hand... THe experience also gave me a lot more sympathy for screenwriters and directors, seeing the incredible pressures they face in Hollywood and how difficult it really is to make a movie.  The one thing I envy, that I don't get in my writer's life: Crafts Services.  The food they've got there all day long is amazing.  I don't get how actors aren't all obese.

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JosephAFinder
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

Hi Bethanne - and thanks for moderating this!  I haven't been to Russia in probably 7 or 8 years or more.  I used to go there a lot, in the early 80s, and it was like nothing else I'd ever seen before.  I fell in love with Russians and understood the grim, awful lives they led -- but despite the conditions, a culture flourished among a small subset of the people.  If you've never seen Lenin's Tomb, you'll never understand the Soviet Union.  Friends of mine who have visited tell me that in some ways it's utterly transformed -- now there's rampant capitalism, and it is by no means a "fascist state" as some colleagues of mine have been saying recently -- that's uninformed.  But it is no democracy either, which is a different thing.  The Communist Party may be gone, but the powerful elite remains and controls the electoral process.  And great poverty remains.  So it's a complicated and in many ways wonderful country.

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JosephAFinder
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

Hi Brooks --

I can't say I have a specific audience in mind: I write to entertain myself, and I have very mainstream tastes.  Sometimes, though, I do imagine some of the readers I've met and think to myself, am I keeping them on the hook here?  My main objective is to give readers an incredibly exciting adventure, to make them turn the pages, to be unable to stop until it's done.  But I also want to give them a glimpse of a world they haven't seen before, and that's where the research comes in.  I love to show people behind-the-scenes stuff, reveal secrets.  I want my readers to know that they're going to find out things in my novels that they won't find out anywhere else, not on TV, not in the newspaper, not on the Internet.  I spend a lot of time up front doing research, then coming up with the main plot points, and trying to lay them out like a road map.  But I don't overoutline, or else it becomes boring.  I have had so many incredible adventures doing research and writing books that it's hard for me to say what was the most memorable time.  The Hollywood premier of "High Crimes" sitting a few rows behind Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd and Jim Caviezel, watching them act in a movie that, in one sense, I wrote (as the author of the book)?  Or maybe doing research in Moscow once when I was warned that if I showed up at a particular meeting I would be killed.  Or clambering around the sewers of Paris with a teenage kid in the middle of the night and climbing with him into the secret entrance to the catacombs?  I dont' know -- so many things.  It's a great job, and I'm lucky to have it.

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MerleG
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

Hi Joe,

 

Thank you for sharing your experiences on the set of HIgh Crimes. It sounded like a really awesome experience, having your writing come to life...and with such huge stars!. This is the YouTube link that you had sent me a while back. It will give your viewers a subtle hint as you where you appeared in the movie. http://tinyurl.com/nx4lrg It may also be found on your web site in the video section: Interview on WCVB Chronicle Boston just in case this link doesn't work..

 

With Paranoia and Killer Intinct in the works to become major motion pictures, perhaps we will be hearing more of such experiences from you in the future! Congratulations on another NYT Best Seller in VANISHED!

 

Btw, could you bring some of your famous Apple Crumble to Hawaii! :smileywink:

Inspired Correspondent
Bethanne
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

 


JosephAFinder wrote:

Hi Bethanne - and thanks for moderating this!  I haven't been to Russia in probably 7 or 8 years or more.  I used to go there a lot, in the early 80s, and it was like nothing else I'd ever seen before.  I fell in love with Russians and understood the grim, awful lives they led -- but despite the conditions, a culture flourished among a small subset of the people.  If you've never seen Lenin's Tomb, you'll never understand the Soviet Union.  Friends of mine who have visited tell me that in some ways it's utterly transformed -- now there's rampant capitalism, and it is by no means a "fascist state" as some colleagues of mine have been saying recently -- that's uninformed.  But it is no democracy either, which is a different thing.  The Communist Party may be gone, but the powerful elite remains and controls the electoral process.  And great poverty remains.  So it's a complicated and in many ways wonderful country.


 

 

   You're welcome, Joe -- and thanks for such a great answer. Could you elaborate a little on the statement "If you've never seen Lenin's Tomb, you'll never understand the Soviet Union"?

 

Also: How has your experience with the Soviet Union influenced your thrillers? 

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Inspired Correspondent
Bethanne
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

Thanks, Joe, for your answers this week.

 

Everyone: Next week, we have Lora Leigh visiting Center Stage -- look for some fun answers from her on Monday!

 

Hope everyone has a safe, relaxing Labor Day weekend.

 

Bethanne

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BrooksSigler
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Re: Joseph Finder, August 31-September 4

What a great response! Thanks, Joe. You are so passionate and accessible to readers. Keep up the good work.