Lisa Steinke: What three words would you use to describe your book?
Matthew Quirk: A few nouns jumped to mind: thrill, mischief, power.
LS: What is your favorite thing about your book?
MQ: For me it’s the narrator. I found a very natural voice for the character and then the book really opened up. I like how his tone and humor keep things relatable as the pace accelerates and the stakes rise.
LS: What was your high point while writing your book? Low point?
MQ: There was a moment that was a high and a low, actually. In an early draft of the book a certain sympathetic character didn't’t make it to the end. And it’s funny, because I’d written that character and consciously plotted him out and calculated the emotional stakes and so on. But even then, once I re-read it, I was incredibly sad about his passing. Choked up. Others were too, so we revised it and he made it to the end. It was the best kind of low point, because it was a high, too. I realized that these characters had taken on lives of their own.
LS: How did you come up with the title of your book?
MQ: People in DC often joke about there being 500 people who really run Washington, so I used that as shorthand number for the powers-that-be that control the capital. The agents, editors, and film people all liked it, too, so we went with it.
LS: What are you reading now? What’s up next?
MQ: The Tailor of Panama by John Le Carré. I’ve been reading a lot of him recently. As a former intelligence officer, he really what he’s talking about and as a stylist he can hold his own with most any literary author. Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead is great, too. And then I have a big stack of books on my desk about prison security, lock-picking, safe-cracking, corporate espionage, and political corruption. It’s research for the sequel to The 500, which I’m wrapping up now. I’ve always loved research and reporting and am glad I get to do it for the novels. Up next? I’ll probably read The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton. Some nice reviews I received said our books were similar, and I’ve heard great things about it.
LS: If you could see one person, alive or dead, reading your book, who would it be?
MQ: It’d be really cool to see the president stepping off of Air Force One with it tucked under his arm. A friend of mine who’s a news producer actually had the book on an Air Force One trip and sent me some photos. That was great. I joked with him that my book has better access than I do.
LS: What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your book?
MQ: I received a wonderful note from an author I admire about some technical stuff in the book: pacing and ratcheting up the stakes. He’s a great storyteller, so it was a real honor to have him compliment the craftsmanship. And I always love it when someone tells me he or she laughed out loud at some line in The 500.
What’s the #1 thing you want people to feel after reading your book?
MQ: There’s that bittersweet feeling with a good book, where you want it to devour it but also don’t want it to end. And then you can’t wait to dig into the next book. That’s such an amazing part of reading, and I would love to be able to make people feel that way. It’s what I’m striving for.
LS: Favorite line or passage from your book?
MQ: There’s a scene in the woods with Mike and Annie, where she meets Mike’s father for the first-time under less-than-ideal circumstances. That’s a favorite because it weaves the plot twists and turns in with some character-driven family banter. And maybe: “The corporate spy’s motto: leave no trace, but save your receipts.”
LS: Are you working on your next novel? If so, any hints?
MQ: I’m finishing it up now, actually. Mike’s brother disappears, and Mike has to venture into the criminal underground and face his past in order to save him. The conspiracy draws Mike into the world of corporate intelligence and private security firms. I’m having a blast with it, and I can’t wait to get it out to readers.
To read more about the talented Matthew Quirk, visit his website.
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