Catherine Coulter is the wildly popular author of over 87 novels, almost all of them New York Times bestsellers. She earned her reputation writing historical romances to pass the time while aboard the ark. She added suspense thrillers to her repertoire – with enormous success. 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.
Q. Vortex is the 25th thriller in your hugely successful FBI Thriller series. What are Sherlock and Savich up to in this one?
Catherine: Well, now, how about I give you a taste, but not too much, I don’t ruin the stories for you. As you know many Savich & Sherlock thriller have two plots. Sometimes they come together to form one whole, but in Vortex, they remain separate. Mia Briscoe, a political reporter for the Guardian in NYC, will never forget her friend Serene Winters who simply disappeared the night of a college rave. Mia knew she’d been roofied and killed, but she was never found. The story takes off when she realizes the answer to her friend’s disappearance is right under her nose. Sherlock joins forces with Mia and the fur flies.
Olivia Hildebrand, CIA, nearly dies leading a team in Iran to exfiltrate an embedded spy in the Iranian military with information on a flash drive that identifies the seller of military technology. What happens to the flash drive? How to flush out the bad guys?
Q. What inspired the stories?
Catherine: Inspiration is a rare duck. I myself, haven’t seen much of it. Understand, I’m what’s called a pantser, not a plotser, that is, I don’t know what’s going to happen, nor do I know who is doing what to whom. I usually begin with a “what if” idea, in this case, I saw a flash drive and a team in Iran and wondered hmmm, what is that all about? Then I envisioned a wild frat party (a rave) at Godwyn University in Pennsylvania where a student is roofied and disappears. Then both plots simply unfolded from there. I know it sounds really weird, but I swear, a lot of authors write this way. It means when I write something new, it can be crap, no question, and then my writer brains goes to work — how about going this direction? No, no, that’s bad, but how about that? And on and on it goes. And it means rewriting when I sit down to work the next morning. This can happen maybe three times, but it’s the way I work.
3) You’ve said elsewhere that a series doesn’t start until the fourth book. What do you mean by that? And has that been true for your FBI thriller series?
Actually, it was J.T. Ellison who told me that. (She’s my co-writer of my six-book BRIT in the FBI international thriller series, which, by the way, if you haven’t read, start with The Final Cut and you’re addicted.) I didn’t believe it at first, but then I thought back to the beginning books in the FBI series. The first thriller, The Cove, was to be a standalone, but then the publisher said, “When’s the next one?” And that’s when Savich (who appeared only in the last third of The Cove) said in my ear, “Catherine, what about me?” And that was that. The second thriller, The Maze, was basically Sherlock’s book. The third book, The Target, and one of my very favorites so far, was ninety percent about Judge Ramsey Hunt, and only an appearance by Savich and Sherlock. The fourth, The Edge, did indeed really begin the FBI series with Savich and Sherlock front and center. Everything seemed to settle in and focus itself. J.T. was right.
Q. You’ve written eighty-seven books, almost all of them bestsellers. What’s your favorite part of the process? If you had to do something else besides writing, what would it be?
Catherine: Eighty-seven books. It blows my mind. It seems like only yesterday when I decided to write my first book, The Autumn Countess. Talk about time going at warp speed. I would like to say I’ve been very lucky to work with great people in the industry, people who not only wanted me to succeed but pulled out all the stops for me. I’ll tell you, when the first book hit the New York Times Bestseller list in 1987, I rose right to the ceiling and drank champagne. You know how there are moments in your life you’ll never forget. This is one of those times for me. My favorite part about the process? I’m very big on dialogue and on occasion, the characters are talking so fast I can barely keep up with them. It’s magical and makes me want to break into song. And since I really don’t know what’s going to happen in a novel until the characters tell me, it’s both nerve-racking and great sport.
What would I do if I couldn’t write? Probably I’d be a hair dresser since I’ve very good at it, but then I think about everyone telling me what to do and how to do it and reality sinks in. So, I guess if I couldn’t write any more, I’d just hang it up and go lie on a beautiful beach in Corfu.
Q. Have you read anything good recently?
Catherine: Yes, yes, yes – J.T. Ellison’s Her Dark Lies – very exciting and will creep you out. (I’m giving it a plug because, well, you know, she’s an excellent friend, but still, gotta say, you’ll love the book.)
Q. What are you working on now?
Catherine: I’m buzzing right along in Reckoning, the 26th FBI thriller for the summer of 2022. As with many of my novels, I began with a “what if” idea and it’s going from there. There are two plots, one about Emma Hunt, a child piano prodigy. The Hunt family first appeared in The Target, then in Backfire. Emma’s playing at Kennedy Center and someone’s stalking her.
Kirra Mandarian is a brilliant young prosecutor whose ultimate goal is to discover who murdered her parents sixteen years before. But that’s not her only goal. She’s also a vigilante who brings in criminals who’ve never faced justice. But she turns over the wrong rock.
One last thought: I can’t imagine not writing. It’s what I am, what I do. I thank my very talented grandmother who wrote for the Saturday Evening Post a long time ago. I wonder what she have accomplished if she hadn’t died young. As for me, I plan to croak over the keyboard. I hope all of you continue to enjoy my books, both the historical romances (funny and most with mysteries) and the FBI series.
Catherine Coulter's Latest
Seven years ago, Mia Briscoe was at a frat party with her best friend Serena when a fire broke out. Everyone was accounted for except Serena. She was never heard from or seen again. Now Mia is an investigative journalist covering the political scene in New York City, but she hasn’t given up trying to find out what happened to her friend that night. When an old photo taken at the frat party gives her clues, Mia realizes she knows just where to look. She enlists FBI agent Sherlock’s help to uncover a sinister string of events going all the way back to that disastrous party. But some very powerful—and very dangerous—people will do anything to keep the past buried.
CIA Operative Olivia Hildebrandt is a team leader on a mission in Iran to exfiltrate a betrayed undercover operative. She’s nearly killed by an exploding grenade and saved by a team member. After leaving Walter Reed Hospital, not only has that team member disappeared but two men come to her house to kill her. Savich believes their attack on Olivia is a direct result of the compromised mission in Iran. What intelligence was at stake? Who betrayed them? Savich quickly finds he is now a target himself and unseen enemies will stop at nothing, including murder.
More Crime Thrillers