Message From The Author
Book 62, and Woo-Woo Too
AS HER NEW HISTORICAL HITS BOOKSTORES,
BESTSELLER CATHERINE COULTER REFLECTS ON HER CAREER
By Liz French
Call Catherine Coulter a pioneer or trendsetter and she politely deflects the attention. A question about her trailblazing move from romance to her extremely popular FBI thrillers elicits a shout-out to Tami Hoag as possibly the first to make that migration. She goes on to mention Sandra Brown, Iris Johansen and Lisa Jackson as other early migrators.
One big difference, though, is these ladies, with the exception of Jackson, haven't returned to romance since their switch. But Coulter alternates between historical romances and thrillers. "I don't want to get burned out writing only one genre," she says. "What's so perfect is the thrillers and the historicals are so very different in what they require. In a thriller, I'm getting the reader to turn the page, I'm trying to maintain complexity. In a historical romance I want to make you laugh, I want to take you on countless fun adventures. Will I ever add another genre? We'll see."
Coulter deflects again when discussing her early steamy Regency romances, noting that Joan Wolf broke the same ground around the same time. "Until Joan and
I wrote Regency romances, there was no taking readers through the bedroom door," she says. Her first book, a "whistle-stop clean" Regency, The Autumn Countess (1978), played by the rules. But by the time she began writing her next Regency, The Rebel Bride, a year later, she was ready to move into the bedroom. "The sex wasn't extraneous or gratuitous, it was necessary to have it be what it was supposed to be," she says. "I spoke to my editor, Hilary Ross, about it, and she said, 'Let's go for it.'"
And she's been busting boundaries and topping bestseller lists ever since: 57 of her 61 books have hit the New York Times bestseller list, with Wizard's Daughter, No. 62, out in December from Jove, poised to do the same. "What a fun book," Coulter says, adding that it spun out from a four-line poem she wrote. The poem became a major plot point: The book's hero, Nicholas Vail, is on the hunt for Rosalind, who has been singing the poem-as-song in his dreams since he was 12. "Nearly all of Wizard's Daughter (the title's pretty much a giveaway) has heavy-duty woo-woo," the author says.
Coulter has added paranormal
elements to her FBI series as well. Protagonist Dillon Savich communed with ghosts in Blow Out (2004). When asked if she believes in supernatural phenomena, Coulter hedges. "Most people want to believe, myself included," she ventures. She is much more emphatic about her characters, though. "Do I believe Savich is psychic? Yes, I do."
A longtime San Francisco resident, Coulter also believes in continuity. Wizard's Daughter is the 10th novel in her Sherbrooke Bride series, and she's working on her 63rd book, her 12th FBI thriller, Tailspin, which Putnam will release in 2008. "Maybe it could be said
I got the trilogy/quartet/duology/series ball rolling," Coulter acknowledges, finally willing to accept pioneer designation. "Way back when, I was telling Jennifer McCord, then with Waldenbooks, that I'd like to continue with a particular set of characters. She, like Hilary Ross, said, 'Go for it.'" That series went on to become the five-book Song series, set in the 13th century. "I like to read about ongoing characters, so it was a very natural thing for me," she adds.
Readers seem to like following her characters, including Sherlock and Savich in the FBI series and the Regency-era Sherbrooke family. Coulter estimates that readership of the FBI series is 60/40 percent female/male. Her romances are primarily read by women, but she's heard from servicemen in Iraq who read her historicals to relax and wind down after "horrendous days." She thinks it's "really neat" that many of her other male readers are in law enforcement or paramilitary groups -- "Bubba the Beard, for example."
Bubba the Beard's not the first male to be a part of her career. Coulter credits her husband Anton, a radiologist, with helping her plot her first novel. He's also selected titles for her books. And it was while he attended medical school that she had her writer's epiphany. She consumed 10 books a week, but one night, "I threw the book across the room and said I can do better. It turns out that many published authors began this way."
But few could lay claim to being a pioneering voice and bestselling powerhouse like the ever-popular Coulter.
TOP FIVE TOUCHDOWN
"My dad always always told me fall was created by God for football," says Texas native and avid football fan Coulter, who learned all about the sport from her father when she was around 8. So, since this interview was conducted in early fall, we asked the author to list her five favorite pro teams:
1. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
2. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS -- "the Colts as in Peyton Manning, not Baltimore!"
3. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
4. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS -- "What is a local to do?"
5. "Big Ben and his merry" PITTSBURGH STEELERS
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