The person who may now hold the title of “most prolific living American author” is enroute to Tallahassee. Novelist Stuart Woods began his writing career in 1981.
His first novel was entitled “Chiefs.” It promptly won the prestigious Edgar Award and was adapted into a CBS miniseries starring Charlton Heston, Danny Glover, Billy Dee Williams and John Goodman. Not too bad for a first literary effort. Since then, Woods has cranked out an astounding 80-plus best-sellers, arguably making him the most productive American novelist alive.
“I think I may have overtaken Joyce Carol Oates,” he quipped by telephone. “I’m not sure, but she’s been doing it longer than I have.”
Given Woods’ phenomenal productivity, he must write around the clock non-stop, right?
“No, I work an hour a day, seven days a week,” he asserted. “On day one I sit down and stare at a blank computer screen and I write a scene. I establish something; although I don’t even know what until I’ve started. The next day I come back and spend another hour. First I read what I wrote the day before and make small corrections and that slingshots me into the next chapter.”
From there, Woods says his writing protocol settles into a near auto-pilot pattern.
“I keep going like that until I’m about 50 chapters into the book and then I start looking for a way out of the corner I’ve painted myself into. So far I’ve always found a way out and it usually takes me a couple of months to write a novel on that schedule.”
And these are not short stories. His latest book entitled “Stealth,” the 51st thriller in the “Stone Barrington” series, tops 300 pages. Besides being a jaw-droppingly prolific writer, Stuart Woods is also a bit of an adventurer and Renaissance kind of guy. He’s a pilot. A sailor. A globetrotter and connoisseur of espionage and intrigue. He insists that gives his stories and the people who live in them a special realism and authenticity.
“Characters are bits and pieces of me. I inhabit them when I write about them, even the women, which is harder than inhabiting the men. I live in the book because I want the reader to live in the book. And through some sort of magical process, that transfer is made and it keeps working.”
But that realism has also brought Woods grief from readers who think any reference to politics in his word is perhaps a bit TOO real for their taste.
“I hear about it from my Republican readers,” he said. “They are infuriated at even the mention of the New York Times or (MSNBC’s) Chris Matthews or anyone they’ve seen on television that they define as being the opposite of them. Unless the book is about running for president or being elected, an event book like that, I always thought the political content (of my books) was fairly light.”
Woods says it’s sometimes gotten to the point that some readers read things into his stories that aren’t there at all.
“The political stuff in most of my novels is something just passing by,” he insisted. “And there is no character named ‘Donald Trump’ except some people seem to think there is. I get people saying, ‘I didn’t like those terrible things you said about Donald Trump.’ And Donald Trump has never appeared in my novels to the best of my knowledge.”
Stuart Woods talks about these and other topics during his upcoming Tallahassee visit. He’ll be at Midtown Reader the evening of Thursday, October 17th at 6:00 p.m.
This story originally appeared on WFSU News.