Author Interview: Stuart Woods

Stuart Woods Photo Credit Harry BensonStuart Woods is one of the first thriller writers whose work I fell in love with. His characters have fantastic names like Felicity Devonshire, Vance Calder and, my all-time favorite, Stone Barrington. I’m constantly impressed by the fluidity of his prose, as well as his wonderfully descriptive romantic scenes. There have been countless occasions when I stopped reading one of his books to recite a passage to a friend because I was so impressed by the use of adjectives, verbs and metaphors. Simply stated, he’s a terrific writer everyone should read. Speaking of which, Stuart Woods has a new Stone Barrington novel available: Standup Guy. Make sure to pick up a copy after reading my interview with the author below.

After graduating college, you started out working at several advertising agencies. What made you realize advertising wasn’t for you, and how did your time in the industry influence your future writing?

I found the advertising business to be a wonderful preparation for writing professionally. I always advise young people who want to write for a living to find a job in advertising, journalism, PR – any profession that requires you to sit down and write a thousand words a day, whether you feel like it or not. Advertising did that for me, and in addition, I had to satisfy some very demanding bosses – some of the best writers in the business – who wanted persuasive writing and every word to count. I left because I felt I had gone as far as I was going to go in that business, and because I had wanted to write fiction since I was a child, and leaving advertising forced me to finally write the novel I had been thinking about since I was ten.

Chiefs - Stuart Woods

Your first novel, Chiefs, earned you an Edgar Award. How did it feel to be honored by your peers for your first novel?

I didn’t know the Mystery Writers of America were my peers, since I had never heard of the award, though I was very happy to receive it. I thought I had written a novel about how small towns worked, but I was delighted that they found it to be mysterious.

Chiefs was turned into a TV miniseries with a stellar cast of actors, including Charlton Heston, Danny Glover, Billy Dee Williams, and John Goodman. Did you have an active role in the creation of the miniseries, and did it live up to your expectations?

I didn’t write the screenplay, but the producers were kind enough (and smart enough) to send me every draft of the screenplay and solicit my comments and suggestions. I made a lot of those, and they even accepted some of them, particularly in casting. Heston’s character, Hugh Holmes was based on James S. Peters, a father of my home town, and I interviewed him at length about the town’s history. I loaned the tapes of that interview to Heston, and he used them to create his character and his accent. I was delighted with the miniseries; I thought it true to both the plot of the novel and its intent. I played a small part in the mini-series, and they made me travel to New York to read for it. I had a two-minute scene with Billy Dee Williams, a fine actor who, for some reason, could not remember his lines. We rehearsed at length, shot it, then rehearsed some more and shot it a couple of more times. He finally got his lines right, whereas I was perfect throughout. I thought, “This acting thing isn’t so tough; after all I knew my lines.” Then I saw the series at a screening: Billy Dee was wonderful, and I came off as a blithering idiot. I thought, “Maybe there’s something to this acting thing, after all.”

Under The Lake - Stuart WoodsI thought your standalone thriller, Under the Lake, was one of your best. It’s very different from your other work but just as captivating. It even attracted the attention of Stephen King, who lauded the book by saying, “it scared the living hell” out of him. More than 25 years later, what’s your opinion on the novel?

I reread it when someone was writing a screenplay (ultimately unproduced) from it, and I liked it a lot. I tried to get Simon & Schuster to use King’s comment, which was one line in a fulsome letter he wrote about the book, and they wouldn’t. They wanted to say, “It scared the living heck out of me.” (!)

For the past several years you’ve been providing fans with a steady flow of Stone Barrington novels. Do you plan on revisiting any of your other series or writing any new standalone thrillers?

My publisher persuaded me to write only Stone novels in a new contract (he offered me money, and I can be bought). I think he meant that he wanted the words, “A Stone Barrington Novel” on every cover. I tricked him by including all the other series characters in the various novels. Anyway, my readers who write to me like Stone best.

Having written 28 Stone Barrington novels, how do you keep your books fresh?

I have a fevered imagination and a rich fantasy life, which helps with the sex scenes.

Blue Water, Green Skipper - Stuart Woods

Your memoir about sailing, Blue Water, Green Skipper, was re-released in 2012. How did the fans of your thrillers respond to Blue Water, Green Skipper when it was, once again, made available to the public?

I’ve had a great deal of mail about the book from readers – most of them, yachtsmen, and they were all warm in their praise. Reading it allowed me to revisit a happy time in my life. One day, I’ll write a full-blown autobiography, and I’ve reserved the right to plug the old book into the new one. I don’t think I can write about that time of my life any better.

Many popular writers, including James Patterson, have increased their productivity by collaborating with other authors on novels. Some readers don’t care for this practice because they feel having a co-author dilutes the end product, while others are perfectly fine with it. What’s your opinion on the matter, and would you ever collaborate with another author on a book?

I’ve never done that, though my publisher says he would like it. I’ve instructed my widow-to-be to call my agent as soon as I’m dead and hire a few writers, and I’ve explained to her that Jim Patterson makes more money than God.

Standup Guy jacket

Since you’re working on and releasing multiple books a year, how do you go about keeping track of all the characters and details from novel to novel?

My characters exist for me in an alternate universe; I know exactly what’s happened to them, though they know nothing about me. Apparently, they don’t read. I seem to have a gift for keeping their stories in memory.

What are you working on now and what’s next for Stone Barrington?
There are two Stone novels completed and awaiting publication, and I’ll finish another this week. Standup Guy is coming out on January 7th. 

38 thoughts on “Author Interview: Stuart Woods

  1. Used to love him. Now I find him too misogynistic. Had to stop reading Stone because of it. Cool that you interviewed him!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Amy.

    The one author I’ve given up on for the moment is James Patterson. The last book of his I read was dreadful. Unfortunately, I think he cares more about quantity than quality.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Elaine. He’s a very talented author worth checking out. And in many of the earlier Stone Barrington novels, Stone and his friends hang out at Elaine’s, a restaurant that Stuart himself used to frequent when it was open in NYC. So, you’ll be glad to know your name is held in high regard in the books. 🙂

  3. Great interview with my favorite writer. “Standup Guy” just arrived (I always buy the hardbound books) and I can’t wait to dig in. Speaking of Elaine’s, I wish you’d asked about his real life relationship with the restaurant owner; I’m sure he has great stories to tell. I once ate at Elaine’s and Stuart was there…a magical night to say the least. Elaine even yelled at me because I took too long to take off my coat and sit down! 🙂

  4. I love His books.. Stone is my favorite although putting all his caractors together was an amazing idea 🙂 I have every book in the Holly collection and just about every one in the Stone collection. My mom got bored oneday and picked up one of my Stone novels and now she’s HOOKED lol.. Im so glad you interviewed Stuart Woods:) He is my all time FAVORITE author. I cant bring myself to read anyone elses books..

  5. Love his books! A friend and I have been wondering why he had not written any more Ed Eagle books. You answered our question. Thank you.

    • Judy, thanks for commenting. I found that piece of insight interesting as well. At least Stuart is committed to working his other characters into the Stone Barrington stories. I always enjoy it when authors do that.

  6. Love Stuart Woods Novels. All of his charecters are great, especially Teddy Fey. My problem is I cfan never put them doem once started. Takes less than a day. Then I have to wait for the next one.

  7. Thank you for this interview with him. I read a lot but his books are the only ones I always save. I end up reading them again at least once a year. I’ve missed Ed Eagle and I hope he’ll include him more in the next few books. Also has anyone else ever wondered how many of his characters especially ones with small parts in books (besides Will Lee) are from Delano, Georgia?

  8. Well, this answers one of my questions – will Mr. Woods ever return to Delano and give us a new story set sometime after “Chiefs” (late ’60s, perhaps), involving Tucker/Tyler Watts and Billy Lee and providing us with a delightfully ironic demise for Skeeter Willis. Apparently his current contract precludes the possibility.

  9. I just love all his characters, they actually become like friends and then when I finish a book, I miss my “friends” One day I hope to meet Stuart Woods.

  10. He will answer your e-mail too. I asked him where he does his writing about 10 years ago on an e-mail. He just said “everywhere”. Ha!

  11. Loved, the interview & Stuart Woods. I have every Stone book he has written and two days ago preorder the next to. Delivered in April & July, can’t wait. I also feel an attachment yo his other characters, especially Holly & Ed Eagle………

  12. Great interview . I have read all of Stuart Woods books. Can’t wait to get the new ones coming out. I hope he does not co-author. The books just never seem to be as good.

  13. I enjoyed your interview with Mr. Woods, and yes his books are addictive. I started reading one of his that my husband had and I was hooked. I’ve gone back and gotten old books to help my addiction . I love all the “situations” he and Dino get into.

  14. I too have all the Stone books, and all the Holly books. I do think it was a little short sighted (by his producer (is that the right word)) to limit him to just Stone. I would like to know what happened to Ed Eagle. His life was left pretty messed up and not settled at all. On another note…no I don’t like the fact that James Patterson doesn’t write his own books. How messed up is that? I do however like what happened with Robert B Parker’s characters.. Spencer and Jesse Stone. They found someone to continue to write those characters, in the style that Robert B Parker used, and the stories continue. It’s been wonderful. The new authors, Ace Atkins and Michael Brandman are doing a bang up job! So, Stuart needs to look into something like this, rather than a group of writers who are only after the big bucks, not a good story/product. Just sayin’….Stuart never fails to deliver!

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