This is the second part of a two-part interview with conservative author Brad Thor, conducted by Ambassador Fred J. Eckert.
The Caller: We’ve spoken a bit about your conservative views and concerns about threats facing America. These shine through in your body of work — 18 New York Times best-selling thriller novels in the past 17 years and more than 15 million copies of your books in print. With the release today of “Backlash,” which I found spell-binding and absolutely superb, you’re about to have yet another best-seller, as sure as the sun rises in the east. What’s your goal when you start writing a new novel?
Thor: My number one goal is to entertain people. I also strive to add extra value. If you finish one of my novels feeling a little bit smarter, or if you have questions that might otherwise not have crossed your mind, or if you want to learn more about something that’s new or different to you, well, I feel good about that.
The Caller: Why do you think you’ve been so successful as a novelist?
Thor: I pay great attention to the details. I do a great deal of research. I try to learn as much as I can about anything and everything I include in a book. I rewrite a lot to try to make it as good as I can. It’s that Midwestern work ethic. My dad and my mom taught me to treat every day as if it’s the first day on the job. Every book that I write, I say to myself, “If nobody knew who I was, is this book good enough to get me a contract with Simon & Schuster?“
I really don’t work for Simon & Schuster. I work for the readers. The readers are my bosses. They leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and other places. That’s my annual performance review. So I bust my backside to try to create great plots and thrilling books. I do everything I can to try to make sure that I’m their favorite author, and that each year, they get a better book than they did the year before.
To try to make that happen, I have to not only pay such careful attention to my writing, but I also spend a lot of time reading books about writing to make me a better writer. It’s all about the readers and working to make them happy.
The Caller: Besides being known for the qualities that mark any great thriller novel — exciting, surprising, fast-paced, plausible — yours are known for your eerie ability to so often make readers feel as if they’re glimpsing at some possible future news. How do you do it?
Thor: You can’t imagine tomorrow’s headlines if you aren’t paying really close attention to today’s. I’m a voracious consumer of the news, domestic and international. I have the kind of mind that makes me want to look at things from every possible angle. And I’m always wondering, what if? I want readers to read plots they feel could explode on their doorstep tomorrow. Even if the book is five years old, I still want it to feel immediate. That’s where the art of storytelling comes in.
The Caller: Previously, you told me that China is the country that most worries you. Besides China and Russia, Iran and North Korea, what else do you see as a great threat?
Thor: Given our dependence on technology, with just about everything going into a computer, it would not take much to cripple this country. I think it’s MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, that says that because we’re so dreadfully dependent on our supply chains we are only three or four meals away from anarchy.
So I worry about the power grid and the internet — it touches everything. They’re our two biggest soft underbelly vulnerabilities. If they were to go down it would be an absolute disaster. Lights out. You wouldn’t be able to get gas. Drug stores wouldn’t be resupplied. There’d be no 911 response. It’d be total anarchy. These are big worries. And, of course, I never stop worrying about radical Islam.
The Caller: How do you view America’s future?
Thor: We’ve been through tough times before. I still believe America’s best days are in front of her. I am a sunny Reagan optimist. No pale pastels here, Fred. As President Reagan said, we have unleashed the creative genius of the individual as has never been done before. If you have any questions about America, go back and read Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address. If the hair doesn’t stand up on your arms with pride for this country you ain’t a patriot, brother.
The Caller: Thanks, Brad. I’ve read every one of your books. It never ceases to amaze me, but they really do keep getting better and better. Can’t wait for your next one. I won’t ask what it’ll be about because I know you never tell.
Fred J. Eckert twice served as a U.S. ambassador — to Fiji and to the Rome-based United Nations Agencies for Food & Agriculture — under President Ronald Reagan, who called him “a good friend and valued adviser, one of a kind.” He is a former Republican congressman from New York and author of a political satire novel that Library Journal called “One of the best political spoofs since The Mouse That Roared.”
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.