Gayle Lynds, bestselling author of international thrillers such as Mosaic and Masquerade, recently joined us for a chat. Her latest book, Mesmerized, is now available from Pocket Books.
Gayle, welcome to TMR! Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Omaha and grew up across the Missouri River in Council
Bluffs, Iowa. We were poor, but we all loved books. Now, that's real
affluence. As you can imagine, the local library was a very special place
I attended local schools and went on to graduate with a journalism
degree from the University of Iowa. I married, was a newspaper reporter at
The Arizona Republic, an editor with Top-Secret security clearance at a
think tank in California, had two children, and became a magazine editor and
My goodness, as I write this, I realize how quickly time has whizzed
past. Seems like yesterday.
For readers who may not be familiar with your backlist, tell us about your
Ah, yes, my checkered past. You'll notice in the previous question I
managed to gloss over (well, ignore) my REAL writing background, i.e.
When I was fifteen, I began my first short story. I remember the
soaring joy of it all, the heady sense of being in the stratosphere of
possibility, daring the undareable. But then I read it and decided it
wasn't good enough. I put it away and didn't try another piece of fiction
for ten years.
This can happen when one reveres books. Finally, the inevitable
happened ... my need to write overode my fear of not being good enough. I
began with literary short stories and, amazingly, they were published in
several small journals across the country.
Then I went through a divorce, and since my delightful children had
grown accustomed to eating, I needed to find a way to pay the bills.
Literary short stories weren't going to do that. That's when I went to work
for a magazine and a friend asked whether I could write Nick Carter novels.
Nick Carter is America's version of 007.
By then, I was desperate, and so I lied: "Of course I can." I'd wanted
to broaden my fiction skills anyway, and the Nick Carters gave me the
opportunity as well as a bit of very welcome money. With trepidation, I
wrote it, and found I not only enjoyed it, I seemed to have a flair for
crime and adventure. Ultimately, I wrote five of them.
After that, I did other crime novels under other male pseudonyms,
including three juvenile mysteries, until at last I could write under my own
That's when I created a novel completely my own. It was an
international thriller called Masquerade (a People magazine "Page-Turner of
the Week"), which was followed by Mosaic (Romantic Times magazine "Thriller
of the Year"), The Hades Factor with Robert Ludlum (New York Times
best-seller), and now, just released, Mesmerized, which has sold overseas so
far to some half-dozen countries.
Tell us about your new international thriller, Mesmerized.
What actually triggered the book was my discovery that the largest group
of retired KGB spies outside Moscow lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
I was intrigued. There's no way the largest number of our retired CIA
would have settled around Moscow. So what had happened to get so many of
our former enemies over here?
The answer, of course, was the end of the cold war, when an avalanche of
top ex KGB, GRU, Stasi, and other Iron Curtain spies defected to us. When
their debriefings were finished, they wanted to stay in the D.C. area, which
of course they knew from being debriefed there and also because it's such a
sophisticated metropolis, much easier to assimilate into than would be a
little town in the Midwest.
Mesmerized also deals with a little-known phenomenon --- cellular memory.
Can you tell us about that?
Several hundred transplant recipients have reported over the years that
they've received memories, ideas, tastes, that sort of thing from the hearts
of their donors. I'd like to stress that this isn't a horrible thing. In
fact, many recipients are fascinated by the experience and find they learn a
great deal that they're happy about.
Briefly, here are a few facts: Recently it's been proved that not only
the brain but the heart has neurotransmitters, which are the critical
substances that transmit nerve impulses across the brain's synapses. The
brain needs electrochemical energy so it can think. As it turns out, the
heart has even more juice than the brain --- in fact, five thousand times
more, in the form of electromagnetic power. Everyone remembers Einstein's
breakthrough: E=MC squared. Scientists now say energy may be
interchangeable not only with matter, which Einstein postulated, but with
information. If so, this electric power could explain how the heart might
think and communicate. There's a lot of hardwiring between the heart and
brain --- super conduits of energy and thought, if you will.
What drew you to writing mysteries? Are you a long time reader?
As a child, I read everything I could get my hands on, good and bad,
literary and popular, Westerns, mainstream, detective novels, mystery
novels, romance novels ... everything. I was a sponge, and now I'm very
grateful for all that haphazard reading, because it's given me a broad
foundation from which to create my international spy tales.
Recently, at the Murder in the Grove mystery conference in Boise, ID, I
interviewed Martha Grimes as part of the conference's honoring her. I
admire her work, and it was a privilege to interview her.
What writers have influenced your own writing?
My single biggest influence has been my husband, Dennis Lynds, aka
Michael Collins. His spare, poetic prose, his lifelike dialog, and his
gritty stories live in my heart and constantly inspire me.
You worked with the late Robert Ludlum on a book. How did that come
Within a short time, Bob's first wife died and he left his long-time
publisher. Bob was ready to make a fresh start. One of his ideas was to
begin a series, his first official one. For that, he wanted a coauthor. He
asked his agent to send him a pile of books of writers whom he considered
Apparently, Bob really liked mine a lot, and so my agent contacted me
and proposed the idea. The result was The Hades Factor, the first of the
Covert-One series. We were very fortunate with it. It sat on the New York
Times best-seller list for quite a few weeks.
Was it intimidating to work with such a long-established author?
It was a lot of fun. Bob came up with an initial idea --- the name of
the hero, the story was to be about a virus that somehow arose from Desert
Storm, and the hero's fiancee would die early in the story.
I took that and ran with it, creating subsidiary characters, a plot, and
an outline. We kicked it back and forth. Then I wrote the book, and we
repeated the process.
Although The Hades Factor is like neither of our standalone novels, it's
an exciting book that pleased us both a lot.
What are you working on now?
Right now I'm ready to commence my tour
for Mesmerized, which was released May 1. I'll be in Los Angeles, Santa
Barbara, San Diego, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York City, and
Omaha-Council Bluffs. I've packed a light-weight toothbrush, a raft of
undies, and my laptop. This is going to be fun. I love meeting readers!
As for future books, I'm working an untitled standalone and the third in
the Covert-One series: The Paris Option.
What role does the Internet play in writing and marketing your books?
A huge role. I use it constantly for research. I also am in daily
contact with fans, who reach me through my website. Plus, I check in
whenever I can with wonderful websites like yours. In fact, yours is listed
in my "Favorites."
Do you write full-time?
Beginning with the sale of Masquerade, which brought a sizable advance,
I've been able to live comfortably on the proceeds of my work. In fact, I'm
living the life I always dreamed of, with a marvelous husband, a cozy
cottage on a hillside above the sea, and three cats who are a constant
source of amusement. Den's and my children (we have four) are grown up,
healthy, and interesting. And I write every day for hours. Talk about
Do you write for any particular audience --- age, male or female,
I write for those who love sweeping suspense novels. It's interesting
to me that my audience seems to be half male, half female. I feel that's a
tremendous compliment, because it indicates to me that it's the story that
counts, and I must be doing something right.
How can readers contact you?
Through my website: www.GayleLynds.com I'd like to invite everyone to
stop by for contests, free autographed first editions, our newsletter
signup, and a list of where I'll be speaking and autographing Mesmerized. I
love to meet readers!
Gayle, thank you for joining us, and best of luck on your book tour!
May 21, 2001