Catherine Coulter is the wildly popular author of 89 novels, almost all of them New York Times bestsellers. She earned her reputation writing historical romances to pass the time while aboard the ark. She added suspense thrillers to her repertoire - with enormous success. The Cove, the first book in her bestselling "FBI Suspense Thriller Series" spent nine weeks on the New York Times list and has to date sold 4 million copies. Coulter has written 25 more bestselling thrillers in her hugely popular FBI series, and has been hailed as "one of the bona fide rock stars of the thriller genre."
Teaming with J. T. Ellison, Coulter launched another thriller series - A BRIT IN THE FBI - this one with a strong international flavor, reminiscent of James Bond at his best. The six books in the series have been hailed by critics as "hair-raising and "unputdownable." Her reason for closing down the series was she couldn't think of any more flamboyant ways to try to kill the lead characters.
Coulter's first novel, The Autumn Countess, was a Regency (set in England in the early 19th century) because as she says, "As any published author will tell you, it's best to limit the unknowns in a first book." Not only had she grown up reading Georgette Heyer, whom she worships, but she'd earned her M.A. degree in early 19th century European History and could fight in Napoleon's army, or join the Allies and beat his butt with Wellington. Clothes, customs, she had it all down cold.
Following The Autumn Countess, Coulter wrote six more Regency romances, then turned to long historicals and eventually interspersed them with contemporary suspense novels, beginning with False Pretenses in 1988, her very first hardcover.
These days she's also writing novellas starring a character from her acclaimed Sherbrooke Bride series. Grayson Sherbrooke's Otherworldly Adventures are short novellas (about 20,000 words) with an eclectic cast of characters including beautiful Miranda, three precocious kids, and strange and scary beasties Grayson has to face.
Coulter grew up on a horse ranch in Texas, graduated from the University of Texas, and received her graduate degree from Boston College. She worked a speechwriter on Wall Street, then, to her joy, she was able to quit her day job and become a full-time writer.
She believes, given the continued e-morphing of publishing, that the best way to stay sane in this crazy industry is to keep a tub of guacamole plus a bottomless bag of chips close by, along with a healthy sense of humor. Coulter loves to travel and to kamikaze down the ski slopes, but since neither of those activities is do-able during these pandemic days, she spends her off time doing her other most favorite activity - reading and hiking over the beautiful hills and dales of Northern California.
She posts daily on her Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/catherinecoulterbooks) and interacts with her readers. During this surreal time, she posts daily Instagram photos of her favorite local hiking trails, her fabulous garden and her cat Eli. Coulter is an avid football fan and watches every game religiously. When there's no football she follows basketball, and is constantly amazed by Steph Curry.
Coulter lives with her husband and Eli in the San Francisco Bay Area.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE YOU WANTED TO WRITE FOR A LIVING?
My first word was "comma" instead of "mama" and she picked me up, whirled me around, and said, "Okay, if I'm a comma, what's your daddy?" She told me I said "hero" but I don't remember.
When I was eleven years old, I wrote stories about Little Joe Cartwright - I was madly in love with him on the TV show Bonanza. He rescued me from bad-ass malcontents who lusted after my lovely self, lascivious train robbers also bent on attacking my fair person (do you sense a theme here?) and the occasional nasty ranchers out to steal my sheep. There was even a chapter with me going over a killer waterfall and little Joe hanging by a tree branch to snag me out of the water before I plummeted over. Thankfully, my first efforts were dutifully scattered into the furthest reaches of the universe, or maybe an alternate universe.
Okay, seriously: Writing was always easy for me, like math or painting is easy for other people. I was a speech writer on Wall Street when it hit me. I was reading 10 books a week while my husband was in medical school, and one night I threw a book across the room and said I can do better. (Turns out about 60% of published authors begin that way). I was able to quit my job three years later and write full time. Oh, profound joy -- no more high heels, no more suits. On the other hand, it meant that everything (including buying cat food) was on my head. I learned discipline, quickly discovered whining isn't at all attractive. Words to live by.
WHO/WHAT WERE YOUR PERSONAL INFLUENCES ON YOUR LITERARY CAREER?
When I was three years old, I remember very clearly sitting on my grandmother's lap, and she's holding a book in front of us and reading aloud to me. She's moving her finger over the words as she reads them, which, I'm convinced is why I'm a fast reader today. She also made up "Tricker" stories for me. Tricker was a mischievous little fellow the size of a grown-up's thumb - ah, what an imagination she had. It's sad, but I can't remember any of the stories now. My mom also read to me all the time until I learned to read when I was five. And let me preach a moment: READ TO YOUR CHILDREN. I love in particular Georgette Heyer, a British author who actually invented the Regency Romance - an extraordinary talent.
So, a lot of people poured water into the well and it was up to me to bring up the bucket.
YOU BEGAN YOUR ILLUSTRIOUS WRITING CAREER PENNING HISTORICAL ROMANCES. AND NOW YOU WRITE FBI SUSPENSE THRILLERS. DO YOU FIND IT CHALLENGING TO WRITE IN TWO VASTLY DIFFERENT GENRES? WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT MOVING FROM PRESENT-DAY TO THE PAST AND VICE VERSA?
I've found that writing two such disparate genres keeps my brain unconstipated. Both have their own challenges, their joys, and their hair-pulling, and most of the historical romances have mysteries too. It's simply the way mybrain works. The thrillers are the most challenging because I have not one but TWO mysteries and that always turns out to mean there are at least six times as many loose ends that I have to keep searching out and tying up, and they always seem to multiply, the little buggers. As for the historical romances the pacing isn't so demanding, e.g., I can take you to the cat races without the interfering with the flow of the book.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS?
Memorize Strunk & White's Elements of Style, set your writing time and stick to it (regardless of death, unless it's yours), be DISCIPLINED, produce new pages every day. If you don't, then you're not a writer, you're a person with a neat hobby.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE BEST PART OF BEING AN AUTHOR?
Scaring the crap out of people on the freeway when I have a plot epiphany and start chair dancing in my car.
YOUR FIRST FBI THRILLER, THE COVE, WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 1996. SINCE THEN YOU HAVE MESMERIZED READERS WITH 25 MORE EXCITING STAND-ALONE NOVELS IN THE SERIES. WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST TO WRITE THE FIRST FBI THRILLER? WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT THE GENRE?
Haven't you always found there's so much serendipity in life, and you never know when it will strike. In 1995 I was at a family reunion and my sister walked up to me, said without preamble, "There's this little town on the coast of Oregon called The Cove. They make the world's greatest ice cream and bad stuff happens." I went en pointe. At the time I was writing historical romances and romantic suspense, but this was hugely different. And that's how it all started. What I really enjoy about the suspense thriller genre is the constant attention to sharp pacing, which means I have to make the reader turn those pages as fast as he/she can, which means I have to keep the tension high. Believe me, it's a challenge and it's exciting. And to be honest, writing suspense thrillers turns you into a maniac, ask any thriller author.
YOU'VE CREATED A SUCCESSFUL CROSS-OVER SERIES CALLED A BRIT ON THE FBI, WHICH HAS SIX BOOKS CO-WRITTEN WITH J.T. ELLISON. WHAT INSPIRED THE CROSS-OVER? WHAT DO ENJOY MOST ABOUT COLLABORATING WITH ANOTHER AUTHOR?
Serendipity strikes again. I woke up one day with Nicholas Drummond alive and well in my head and ready to rock and roll. I knew about his family in England, I even knew the butler's name - Combe - and he's amazing. What I couldn't do, however, was write two big books a year. So, I thought about Clive Cussler and how he had people writing for and with him, gave him a call and he told me his protocol, which I liked. I devoured suspense thriller writers, came upon J.T. Ellison, and said EUREKA! I think both of us are very lucky: we became close, like family, really, and worked well together through the six books. Because of J.T., Nicholas Drummond and Mike Caine came alive and kicked big international butt.
UP TO THIS POINT, WHAT HAS BEEN ONE OF YOUR GREATEST JOYS OR EXPERIENCES AS A WRITER?
I've had the luck of the Irish and I can only claim a small percent of Irish DNA - I think my biggest thrill was when my editor called me at 6:30 on a Thursday morning and told me Moonspun Magic had made the New York Times bestseller list. I didn't come down from the ceiling for days.
WHAT WERE YOUR DIALOGUE INFLUENCES AND HOW DID YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A SPEECHWRITER HELP YOU?
I've always been "dialogue heavy," and where does it come from? I'm not lying here, I swear, when characters are talking in my head, all I'm doing is typing as fast as I can so as not to miss a word they're saying. Honestly, this isn't the Twilight Zone. Did speech writing help? Well, it sure added to my hamper of jokes, but I'd have to say no, it had no bearing.
YOU'VE WRITTEN A LOT OF BOOKS, TALKED TO A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE READ YOUR BOOKS. WHAT IS THE ONE CONSISTENT THING THEY ALL SAY TO YOU ABOUT YOUR BOOKS?
Write more. Isn't that marvelous?
YOU ARE A PROLIFIC READER AS WELL AS WRITER. WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS THESE DAYS?
Jayne Ann Krentz, John Sanford, Michael Connelly, Dick Francis, Agatha Christie, J.K. Rowling, and the list goes on and on and on. There are so many brilliant authors to devour.
YOU ARE BANISHED TO DESERTED ISLAND AND ONLY ALLOWED TO BRING TWO BOOKS AND TWO FAVORITE FOODS. WHAT ARE THEY?
Let's start with the food, that's really the best and very easy: Chips and guacamole. (Am I allowed to bring some salsa too?) My two favorite books: Any of the Harry Potter books and Survivor's Guide: How to Build a Raft.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER?
Without hesitation, I've got to say the very first time I held my very first book in my hands. I was in the lobby of my apartment building in New York City, and the concierge, eyes twinkling (he knew it was coming) said, "Here's a package for you." I remember I slowly, reverently, opened it up and there it was -- my first book, The Autumn Countess. And what was amazing? My name was on it. That moment is like a snapshot in time that will never fade.
The FBI series all came about through serendipity. At a family reunion my sister came up to me and said, without preamble, "Have you ever heard of a little town on the coast of Oregon called The Cove? They make the world's greatest ice cream and bad stuff happens." I went en pointe, told my publisher I wanted to write a suspense thriller. They weren't all that enthusiastic since they contracted me to write long historical romances. I dug in my three-inch heels, finished the current historical I was writing for them in six weeks, a record, and wrote THE COVE, and that's how the FBI series got started. THE COVE was an instant New York Times bestseller, settled in for nine weeks on the list, and naturally, the publisher now wanted more - how about an FBI series? I had made my hero in THE COVE, James Quinlan, an FBI agent. Why? It sounded sexy. Now it meant I had to make lots of friends in the FBI in Washington.
Incredibly, I'm now writing the 25th FBI thriller, titled VORTEX, and I think back over the many books and years and I can only shake my head and smile. Yay, serendipity.