Daniel Silva and the Writing Process

30 04 2012

I’ve become a huge fan of novelist Daniel Silva over the past few years.  I’m currently enjoying The Confessor and have a pile of his other works queued up after it.

Silva has written fourteen novels and is about to release his fifteenth, The Fallen Angel, this summer.  All but the first three novels have centered around Israeli-born art restorer and Mossad alumnus, Gabriel Allon.  He is a compelling figure who helped assassinate the Black September terrorists responsible for the massacre of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympic games at Munich.  His son was killed and his wife maimed during a terrorist bombing.  Gabriel is a quiet and complex individual skillfully crafted by Silva.

You should read the books if you are at all interested in art, espionage and things European and Middle Eastern.  Themes like art theft, the Holocaust, the Vatican and radical Islam all loom large.  Gabriel Allon is an engaging character who lingers with you long after the book is closed.

I’m fascinated by the habits of writers and I’ve found some interesting details about Daniel Silva that might interest you:

  • When working on a novel—one a year—he begins work early in the morning and stops at 6:30 PM to watch the evening news.
  • He writes seven days a week and has a very hard time taking a day off when in the middle of a project.
  • He does not answer the phone or email when working.
  • His food of choice when writing is McVitie’s digestive biscuits.
  • He writes his novels first on legal pads using Paper Mate Mirado Black Warrior No. 2 pencils.  Pencils and pads don’t get viruses or crash, says Silva.  Later he commits them to digital form on his computer.
  • He writes sitting on the floor with his work sprawled out all over the room.  This, to the chagrin of his wife, MSNBC News correspondent Jamie Gangel, who designed a very nice workdesk that Silva doesn’t use.
  • Attire: Gray sweat pants, cotton socks from England, moccasins and a long-sleeved L.L. Bean shirt.  This does not vary.
  • He does not drink except for an occasional glass of wine at dinner.  He does this in order to stay clearheaded as he writes. “I don’t touch the stuff.”
  • He takes his work to bed with him and goes over what he’s written at day’s end to let the characters develop in his mind and subconscious as he sleeps.
  • The characters in the Gabriel Allon novels—Gabriel, Ari Shamron, Julian Isherwood, Chiara, Pope Paul VII, Monsignor Luigi Donati, etc.—are as real to him as a family member.  This is common with many writers.
  • He generally does not read novels when writing.  When not writing, he prefers the work of the great dead, Graham Greene being one of his favorites.
  • He knew from a child that he wanted to be a novelist.

Writers, what are some of your writing tips and habits?  Tell us.

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