As a former investigative reporter, do you feel that instinct to find the story has helped transition to write suspense/thriller fiction?
You bet. I think to be an investigative reporter you always need to think a couple of steps ahead. Always asking yourself the “What if?” question. If you can anticipate several directions an investigation might go, you also have a good idea of what questions to ask, which might lead to the truth. As a journalist you must always be on guard to never steer a story in the direction you want it to go. The facts will dictate that. Still, I think being a good investigator is part intuition and part suspicious nature. I just use the same skills from my days in journalism and now apply them to writing thrillers. Of course when writing fiction, unlike in journalism, I do get to steer the story wherever I want it to go.
There are a lot of ideas that can be inspired by today's politics, what is the hardest part about writing based on true events?
You have to take the storyline where you want it to go. Yes, you can use recent historical events, but in the end, you’re writing fiction. The interesting part of it though, is you may also be writing the future, so you wonder if what you write might someday come true. An example is my first thriller, Naked Ambition. It was published in the middle of the presidential primaries in the spring of 2016, before the parties chose their nominees. It was about a Republican candidate for president who was opposed by his own party.
Past or present, is there any author you would love to collaborate with?
Lawrence Block, Michael Connelly, Steve Berry and Lee Child. Met and love them all. They’re all generous to a fault with other writers.
What author has inspired/influenced you as an author?
Scott Turow. I think Presumed Innocent is a brilliant novel. It is my favorite, by far. I’ve read it three times and watched the movie a half dozen times (the book is much better). It was the reason I started thinking about writing fiction.
Tell us about your latest, The Apprentice?
It’s meant to be an old fashioned serial. Of course that will be up to my publisher. It revolves around Tish Woodward, a neophyte reporter who lands in the middle of the biggest story of the year. She keeps blowing everyone away with her constant headlines and discoveries, but underneath it all, she worries she doesn’t have the experience to belong in the top echelon of her profession, dealing with the most powerful people on earth. Her nemesis is the new president-elect, a billionaire businessman who himself is a political novice. Thus the name, The Apprentice.
Are you working on anything that we should be looking out for?
I’m doing final edits on Naked Truth, a sequel to my first novel, Naked Ambition. It will come out sometime this spring. Beck Rikki returns as a seasoned investigative reporter hunting down a murderer. But of course, there’s a twist. There’s always a twist in my novels.
What advice do you have for anyone who would like to become an author?
Very simple. Butt in the chair. I know too many gifted writers who lack the discipline to do it. You will never get published if you never finish your book. So set aside a time every day and just do it.
Once you’ve finished writing, you must be persistence and resilient. Learn how to deal with rejection. (Notice I didn’t say accept it.) Less than two years ago, no agent would touch me. I never gave up and now my third novel will soon be published.
Writing is difficult. Get over yourself as an artist. Understand writing is a craft and getting published is a business. Treat it as such. And then go have a blast making up stuff!
RICK PULLEN is a novelist, award-winning investigative reporter and magazine editor. His 2016 thriller, Naked Ambition, about a reporter investigating a corrupt presidential candidate, became a bestseller. The Apprentice is his latest release. In 2018, newspaper reporter Beck Rikki returns as she sets out to discover the Naked Truth, the sequel to Naked Ambition. Pullen is a member of the Folio 100—the 100 most influential people in magazine publishing—and was a finalist for Editor of the Year. Learn more about his books at rickpullen.com.