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Interview: March 28, 2014

You may have seen David Baldacci's name on your parents' bookshelves before --- he's written 27 novels for adults, and there are more than 110 million copies of his books in print worldwide! We're happy to report, though, that his latest endeavor --- THE FINISHER --- belongs squarely in the YA section of your local library. This fantasy follows Vega Jane, a girl who lives in Wormwood. No one ever leaves Wormwood --- the surrounding forest, the Quag, is filled with terrifying beasts and bloodthirsty Outliers. But when her friend Quentin flees to the Quag, Vega Jane knows that something isn't as it seems --- and she follows Quentin's trail of clues to uncover the deep, dark secrets about her society. In this interview, David tells us about his writing process, the mythological creatures that inspired some of the monsters in the book and why he chose to write from a female perspective.  


Teenreads.com: What was your inspiration for THE FINISHER? 

David Baldacci: I loved reading fantasy as a kid. I wanted to create a very different world with my own spin on what a fantasy adventure could be. 

TRC: You've written a lot of adult books. What, if anything, was different about writing a YA novel? 

DB: There was more research than I would have thought. You’d think that with a fantasy, you just make it up. But I wanted to ground my story in mythology, history and some religion, and that required extra work.

TRC: THE FINISHER is a fantasy novel --- why did you choose to write in this genre when you’re so well-known for your action/thriller books for adults?   

DB: A writer needs to constantly challenge himself or else you get stale. I've wanted to write a fantasy for a long time, where you get to create everything, even the language used.

TRC: THE FINISHER took you five years to write while you normally can write a book in a year or less. What was it about this story that made it take longer than the others?  

DB: I couldn't find the voice, the plot or the setting. Other than that, I was good to go. After many fits and starts over a four-year period, everything came together for me and off I went and wrote a ton in a relatively short period of time.

TRC: The monsters in THE FINISHER are terrifying...and also intriguing. Can you tell us how you came up with some of them? 

DB: Most are based on mythology, including the garm, the trek and the amaroc. The jabbit was based on a serpent called a Dabbat in Persian mythology. Some are just totally made up by me. That was the fun part. 

TRC: Vega Jane is a strong, tough, protagonist. Did you intentionally feature an empowered female character, or did that just come naturally in the writing process? 

DB: I knew I wanted to write from a female perspective because in the time period in which the book is set, women would be second-class citizens. Vega would always be the underdog, and people would root for her. Plus, for whatever reason, I feel it quite natural to write from a female's perspective. Maybe it's because I'm surrounded by them at home! 

TRC: You built a futuristic dystopian society from scratch when writing THE FINISHER, which can’t be easy! Can you tell us about your brainstorming and creative process when building this world, and how you made it believable?  

DB: I wanted to write about a small place but in a big way. So I took a small village, not a huge metropolis with millions of people (or Wugs), so that I could concentrate on each part of it and describe it for the reader in small, intimate details, almost like brushstrokes on a painting. I wanted depth, not superficiality. I also love British village mysteries where everyone knows everyone and there's only one pub in town where folks congregate. I really wanted the reader to be plunked into Wormwood and feel like they were living with Vega.

I also had to balance magic and nonmagical elements carefully. I did so because in future books, questions raised in THE FINISHER will be answered, so I had to foreshadow or lay the foundation for those answers early on. I brought in the elements that made sense, but would also be important to the reader and the Wugs: a fascinating workplace full of mystery, Stacks; a place of worship, Steeples; Vega's Tree House, because what kid doesn't like their own private hideaway; Learning; the Care; the High Street shops… everything was thought through carefully before it became part of the world I was writing about.

TRC: Given that THE FINISHER explores some intense topics --- including the extreme division between the ruling class and the working class --- are there any particular ideas you want your readers to think about as they read THE FINISHER, or things that you hope they’ll take away from the book when they reach the end? 

DB: Just because you're told or taught that something is true, don't necessarily accept that it is true. Think for yourself. Don't let others manipulate you. It's easy to say you'll stand up to the crowd and speak out, but it's very hard to do that for real. But great movements in history often started with one person doing that very thing. Many bad things in life are perpetuated because no one has the courage to say they're wrong. It's the Emperor's New Clothes parable. 

TRC: What can fans expect from the next installment in the series? 

DB: Vega Jane, Delph and Harry Two will make their way across the Quag. And while there are many dangers in the Quag, they may not be what readers expect them to be. And just like Wormwood, the Quag is not what it seems to be at all.

TRC: What were your favorite books when you were a teenager? 

DB: THE HOBBIT, ALFRED  HITCHCOCK AND THE THREE INVESTIGATORS, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, Agatha Christie mysteries, Sherlock Holmes novels, and biographies of famous people that chronicled their lives when they were young, before they were famous.

TRC: What kind of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

DB: Write about what interests you. Don't chase trends; create your own. Write with passion. Otherwise, you're just typing. You may have seen David Baldacci's name on your parents' bookshelves before --- he's written 27 novels for adults, and there are more than 110 million copies of his books in print worldwide! We're happy to report, though, that his latest endeavor --- THE FINISHER --- belongs squarely in the YA section of your local library. This fantasy follows Vega Jane, a girl who lives in Wormwood. No one ever leaves Wormwood --- the surrounding forest, the Quag, is filled with terrifying beasts and bloodthirsty Outliers. But when her friend Quentin flees to the Quag, Vega Jane knows that something isn't as it seems --- and she follows Quentin's trail of clues to uncover the deep, dark secrets about her society. In this interview, David tells us about his writing process, the mythological creatures that inspired some of the monsters in the book and why he chose to write from a female perspective.  

Teenreads.com: What was your inspiration for THE FINISHER? 

David Baldacci: I loved reading fantasy as a kid. I wanted to create a very different world with my own spin on what a fantasy adventure could be. 

TRC: You've written a lot of adult books. What, if anything, was different about writing a YA novel? 

DB: There was more research than I would have thought. You’d think that with a fantasy, you just make it up. But I wanted to ground my story in mythology, history and some religion, and that required extra work.

TRC: THE FINISHER is a fantasy novel --- why did you choose to write in this genre when you’re so well-known for your action/thriller books for adults?   

DB: A writer needs to constantly challenge himself or else you get stale. I've wanted to write a fantasy for a long time, where you get to create everything, even the language used.

TRC: THE FINISHER took you five years to write while you normally can write a book in a year or less. What was it about this story that made it take longer than the others?  

DB: I couldn't find the voice, the plot or the setting. Other than that, I was good to go. After many fits and starts over a four-year period, everything came together for me and off I went and wrote a ton in a relatively short period of time.

TRC: The monsters in THE FINISHER are terrifying...and also intriguing. Can you tell us how you came up with some of them? 

DB: Most are based on mythology, including the garm, the trek and the amaroc. The jabbit was based on a serpent called a Dabbat in Persian mythology. Some are just totally made up by me. That was the fun part. 

TRC: Vega Jane is a strong, tough, protagonist. Did you intentionally feature an empowered female character, or did that just come naturally in the writing process? 

DB: I knew I wanted to write from a female perspective because in the time period in which the book is set, women would be second-class citizens. Vega would always be the underdog, and people would root for her. Plus, for whatever reason, I feel it quite natural to write from a female's perspective. Maybe it's because I'm surrounded by them at home! 

TRC: You built a futuristic dystopian society from scratch when writing THE FINISHER, which can’t be easy! Can you tell us about your brainstorming and creative process when building this world, and how you made it believable?  

DB: I wanted to write about a small place but in a big way. So I took a small village, not a huge metropolis with millions of people (or Wugs), so that I could concentrate on each part of it and describe it for the reader in small, intimate details, almost like brushstrokes on a painting. I wanted depth, not superficiality. I also love British village mysteries where everyone knows everyone and there's only one pub in town where folks congregate. I really wanted the reader to be plunked into Wormwood and feel like they were living with Vega.

I also had to balance magic and nonmagical elements carefully. I did so because in future books, questions raised in THE FINISHER will be answered, so I had to foreshadow or lay the foundation for those answers early on. I brought in the elements that made sense, but would also be important to the reader and the Wugs: a fascinating workplace full of mystery, Stacks; a place of worship, Steeples; Vega's Tree House, because what kid doesn't like their own private hideaway; Learning; the Care; the High Street shops… everything was thought through carefully before it became part of the world I was writing about.

TRC: Given that THE FINISHER explores some intense topics --- including the extreme division between the ruling class and the working class --- are there any particular ideas you want your readers to think about as they read THE FINISHER, or things that you hope they’ll take away from the book when they reach the end? 

DB: Just because you're told or taught that something is true, don't necessarily accept that it is true. Think for yourself. Don't let others manipulate you. It's easy to say you'll stand up to the crowd and speak out, but it's very hard to do that for real. But great movements in history often started with one person doing that very thing. Many bad things in life are perpetuated because no one has the courage to say they're wrong. It's the Emperor's New Clothes parable. 

TRC: What can fans expect from the next installment in the series? 

DB: Vega Jane, Delph and Harry Two will make their way across the Quag. And while there are many dangers in the Quag, they may not be what readers expect them to be. And just like Wormwood, the Quag is not what it seems to be at all.

TRC: What were your favorite books when you were a teenager? 

DB: THE HOBBIT, ALFRED  HITCHCOCK AND THE THREE INVESTIGATORS, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, Agatha Christie mysteries, Sherlock Holmes novels, and biographies of famous people that chronicled their lives when they were young, before they were famous.

TRC: What kind of advice would you give aspiring authors? 

DB: Write about what interests you. Don't chase trends; create your own. Write with passion. Otherwise, you're just typing.