With the Truman book, I wrote the entire account of his experiences in World War I before going over to Europe to follow his tracks in the war. When I got there, there was a certain satisfaction in finding I had it right – it does look like that.
I love Dickens. I love the way he sets a scene.
To me history ought to be a source of pleasure. It isn’t just part of our civic responsibility. To me it’s an enlargement of the experience of being alive, just the way literature or art or music is.
To go back and read Swift and Defoe and Samuel Johnson and Smollett and Pope – all those people we had to read in college English courses – to read them now is to have one of the infinite pleasures in life.
History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.
Every book is a new journey. I never felt I was an expert on a subject as I embarked on a project.
My shorthand answer is that I try to write the kind of book that I would like to read. If I can make it clear and interesting and compelling to me, then I hope maybe it will be for the reader.
I’m drawn particularly to stories that evolve out of the character of the protagonist.
Real success is finding you lifework in the work that you love.
My next book is also set in the eighteenth century. It’s about the Revolution, with the focus on the year 1776. It’s about Washington and the army and the war. It’s the nadir, the low point of the United States of America.