tv About Books Author Brad Meltzer CSPAN March 7, 2022 7:32am-8:02am EST
sometimes soon. but hope your daughter and your family are doing well. hope she's loving those bananas as much as my kids are she done? and thank you all. >> booktv continues now, television for serious readers. ♪ ♪ >> on "about books," we delve intoto the latest news about the publishing industry with interesting insider interviews with publishing industry experts. we'll also give you updates on current nonfiction authors and books, the latest book reviews, and we'll talk about the current nonfiction books featured on c-span's booktv. ♪ >> host: and welcome to the "about books" program and podcast. in this episode we'll be talking with best selling author brad meltzer, but first let's start with recent publishing news. follower attorney general williamn barr's memoir will be
released next week. several news sources have cited passages from the book already. according to "the new york times," mr. barr asserts that the republican party should support another candidate in 2024 saying, quote: donald trump has shown he has neither the temperament, nor persuasive power to provide the kind of positiveiv leadership that is needed in regard to the last contested election, the former attorney general writes, quote: the election was not stolen, trump lost it. also in the news the los angeles times has announced the finalists for their 42nd annual book prizes, and this year's lifetime achievement award will be presented to author luis rodriguez. according to the los angeles times' book editor, mr. rodriguez wrote his way out of poverty and pain through poetry, memoir, essays, fiction and journalism.
over the decades he has used his craft to advocate for lost to gang life, to promote peace in ournd communities and to bring people together in this chaotic world. the lifetime achievement award for mr. rodriguez will be presented on april 22nd. well, it was in 2014 that booktvk travels to los angeles -- traveled to los angeles to interview him. here's a portion of that interviewment. >> why did i become a writer? it's like i love to read. and one of my saving graces is i loved books. when nobody else in the neighborhood loved books, when really nobody in my family loved books. i was the only one that loved books. i used to carry books in the neighborhood many. when i was homeless, i would go to the downtown library and spend hours reading books. somehow i hadre this dream. it was like an image that would stay with me barely for a second and then vanish. i remember one time i was in the downtown library, and i with
us -- i was looking at the spines of the book, but i had an image of a book with my name, luis rodriguez, and then it went away. it was my destiny, and i didn't know it. i didn't know that that was going to be my can destiny. thew with luis rodriguez is available to watch online at booktv.org in more award news the new york historical society's annual book prize has been given to alan taylor his book american republics a continental history of the united states 1783 to 1850. mr. taylor is a history professor at the university of virginia and a two-time recipient of the pulitzer prize for history. now according to npd book scan print book sales rose for a second consecutive week up over 4% for the week ending, february 19th. however, book sales are still down about 4% for this year
compared to last year. and joining us now on about books his best-selling author brad meltzer his newest book just out is called the lightning rod mr. meltzer. i don't know if you've recognized this or not, but the more books you sell the bigger your name gets on the book jacket. my friends have no hesitation about pointing that out to me. they took my first book where my name was like tiny tiny and they're like, oh missed a big shot thinks his name is important. i i literally asked my publisher. can you make my name smaller and they're like, you're the only author to ever ask why and i said because my friends won't stop giving me grief. so the lightning rod who were zig and nola who are the characters in this book? yeah, so i do a lot of work with the uso and i've traveled to kuwait and oman and qatar and all these incredible places because they bring thriller writers. they used to bring them every year to entertain the troops and i love doing it and it was there. i heard about dover air force base.
and we all know dover even if you don't know the name, it's where when our troops have. been killed in afghanistan or iraq you see those american flag drape coffins come back off the plains and everyone's saluting. and the people who take care of those bodies when they come back the morticians there, they see everything so when the flights from the space shuttle explosion the astronaut's bodies came to dover when 9/11 the pentagon victims those bodies came to dover in fact are cia spies all across the globe are 007s when they died their bodies go to the over to it means dover is a place that's filled with secrets and i was like i want to know about it there and the morticians who work on the bodies will spend 12 hours rewiring someone's jaw smoothing it over with clay because they want to someone wants to see their son one last time or we building someone's hand because a mother says she wants a hold her son's ham one last time. so zig is one of these morticians. he's one of the best of the best of us working on the best of the best of us.
and that's the main character one of the main characters of the lightning rod. the other is nola brown. who and this is also based in reality? even though it's the book is fiction. since world war two this is true. the us army has had a painter on staff to paint disasters as they happen. so whether it's storming the beaches of normandy whether it's 9/11, they're always there and i said you're telling me everyone else is racing with guns blazing. and you've got someone racing in with paint brushes in their pockets. i want to meet that guy. he sounds crazy. i got to meet him and they said her you want to meet her. and right there nola brown was born so nolan zig are the main characters. they each are based in these real amazing worlds that i love and this book asks the question. what's your best secret that no one knows about you and nola is the lightning rod trouble follows her so she's the one we're gonna focus on for this one and this is the second book in this series the zig and nola series, correct? yeah. you don't have to read the first one they go and you can really order add someone yesterday said i never read the first one.
i love this one and i'll tell you it they always are based on kind of something that's bothering me in the in the current time in this case. it's one of my great fears and it's handing your keys over to a parking valet. in the opening chapter, that's exactly what the character does hands his keys over to the valet the valet. instead of parking the car takes the car instead of going to the parking lot hits the gps button says the words go home. and now he's driving to the man's house with his car keys and with his house keys. this is a robbery. but as the valet breaks into the man's house, there's someone waiting there with a gun. this isn't a robbery it's a trap. and when the body goes to dover air force base when bodies turn up he sees it leads to one of the government's most closely guarded secrets. that's what was being stolen and i just ruined chapter one of the lightning rod, but that's where it begins. well brad meltzer you've written several political thrillers. the stories are fictitious, but what's the research the true research that goes into something like this. yeah, you know i've done the
secret tunnels below the white house. i've done the catacombs below the capital. i've done the hidden city below disney world in orlando, and i always will find something. that just makes me go. i need to know about that and for the lightning rod it was no different. i found out that the government has a dozen secret warehouses hidden all across the country. it's called the strategic national stockpile that is there to hold all the antidotes for bio terrorism attacks, whether it's zika whether it's smallpox, whether it's hantavirus, whatever it might be they're ready. so in your city wherever you are whether you're in new york whether you're in the pacific northwest or in texas, there's a warehouse nearby and within four hours if there's a bio terrorist attack within four hours, they'll have the antidote they even have cobra venom whatever that does and i said you're telling me the government has all these secret warehouses and we can't know what's inside. i want to go inside. so what you see when you get to the end of the lightning rod in those final chapters, i didn't make up.
it's all fiction. it's a thriller, but what you see in that warehouse is exactly what is there? what's the level of cooperation you get from government sources? you know, i've been pretty lucky i had a i have president clinton and president bush write me letter saying they like my books. it's helpful when the president will vouch for you. the secret service has helped me for over 20 years now and why because i i will keep their secrets. that's what the title is the secret service. they'll tell me hey, listen, we're gonna tell you something you can't write about it. you need to understand it so you can write about this and for 20 years now. i'm a man of my word. i was working recently for this book. i went to someone in the government who's in a big acronym agency used to be there. and i said, how do you communicate how peter would you and i communicate if we didn't want the government to watch us? and they explained it to me this way. they said brad get a hotmail account. i want you to write an email to peter but don't hit send just hit save draft keep it in the save drafts file now. give your login to peter peter's
gonna log into your account. he's going to hit that saved draft draft read what you wrote him. and he's going to write a new draft to you and hit save draft because we all know if you hit send all the encryption can be broken. whatsapp can be broken. everything can be read once you had sent now you and i communicating we've never sent this thing a single thing in cyberspace. it's a until general petraeus. ahead of the cia use that exact trick that's in my book to cheat on his wife and i called my friend. i was like wait, i need something better. so what he gave me you'll see in the lightning rod. i won't ruin that one, but you'll see is again based in reality and the government, you know, i think has been really kind to me over the years because i never sacrificed security any building i go into even when you go into these warehouses i changed the security, but i think they always appreciate that what they tell me i can write i will write and what i don't you won't say well, mr. meltzer you've gone from thrillers to nonfiction to a children's series. what is your children series? yeah, so we're young adults
books, too. i was tired of my kids the garbage that's being fed to them every day on the internet. when they flip on instagram when they're scrolling through they're just being fed garbage, and i said i want to give them better heroes to look up to heroes of kindness and compassion of perseverance. so we started with i'm abraham lincoln and i am amelia earhart. we did i am rosa parks. i am albert einstein my son loves sports. i said you want to see what a real athlete looks like not a millionaire athlete but a real hero looks like meet i am jackie robinson. and an amazing thing happened peter is as the 2016 election approached. two of our books hillary and donald trump are arguing every day on tv and two of our books started selling more than any others and they were i am martin luther king jr. and i am george washington and it wasn't a democrat or republican thing. it was a parents and grandparents on both sides were tired of turning on the tv and seeing politicians what they wanted to show their kids were leaders and we all know there's a huge difference between a politician and a leader and in fact when i even run the two
newest ones i have right here. i am muhammad ali and i am malala and the illustrations are by chris elliopolis. we always draw them as kids because we want to remind kids. these aren't the stories of famous people. this is what we're all capable of on our very best days. what's the technique for writing a children's book as opposed to a thriller? kill less people. that's one rule. that's one, but the truth is i don't treat it very differently to me a good story is a good story if i'm doing a fictional thriller, or i'm doing a nonfiction adult book or i'm doing i am muhammad ali for the kids a good story has to be a good story and and you know, i think it's like the supreme court definition of pornography, which is you know it when you see it when you find that detail of muhammad ali as a you know, right after he wins his gold medal in the olympics goes back to his hometown, but the gold medal where they'll never serve him in the local restaurant and he now has the gold medal that he wears into the diner and
says, i'm ready to be served. i just want to a cheeseburger and i want a milkshake and they look at them with the gold medal on them and they say we're still not serving you. and he realized takes that gold medal off and says, you know, this is worthless unless we can all be together and be united. that's an amazing story for adults. that's an amazing story for kids. so to me, you may use language. it's a little different to make it a little easier to digest. but you gotta just find the great story. so in your children series, i am mohammad ali and your newest thriller the lightning rod. what's the time lapse between idea conception and publishing date now listen to thriller is 400 pages starting with a blank page and i have to come up with all of it? all right, that is just so daunting. it takes me two plus years. in fact, this one is is almost four years. it's about two and a half years with covid slowing me down a little bit, but two years from beginning to end.
whereas i am muhammad ali or one of the kids books, we'll take me a month because it's only 40 pages and it's for kids obviously each of them is rewarding in their own way one is arming kids with these lessons of perseverance and and of these values that have been lost muhammad ali is all about teaching kids you need to fight for what you believe. but there's nothing like building a thriller. it's like the house you build with your own hands. you just have a blank page right chapter one, and there's nothing there. and it's so much harder. i mean i've been 25 years. and i can still the boat while i'm selling the boat. i hope i'm better at it, but it is still hard every single day. but to me, it's what i love because it's like putting together a puzzle over two years with murder and twists and turns and you turn in the pages and you don't know what's gonna happen and the lightning rod's gonna leave you going. oh my gosh. i didn't see that coming. that's a really fun day for me now when it comes to your thriller, so you have a couple of self-imposed rules, correct?
i'm well, you sound like you know exactly which rule i have a couple of them which one you thinking about. well, i'm thinking about the language and any r-rated type scene. yes, that is a that is when there are a lot of rules these days, you know, it's funny. i one someone wrote to me my very first book 25 years ago. i dropped some curse word in there. just whatever and dialogue somewhere for some bad guy mentioned in this woman wrote to me and said i'll never forget stranger. wrote to me through the website and said dear brad, you know, i'm some like 80 years old grandmother and i want to give your books to my grandchild, but i can if you have swear words, so can you write the next one without any swear words? and i thought about that woman. i still think about it 25 years later and i try to keep true to that rule. i mean, i can't promise all the time because sometimes it calls for it, but i really tried it i think of those people who are out there who are experiencing the world and want to share these stories. i love getting letters from people who are like i'm in my
bed getting chemo and thanks to your book ahead some piece i think about those people when i write and i even think about every single day one of my rules for sitting down to write is i think about the 24 rejection letters. i got on my first book, i literally replay the moment in my head when i got that call from my age and saying sorry kiddo. it's not gonna work. and i repicture the moment. i picture the phone. i was holding. it was one of those clear see-through ones where you could see the wires inside because it was high tech back then i picture the desk on my left the bed on my right though fire station. that's across the street from the balcony. i'm looking at say those words peter to myself. sorry kiddo, because i never ever want to not be thankful for what? i have. i never want to think i made it. i never want to be anything. but as hungry as i was when i was 24 years old starting for 25 years now. sorry kiddo. sorry, kiddo. sorry kid was the first thing i do every day. i sit down the right. brad meltzer we have talked with thriller writer brad thor as
well and in his continuous character scott. he says yeah, there's a little bit of him in there. is there a little bit of brad meltzer in any of your characters? for zig and nola. absolutely and brad's a dear friend of mine. so, you know, i know we hide in each other's you know in our characters, you know, zig believes as someone who works at dover air force base. that with some kindness in generosity. you can make the world a better place. it's almost a naive belief, but it's an idea worth fighting for that is absolutely my core belief that you can do that. nola the other hero of the book believes if you want the world to work the way you want then you grab it by the throat and you force it to because you can't stand around and be walked all over and that's also an absolutely true idea and i think what you see in the two of them is they're it's my core beliefs fighting for supremacy there. i don't know what the right answer is and it takes in a strange way both of them to make the world work. so absolutely every single day that i sit down to write these
characters. it's a part of me talking to another part of me and just trying to figure out it's my own personal therapy for it. if you taught writing, or maybe you do what are two rules that you would try to give to your students or two ideas. oh, yeah. so one of them i firmly believe is don't let anyone tell you. no, i got 24 rejection letters on my first book 24 people told me to give it up. they're only 20 publishers at the time. i got 24 rejection letters. which means people were writing me twice, but don't let anyone stop you, you know right in a book is like building a sand castle a grain of at a time. and the first day if you write one page you put down that crane of sand. you have nothing. second day second grain of sand you have nothing. but after a year if you write a page a day, you will have your little sand castle. it's just you got to keep going so don't let anyone stop. you. don't let anyone tell you know, that's rule number one. and rule number two is everyone always worries about the plot. i always say i gotta get a good plot. the single best plot is a great
character. when i was working on the lightning rod in the escape artist that you know coming up with zig and nola. i knew what the opening scene was, but i was like do not start this book until you have nola don't start until you have it it took me extra six months. but the fact that you know, we just had lee child the creator of reach you're saying that noah was one of the best created new characters and modern fiction. i i mean i was blown away, but it took me six months to work that character and if you work that character correctly you will have a great plot think of harry potter or think of dumbledore think of scout and atticus if you love the character, you'll follow them anywhere. so to me the other rule is you want a great plot start with a great character. well, let's go back to your children series ordinary people change the world mr. meltzer you had a brush with banning didn't you? we did this was unbelievable. so a little bit ago we found out that our books. i am rosa parks and i am martin luther king jr.
have been debt banned in york county, pennsylvania. and had nothing to do with the content of our books that were about 200 books that a diversity committee. i put together for books to talk to kids about race. and the school board there said hey, we want to read these books first before we can okay them for kids which to me is a good idea. you don't just want to give kids books without knowing what's in them. and what happened was and this was the trick the school board did is a year went by and they still didn't clear the books so effectively it became a freeze on the books teachers didn't know whether they can use them librarians didn't use them. became this ban. and i found out about it. i immediately went on my twitter and facebook and instagram accounts told everyone. listen. here's the full list of books. said i want to buy every book on the list. not just our books. not just rosa parks and dr. king, but every book on this list books by malala. books by sesame street how to talk to your kids about race. i mean these were very obvious easy books. and what happened was is i went on fox news. i went on cnn. i went on msnbc when those three
agree, you know, you went too far. they blew it right they picked on dr. king and they picked on rosa parks and i went to the school board meeting where they had a big hearing on it and i read from i am rosa parks and i read one of my favorite lines in there. it says, you know, i'm not a big politician or a famous business person. i'm just an ordinary person. and i'm also proof. there's no such thing as an ordinary person. it says i am rosa parks and i hope you will stand up for others and i said this is what you're denying kids. i thought i'd save the day. i thought i made the impassion speech and after i speak peter. all of the students from the school board from the school district started speaking. the impassion mothers was a member of the military said i'm so embarrassed of what you're doing to our school district. i used to go here and by the time they were done the ban was lifted thankfully, but as your scene right now, it's just getting started. and over and over you'll see this. i look back because now it's we're a little bit behind it. i said, why does this happen so
much now and if you look back through history one of the first books that historians agree that in america that we ban the people band on a national level was harriet beecher stowe's uncle tom's cabin. and why did they ban it because they didn't like that to talk about abolitionism. they didn't lock like that it brought you made kids talk about made people talk about slavery. they didn't like that it threatened in the south their way of life. is what you're seeing right now when you see a book ban, whether it's from you know harriet beecherstone civil war times or whether it's you know alice in wonderland or huck finn whenever you see someone banning books, it's someone who's through their power is threatened and they're terrified that their lifestyle is going to be taken away. and that's all you're seeing now. it's cowardice and if you're cheer him while people are pulling books from the library, you're on the wrong side of history. well mr. melters at a case of political correctness, is it a
case of a more sophisticated society that this is happening? what's the what's the answer here? yeah, you know, i think listen i think part of it is just the segmentation that we're seeing in society today, you know, half the country whatever side you're on. is only getting one side of actually what's happening. so if you know, they're saying those words, they're gonna win doctrinate your children if don't act now. and that word indoctrination has been used throughout history to scare people. it's a fear tactic. they used the one they went after the --. they used it when they went after the black community. they what used it when the unit went after the gay community everything. they're gonna indoctrinate you but if you and people you want to adoptionate adoptionate your children, of course not if you say to people hey, listen, we would like to have a discussion about race the experience the black and white experience in a way that's sensitive to that age group so that hopefully we can get along better as a culture. would you like that? 90% of people say, of course, i want that. but the problem is is are you know the media and and what
we're seeing on social media is you're wiping out the other half of people who agree with you who disagree with you. you're only here in your own echo chamber, and i think it's also a course correction anytime. there are new ideas. is a group in part of society that is terrified of them. and you know why that group will never win because nothing can stop an idea. it's most powerful thing in the world an idea. and so i think what you're seeing now is obviously since black lives matter since george floyd since all these things have come up you see a pushback where people are going. oh, that's too much for me and we forget that even when dr. king gave that i have a dream speech everyone's like, oh dr. king's our hero, isn't he the best? i'm so glad he gave the i have a dream speech. i'm so glad they had that more time, washington the majority of americans at the time were against that speech. they were against that march ever taking place. go look at the people that were in favor of it. it was a small group of americans. but again nothing stops an idea.
brad melcher.com is the website if you would like to see his entire collection of work. mr. meltzer, thank you for being our guest on about books. thank you. miss lynn. i always appreciate it always gonna be back. and you're watching and listening to about books. this is book tvs. look at publishing news and some of the latest nonfiction books. and here are some of the latest nonfiction books just being published. former attorney general william barr reflects on his time in the trump administration his memoir one -- thing after another. there's a new book out called sandy hook, new york times feature writer elizabeth williamson reports on the year's following the 2012 sandy hook school shooting. she looks at the parents of the victims who had to defend themselves against conspiracy theories. and university of california irvine professor richard hasson offers his thoughts on how to combat disinformation while preserving the first amendment
his new book cheap. speech. and also being published this week monica guzman's book. i never thought of it that way she provides her thoughts on how to bridge the partisan divide and promote productive political conversations. and jeffrey frank looks at the full tenure of america's 33rd president in the trials of harry s truman. finally. here's a look at some of the best-selling nonfiction books. according to powell's bookstore in portland, oregon. topping the list is tracy kidder's 2003 mountains beyond mountains. it's a profile of the late physician and anthropologist dr. paul farmer who treated the world's poor. dr. farmer died last month at the age of 62 after that is braiding sweetgrass robin wall kimmer's thoughts on how we should work with rather than shape the land we live on. then it's the late author and activist bell hooks reflections
on love and compassion all about love. this book was first published in 1999. and that's followed by the sirens of mars georgetown university professor. sarah stewart johnson looks at the search for life on mars. and wrapping up our look at powell's books. best-selling. nonfiction books is art spiegelman's pulitzer prize-winning graphic novel on the holocaust mouse. this book was recently banned from the eighth grade curriculum of a tennessee school district. and that's a look at this week's publishing news and the latest nonfiction books. reminder that about books is available as a podcast wherever you get your podcast or on c-span's app c-span now. ♪ ♪
>> and you've been watching booktv. every sunday on c-span2 watch nonfiction authors discuss their books, television for serious readers. and watch them all online anytime at booktv.org. you could also find us on twitter, facebook and youtube booktv. .. you will about the 1964 civil rights act, the make and 64 presidential campaign, the gulf of tonkin incident, the march on selma and the war in vietnam. not everyone knew they were being recorded. >> certainly johnson's secretaries knew because they were tasked with transcribing
many of those conversations. in fact, they were the ones who make sure that the conversations were taped as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and there's. >> you will also hear someone talk. >> jim burt yes, sir. >> i want a report of the number of people assigned to kennedy on the the day he died and the number assigned to me now. and it might are not less i want them less right quick. >> yes, sir. >> and if i can ever go to the bathroom i won't go. i promise you i won't go anywhere. i'll just a right behind these black gate. >> presidential recordings, find it on the c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts. >> next, the house oversight and reform subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties holds a hearing on the importance of raising awareness for missing women and girls who are lacking indigenous and people of col.