How did you become a writer?
I was coming out of the University of Michigan and I had a job offer from the man who used to run Games magazine. He told me, “If you love the job, you’ll stay. If you hate it, you’ll leave a year later with some money in your pocket.” Since I had some debt to pay off, that seemed like a fair deal. So I moved all my stuff to Boston. But when I got there, the publisher left the magazine. (Surprise!) The whole reason I went there was to work for him. I thought I’d wrecked my life. I had no idea what to do. So I did what all of us would do in that situation. I said, “I’m gonna write a novel.” And I just started writing. Every day, I just fell more and more in love with the process.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
Agatha Christie, Judy Blume, thousands of comic books, and Ms. Sheila Spicer, who did this: In ninth grade my English teacher, Sheila Spicer, told me I was in the wrong class.
“You can write,” she said.
From there, she tried to move me to the honors class, but because of a conflict in my schedule, the honors class wasn’t an option. So she took me aside and told me: “For this entire year, I want you to ignore everything I do at the blackboard. Ignore all the homework assignments I give. Ignore all the discussions. Instead, you’re going to sit here and do the honors work.”
And I did.
What she was really saying was: You’ll thank me later.
A decade later, when my first novel, The Tenth Justice, was published, I went back to Ms. Spicer’s class and knocked on the door.
“Can I help you?” she asked, not recognizing me. (Of course she didn’t recognize me; the last time she saw me, I had a full head of hair.)
“My name is Brad Meltzer,” I told her, handing her a copy of my first novel. “And I wrote this book for you.”
Within seconds, she was crying. When I asked her why, she told me she was thinking about retiring because she didn't feel she was having an impact anymore.
“Are you kidding?” I asked. “You have thirty students. We have only one teacher.”
As I look back on it, Ms. Spicer was the first person who ever told me I could write. Meeting her--having her be my English teacher--was of the most important moments of my life. She made me love Shakespeare by forcing me to read Romeo & Juliet out loud (she made me read Romeo, and made the girl I had a crush on read Juliet). She taught me how to compose a proper essay. And it was thanks to her belief in me that I eventually found the internal strength to become a writer.
But what I’m most proud of is that I got to be there at her eventual retirement party. I owe her forever. And when I saw her, I realized there’s always more she’ll teach me. I’ll forever be her student.
Oh, and that ninth grade crush who read the part of Juliet? I married her.
When and where do you write?
At home in a small office. I start around 9:30 or 10am and go until I have nothing left. It’s like squeezing a sponge dry. Sometimes that’s 4pm, sometimes it’s later. But I always try to end for dinner with my kids.
What are you working on now?
The kids books and the next thriller. We’ve done I Am Albert Einstein…I Am Amelia Earhart…and July 14, we’re doing I Am Lucille Ball. Then in September, it’s I Am Helen Keller, which has real braille in the book. The goal isn’t to just a few books. We want to help you build a library of real heroes for your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Only if that means: “Have you had days where it’s coming out sucky?”
What’s your advice to new writers?
Stories aren’t what did happen. They’re what could happen.
Writing a book is like building a sandcastle a grain of sand at a time.
After the ending, writing seems easy. Remember that at the beginning.
The most authentic story you’ll ever tell is your own story.
The X-factor on every page is whether the writer loves what they’re doing.
The more it hurts, the more you need to use it in a book.
The best revenge is the artful truth.
You’re not a writer until you think it sucks.
Grab them by the throat or they’re going elsewhere.
It’s okay to admit it’s hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Write, write, write, write, bang head against wall, write some more.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Everyone else will be.
As a friend told me: Everyone gets three exclamation points in their life. That’s it.
When you get a bad review, watch this:
1) Write your book.
2) Rewrite it.
3) See rule 2.
4) Don’t let anyone tell you No. Submit it. You’ll get rejections. I got 24 rejections on my first book, and there were only 20 publishers at the time. But keep going.
5) See rule 4. And see it again. And again. All it takes is one person to say Yes. Don’t let anyone tell you No.
Brad Meltzer is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Inner Circle, The Book of Fate, and seven other bestselling thrillers including The Tenth Justice, Dead Even, The First Counsel, The Millionaires, The Zero Game, The Book of Lies, and The Fifth Assassin. His newest novel The President’s Shadow is just out from Grand Central Publishing. In addition to his fiction, Brad is one of the only authors to ever have books on the bestseller list for Non- Fiction (History Decoded), Advice (Heroes for My Son and Heroes for My Daughter), Children’s Books (I Am Amelia Earhart, I Am Abraham Lincoln, I Am Albert Einstein and I Am Rosa Parks) and even comic books (Justice League of America), for which he won the prestigious Eisner Award. He is also the host of “Brad Meltzer’s Lost History” on H2 and “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded” on the History Channel. The Hollywood Reporter recently put him on their list of Hollywood’s 25 Most Powerful Authors. His other non-fiction books, Heroes for My Son and Heroes for My Daughter, are collections of heroes – from Jim Henson to Sally Ride — that he’s been working on since the day his kids were born. His newest nonfiction is History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time. He’s also one of the co-creators of the TV show, Jack & Bobby.