Interview with Alan Furst, Author of The Spies of Warsaw

Alan Furst is widely recognized as the master of the historical spy novel. Now translated into seventeen languages, he is the bestselling author of Night Soldiers, Dark Star, The Polish Officer, The World at Night, Red Gold, Kingdom of Shadows, Blood of Victory, Dark Voyage, and The Foreign Correspondent. Born in New York, he now lives in Paris and on Long Island. You can visit his website at

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Alan. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Alan: I’m a lifer; I started at age 11—published in the literary journal of my Manhattan elementary school. From then, I haven’t stopped. Failed now and then, but never stopped. I simply wouldn’t know what else to do with myself.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

Alan: The Spies of Warsaw is my military attaché novel. In a ten-book series placed in the inter-war years and early WWII, I’ve used as main characters film producers, journalists, General Staff military officers, owner of an ad agency in Paris, etc. This book is about how Germany made clear what it was going to do, the military attaché in the French Embassy in Warsaw sees it, but he is not believed. We all know what happened next.

What kind of research was involved in writing The Spies of Warsaw?

Alan: My research was focused on books written by military intellectuals before the war (DeGaulle, Guderian), on histories about the run-up to the German attacks, on the history of Silesia, both German and Polish, and on novels of the period—especially to develop an ear for intimate discourse between men and women as it was back then. Actually, I do the latter for all my books.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Alan: A writing career is never smooth sailing—it took the boat at least two years to leave port but, once it did, it’s stayed afloat. Yes, there have been icebergs and pirates and monsoons, and I’ve had to do some serious baling-out as the water rose, but, for the present, sailing okay.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Alan: About two years and a few months, this was all scheduled from Day One, and I’m always published in early June, hard-cover one year, trade paperback the next.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

Alan: I have a very good agent, and I believe it’s absolutely necessary these days, if not always. But I would point out I did not have an agent when I started, so there’s more ways through the woods than one.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Alan: I’ve got three on the boards as I write this—I’m actually making notes for the next and even researching a little.

Can you describe your most favorite place to write?

Alan: I am blessed—I have a studio in a re-done (not much) 1937 garage behind my house.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

Alan: I’ve always wondered what might happen for me if I were advertised on television. That is most assuredly the first thing I would do, because of that media’s sheer reach.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Alan: I’ve been on tour—3 weeks and 9 cities—and I’ve been promoting on-line. Promotion is publishing is crucial, and I will do absolutely anything I can.

What’s the most common reason you believe new writers give up their dream of becoming published and did you almost give up?

Alan: I never gave up though I went through some extremely hard times. I think when writers feel they have a true vocation; they really don’t care what happens to them. When I moved to Paris, I wondered if I might starve to death in the street. But then I thought, that’s not so bad, some terrific people have done exactly that, so I’ll just be one more.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Alan: Don’t ever quit. If you really believe, really really believe that you have something to offer; sooner or later something will happen.

Thank you for your interview, Alan. I wish you much success!

No comments

Powered by Blogger.