Interview with Timothy O'Brien

Just before Thanksgiving, I reviewed Timothy O'Brien's historical thriller, The Lincoln Conspiracy, a novel which satisfies mood, ambiance, and plot junkies. I'm thrilled to share my interview with the author; read on to learn more about him and his writing, and be sure to enter the giveaway!

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

The Lincoln Conspiracy is about a detective and his wife who inadvertently stumble upon a pair of diaries (at a murder scene in the old B&O Railroad Station in Washington, D.C.) that offer a set of clues about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. When they set out to unravel those clues, they become of the targets of a handful of powerful and ruthless players who want the diaries for themselves. The novel is set in post-Civil War Washington and it offers a rich, embroidered sense of the city at the time and of the various schemers and survivors who made Washington a real cauldron of change and of danger.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I usually work late at night, between 11 p.m. and 2 or 3 a.m., because that’s the most private time I can find in my workday. I sometimes also like to work early in the morning on weekends. By and large, I try to get somewhere quiet where I can detach from other things and immerse my imagination in the work.

Was The Lincoln Conspiracy the original title of your book?

The original title was The Lincoln Diaries but my co-conspirators at Random House were concerned that that title was too generic and didn’t convey enough of the mystery and menace that’s woven throughout the story. So we changed the title.

As you were writing The Lincoln Conspiracy, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

I feel very close to a number of the characters in the book. Temple McFadden, obviously, who is the main character and the detective who sets much of the action in motion. He’s a troubled, wildly capable man and I spent a lot of time with him. His wife, Fiona, is a trained doctor (and women were trained as doctors in the 1860’s!) but, because of the norms of the time, she can only work as a nurse. She is a crucial anchor for Temple and also brings her own smarts and insights to bear on the truth behind the Lincoln assassination.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

I like to transport my mind and my imagination to a different place. I really like to envision being there. My imagination is like my own, personalized time machine and I enjoy being transported. Ultimately, if I can’t take the reader along on the same journey, then I’ve failed as a writer. I also like to have some fruit around to nibble on when I’m writing. And chocolate. How could anything get done without chocolate?

Read any good books recently?

There are so many great books out there! I enjoyed Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and I’m currently reading Live by Night by Dennis Lehane. Dennis is a huge talent. I loved Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel and Mission to Paris by Alan Furst.

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer one copy of The Lincoln Conspiracy to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US readers only, ends 12/7.

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