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9 Quick Questions for David Baldacci

Lawyer-turned-novelist pens latest thriller, ‘The Edge’

spinner image david baldacci in blue suit against green background
Photo Illustration: MOA; (Source: Allen Jones)

Best-selling author David Baldacci, 63, has penned another thriller in his popular “6:20 Man” (a.k.a. Travis Devine) series. In The Edge, Devine is hired to solve a CIA operative’s murder and recover classified information before it falls into the wrong hands and compromises national security. Baldacci shares how he finds his writing inspiration, who he’s reading these days and how he loves to spend his time off. 

You’ve written more than 60 books. Do you still enjoy the process, and has it gotten any easier?

I enjoy it just as much as I’ve always enjoyed it, which is a good sign. I don’t think it gets easier. I think it gets harder. And it probably should, because the more books you write, you realize how good a book can be if you just try a little harder — if you work a little bit harder on the plot, develop the characters better, work on the prose better. You know the potential that’s there with each book, and so you work a little bit harder. When I was first starting out, my first book [Absolute Power] was turned into a movie, and [Academy award–winning screenwriter] William Goldman wrote the screenplay, and he gave me some really great advice. He said, “The moment you think you know you’ve figured out what it is to be a writer, you’ve lost the edge.” It actually allows you to be a good writer — it’s that sense of wonderment that you have no idea what the hell you’re doing. You just jump in the boat and see what happens. … I’ve always found that fear is a great antidote to complacency.

spinner image book cover that says david baldacci, #1 new york times bestselling author, the edge, a 6:20 man thriller
In Baldacci’s latest thriller, the “6:20 Man” is tasked with solving the murder of a CIA agent.
Grand Central Publishing

Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?

I’ve always been very curious about the world. I like to see what makes people tick, what makes the world tick. So I get up out of bed every day and I walk out the door and I just see what’s out there. I observe, I listen, and I think about things. And I write about things that fascinate me, that make me curious. I write books to answer questions that I have in real life about certain things. I try to answer them in a fictional sense. So that’s really where the stories come from — it’s just that curiosity that’s driven me my entire life.

What was the first book you ever read and loved?

It was The Magic Squirrel. It’s a Russian parable. I read it when I was like 6. And that was the first moment where I actually ached — painfully ached — when I was away from a book. All I wanted to do was get back to it, keep reading. I think that was the book that really inspired my lifelong love of reading and my just wonderment of books. And it led to me becoming a writer sometime later. I actually went back and bought that book — first edition — online many years ago, and I have it at my home. I pick it up every now and then because I’m a very nostalgic person. It just brings back memories, good memories.

Do you have any favorite authors?

In high school and college, probably my favorite author was John Irving; Anne Tyler being a close second. I just loved how they told their stories — multigenerational stories taking on serious subjects with wit and humor and cleverness. I still enjoy their works; they’re both incredible writers. Obviously, they had an influence on me. I don’t write anything like they do, but I try to bring to it the same sense of professionalism.

What books are on your reading pile?

I’m going back. I’m doing some Pat Conroy. I’m reading The Lords of Discipline again. I’ve got my James Baldwin — The Price of the Ticket — which is a terrific grouping of essays Baldwin wrote. I’m sort of in my James Baldwin phase. I love biographies. I’m a big Jon Meacham fan. When David McCullough was around, I loved his stuff. Every day I want to learn something I didn’t know. 

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Have you made any lifestyle changes in your 60s?

A couple years ago, I cut out alcohol entirely. I don’t drink anymore. I would just drink red wine, [but] it got to the point where I felt it was impairing my health. So I decided no more of that. I just stopped. And not that I was ever overweight, but I lost [around] 16 pounds in probably a month. I work out every day. I stretch a lot more than I used to when I was younger. I’m limber, and I feel good physically. … I’ve also come to terms with the fact I’m not in my 20s or 30s anymore. … It’s just being smart about who you are at this point. There are certain things that I’m just not going to be able to do as well as I used to.

What’s your daily workout routine?

It’s all different. I run some days. I bike some days. I do weights some days. I stretch every day — 35 minutes a day. And I don’t sit anymore for eight hours in a chair writing, because that’s impossible. It just destroys you, so I get up. I have a timer on my phone, [and every] 30 minutes, I get up and walk around, I stretch, and I go back and sit back down. Everybody tells you, you keep moving [and] good things happen.

What movies or TV shows are you enjoying recently?

I watched Barbie, which I loved. I watched Oppenheimer, which blew me away. I want to see the new Scorsese film [Killers of the Flower Moon] very much. TV-wise, I like Only Murders in the Building. I like Stranger Things. I like historical pieces, British mysteries. I’m a big Britbox [streaming platform] guy. I’ve watched every Poirot and Marple [episode]. I can quote dialogue from the episodes — it’s that ridiculous, I’ve watched so many times. I like to see how people put things together, whether the story’s going to be on a page or on a screen.

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What does a perfect day off look like to you?

I love water. We have a lake house in Southern Virginia we’ve owned for over 20 years. That’s where I learned to sail and ski and do all sorts of water sports, and I taught my kids to do those as well. I love being out on the water, whether it’s kayaking or paddleboarding or slalom. I don’t slalom as much as I used to because you heal a lot slower. You just have to be smart about these things, so I am.

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