Monday, April 28, 2014

5 Ways to Keep Readers Turning the Pages: Bernard Besson Guest Post

Today I welcome back award-winning thriller writer Bernard Besson.

Bernard Besson has had a long career in French intelligence and law enforcement. He is a former chief of staff of the French FBI, was involved in dismantling Soviet spy rings in France and Western Europe at the fall of the Soviet Union, and is one of the France’s top specialists in economic intelligence. He has also written nine novels that have been published in French. His latest was translated into English. It’s a spy novel set on a backdrop of global warming—The Greenland Breach —and it hits bookstores on April 30, 2014. Here he talks about how his life experience interacts with his writing, and what he does to keep his readers interested. 


When I’m writing, it’s impossible for me to forget my “day job,” which consists of auditing companies and teaching them about business intelligence. It’s also hard for me to forget that I used to work in the French intelligence services. My writing stems from and is inseparable from my life experience. The process, however, is sometimes painful, because you can be a police and/or intelligence officer without necessarily having the ability to write a thriller or spy novel. For that matter, you can be a very fine mystery or thriller writer without having ever been a police officer or having worked as a spook. The two activities are very difference and it takes a lot of effort to reconcile them. I personally work very hard at not boring my readers. Here are some things I do.

1) Write through your characters.

I don’t want my novel writing to read like a lecture. To do this, I write through my characters, who then come to life with reactions that sometimes surprise me.

2) Do your research.

Before I plot a story, I do research. So, for The Greenland Breach, I spent time with climate specialists to understand the complex reasons behind global warming and explored how, in the past, periods of glaciation alternated with periods of intense warming, before there was humanity and industry.

3) Discover your inner reader.

Only after I have taken in all this research do I start writing, and that’s when I put myself in the reader’s shoes. What questions would a reader ask about Greenland and global warming? What would a reader’s fears and anxieties be? That is when I discover the reader in me, and that helps me to write.

4) Look for original points of view.

Then, still focusing on not being boring, I try to pull in original points of view, without pretending to recount any truths, as I am not a scientist. For that matter, scientists don’t all agree, which is something my readers also know.

5) Use what you know.

My past and present work experience does contribute a lot to making my characters interaction with the world of intelligence and law enforcement authentic. That, however, in itself is not enough to make readers want to keep turning the pages.

2 comments: said...

Very interesting and how envious I am of his experience and obvious access to things most of us cannot dream of having. Thanks so much for this and for sharing. Good luck with your novels.

Jenny Carless said...

Great tips. Thanks!