Glenn Meade

Glenn Meade was born in 1957 in Finglas, Dublin. Several of his novels have been international bestsellers, have been translated into more than twenty languages, and have enjoyed both critical and commercial success.

For Writers

Why Writers Write

"Whenever Hollywood buys your novel, don’t be seduced into going to work in LA. Instead just take the money and walk away as fast as you can—and just pray that they don’t turn your beloved book into a musical."

I primarily write thrillers.

Now there’s no mystery to thriller writing—all you have to do is sit at a desk and concentrate until beads of blood form on your forehead, as you keep the reader entertained, guessing, intrigued, and entertained for between 300 and 600 pages of constant anxiety and excitement.

And always bearing in mind Stephen King’s sterling advice about good writing—that the road to hell is paved with adverbs.

I’ve written twelve books, published in thirty languages, many of them international bestsellers. I’m one of those rare breed for whom it’s actually worthwhile to listen to the voices in your head.

But as I’m sure you may have heard, writing is a difficult profession. Writing is hard work—even a Tweet can be hard work. Writing is really a vocation, not a profession, as Pearl S Buck once rightly said. I often feel that writers, having had their damnation on earth, will escape all punishment in the hereafter.

For most writers, the act of writing is an agony—given the choice between three hours of writing and a three hour prostate exam, I’m pretty sure most writers would choose the doctor’s couch.

And if there’s anyone out there who’d like to try their hand at it, don’t ask me how to do it—like most writers I tend not to question the creative process for fear I might understand it, and destroy the magic.

Likewise, when people ask me what the book is about, I like to keep it simple and tell them, ‘Hopefully, about 20 dollars.’

It isn’t any easier in the scriptwriting business. I worked in Hollywood for a time on a couple of scripts when my work bought by the studios. Writing can be a fraught occupation, and in Hollywood it’s especially fraught.

I’ll make an orchestral analogy: most writers are soloists by nature, but in Hollywood, it's ensemble playing all the way. That wonderful book you wrote that hit the bestseller lists is suddenly changed into anything the studio wants it to be, and often is.

In Hollywood, you have directors who have an input into the script, producers, the producer’s girlfriend, her girlfriends, the cameraman’s therapist, not to mention the security guy at the studio entrance who has a few ideas you might be interested in using, and other writers they bring in when they think you’re making a mess of it...the list goes on.

In fact, the scriptwriter Donald Stewart with whom I worked—Stewart wrote the scripts to Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger, to name but a few—once gave me a sterling piece of advice regarding the movie business:
“Whenever Hollywood buys your novel, don’t be seduced into going to work in LA. Instead just take the money and walk away as fast as you can—and just pray that they don’t turn your beloved book into a musical.”

Disenchanted by Tinsletown’s glitz and glamour, many a screenwriter likes to complain and moan about how their careers are just as often ruined by Hollywood as they are celebrated. The Cairo Code

There’s a wonderful story told of a group of disenchanted Hollywood writers who decided to get together and form Writer’s Anonymous—just like Al Anon they’d meet and take it in turns to stand up and say, ‘My name is John, (or whoever) and I’m a writer and this is how writing for Hollywood has ruined my life...’

The difference being that afterwards, when they went home, if they had the urge to write a script, they’d call a fellow writer who’d come round and get them drunk until the urge had passed....

So why do writers write?

Because we have to—because we feel driven to put pen to paper. And often because, while we want to entertain, we also want to enlighten, or so we should. We need and want to shine a light on both the dark and sometimes the beautiful corners of the human heart. And in each book we try to improve our understanding, and our writing. In the words Tim Waits, “The world is a hellish place and nothing destroys the quality of our suffering more than bad writing.”

As a writer, I believe that all the basic human truths are known. And what writers try to do as best we can is to come at those truths from our own unique angle, to re-illuminate those truths in a hopefully different and enlightening way.

I believe that stories are a really magical part of our DNA. We’re each of us, a story. Stories define us, reflect our lives, and the good stories, the truly good ones, can touch us in the same profound way that beautiful music touches us, and even more so, putting into words what we can only sometimes hum, or intimate, or imply, or feel. Words give a voice to feelings; they assure us we’re not alone of forgotten; that our pain or joy isn’t singular, but shared.

That’s what all writers try to do, even some thriller writers, and especially the good ones, each in their own way—they try to reach out and touch us by affirming our connectedness, our humanity. To use that wonderful line by the American poetess, Maya Angelou: ‘To show us that we’re more alike than unalike.’