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Sunday Morning News

Best-Selling Author Nelson DeMille Discusses Latest Work, 'The Lion's Game'

Aired February 6, 2000 - 8:44 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Time now for one of our regular features on CNN SUNDAY MORNING. We're joined by the author of "The Lion's Game," a follow-up to the most recent number one New York Times best seller "Plum Island," Nelson DeMille, the writer behind that, and by the way, "The Lion's Game" also number one.

Congratulations on your success.

NELSON DEMILLE, AUTHOR, "THE LION'S GAME": Thank you, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Good to have you with us. Now, I'm curious, what's the secret to this success, do you suppose?

DEMILLE: Well, probably a lot of hard work. This is my 10th novel. It was not an overnight success. I've been writing for about 22 years and the audience has built over the years. And I think with "The General's Daughter" movie coming out last year with John Travolta, it probably helped the book sales, too.

O'BRIEN: Is that the first time you've had a movie adaptation?

DEMILLE: Yes. They've probably all been optioned by now and this is the first one that's actually been done and it was successful. The box office was good but the critics didn't like it.

O'BRIEN: You know, I'm curious for any writer who, of course, conjures up a mind's eye image of his or her characters, to see it on the silver screen, is it a disappointment?

DEMILLE: Not really. It was actually amazing because I sat down and I wrote this book, of course, a few hundred dollars worth of paper and then you see this, I went to the set and you see it's a $70 million production that's coming to life because I wrote this book. And, you know, there's 500 people standing on the set and Travolta's there and it's kind of amazing to me to see what, how Hollywood interprets a novel. In my mind's eye I had a different main character, different settings. But they did, I think they did a good job.

O'BRIEN: Now, your protagonist in this one, John Corey (ph).

DEMILLE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: You write it in the first person. Do you identify with these characters pretty much?

DEMILLE: Well, you try not to but then you wind up identifying with them a little bit. First person is a tricky way to write a book because the reader has to stay with you the whole time and they always tell you in writing class don't forget that suicide notes are written in the first person.

O'BRIEN: But it's tough. It does limit you because you can't have that omniscient eye and move things around.

DEMILLE: Yes. The POV is limited but it works, maybe, with detective novels and this is kind of a detective novel so you're seeing it through the eyes of a detective and the reader's finding out what the detective finds out at that same time.

O'BRIEN: Now, you seem fascinated not just by the nuts and bolts of a thriller, but by culture clashes and the way personalities interact.

DEMILLE: Yes. Most of my books have culture clashes or sometimes they have clashes of different social groups, I suppose you would say, and this is John Corey. He's NYPD and he's now working with the FBI and these are two different, totally different kinds of cultures, the FBI being a little bit more politically correct, the NYPD being a lot less politically correct.

O'BRIEN: Well, then throw in the CIA with their, I think...

DEMILLE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: ... you know, this Midwestern sensibility, which is doesn't mesh well, does it?

DEMILLE: Yes, exactly, and this is the anti-terrorist task force, which is representing both their, the CIA culture, the FBI culture and NYPD culture all coming together.

O'BRIEN: Do you think your readers care much about the characters or just a driving narrative?

DEMILLE: My readers I know care about the characters. You know, my books are character heavy and they're kind of, sometimes they're a little bit plot light, which I think is good. You know, I'm going for the ambiance, I'm going for the characters. The plot is normally secondary. But in this book this happens to be heavily plotted, too.

O'BRIEN: I've got to tell you that in most thrillers you open them up and in the first chapter something cataclysmic happens to get you into it. In this case it starts out very slowly.

DEMILLE: Yes. A lot of my books start off that way. They start off with more of a, something suspenseful rather than something cataclysmic.

O'BRIEN: All right, what are you working on now? DEMILLE: I'm working on a bi -- I went back to, I was in Vietnam in '68 and I went back to Vietnam two years ago to revisit the old battlefields and I'm working on a book set in Vietnam now.

O'BRIEN: Nelson DeMille, continued success.

DEMILLE: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Thanks for joining us here on CNN SUNDAY MORNING.

DEMILLE: Thanks, Miles.

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