Is your name Lustbader or Van Lustbader?
My birth certificate reads Eric Van Lustbader. Lustbader is my family name, Van is a middle name. Lustbader is Austrian - my family originally came from Vienna, but my paternal grandmother was Dutch. Her family name was Van Blurkham, which is where my middle name comes from. The confusion arose when my publishers decided to drop the "Van." Consequently, there are books of mine where my name is Eric Lustbader and, to make matters even more complicated, Eric V. Lustbader. Rest assured they're all me. You should look for my novels under "L." As my duly sworn delegates correct any bookstores that still file it under "V."
How did you come to write the Jason Bourne novels?
Bob Ludlum and I shared agents, which is how we met. We hit it off right away. I was a fan of his "The Bourne Identity" and he was a fan of my "The Ninja." We would have a lot of fun discussing plot devices, character development and conspiracy theories - an obsession we shared. When the executor of Bob's estate came up with the idea of reviving the Jason Bourne series (Bob wrote three Bourne novels) he naturally thought of me. The idea appealed to me right away because I knew Jason Bourne inside and out and was told I could do pretty much whatever I wanted with the character as long as he stayed true to Bob's original vision. Within a matter of days, I'd come up with a plot idea that everyone loved, and we were off to the races.
Why do you write both Thrillers and Fantasy novels?
I actually started out writing a Fantasy series, "The Sunset Warrior," that was hugely popular not only in the States but, like all my novels, all over the world. I grew up reading Science Fiction and Fantasy, along with spy novels, so I guess writing both is my way of never growing up. Also, this perspective allows me to see the similarities in the genres. For me, at least, they're both about being a misfit, an outsider who lives beyond the pale of so-called normal society. I guess I'd have to say this is what drew me to the two genres in the first place, because I was never a joiner and always felt myself to be an outsider.
When are you going to write another novel starring Nicholas Linnear?
Not surprisingly, I'm asked this question all the time, as there are millions of Nicholas Linnear fans all over the world. The fact is, the time just doesn't seem right to return to Japanese themes. Understandably, people in America are preoccupied with other matters. However, that may be slowly changing. Lately, I've been seeing a number of Japanese chain restaurants and bakeries springing up in New York - all extremely popular, and it seems I can't go by a liquor store without seeing lines of sake bottles for sale. So who knows? When the time is right, Nick will be back, count on it.
When is "The Ninja" going to be made into a movie?
"The Ninja" was sold to 20th Century-Fox in 1980 to be made into a film produced my Richard Zanuck and David Brown. After a long process too tortuous to go into here, which included two high-profile directors and three screenwriters, the project was shelved when a new head of production was hired at 20th and put into turnaround all the projects the former head of production had green-lighted. The good news is that the project has been revived, has a director attached to it and is awaiting a screenwriter. Updates as I get them will be posted @ the Breaking News section of this Website.
How many languages have your novels been translated into?
Happily, from the moment my first novel was published, I've been a bestseller all around the world. In fact, there are separate sections in many bookstores for my novels in such disparate countries as Ireland, Thailand, and all of Southeast Asia. In all, my novels have been translated into twenty-four languages, including Russian, Chinese, Serbo-Croation, Thai and Hebrew.
How do you write? Do you use an outline?
I never used an outline until I started "The Bourne Legacy" project for which I was required to write an outline. To be honest, I thought I'd hate the idea, assuming that if I'd thought of all the ideas at the outset I'd have to incentive to actually write the book, because for me part of the joy of writing are the surprises you come upon as the book takes shape. But something curious and exciting happened. As I wrote the outline, some sections would be very detailed, others quite sketchy, so that whole portions of the book would be covered by one line, such as "Bourne is chased by Khan through Budapest," which when I wrote the novel turned out to be 40-50 pages! Now I'll never write a novel without first doing an outline. Looking back on it, I used to get bogged down in extraneous characters and situations, especially during the first 100 pages (which I find the most difficult to write) that I would later have to scrap, wasting time and energy, and frustrating me. Now that never happens.
When you are writing can you read books, or is that a distraction?
No, I seem to need to read when I'm working. I get ideas as I read and often have to put down whatever I'm reading to run down to the office to work on this line or that. By the way, if you've a mind to, you can take a peek at what I'm reading now and what I've recently read and recommend @ the Eric's Favorites section of the Website.
How do I break into the business?
Do you want the short answer or the long one? Short first: Write something heartfelt and compelling. The long answer is: No one really knows. Part of it is talent, no question, but like anything else in life and even bigger part is being at the right place at the right time. There's a German word, zeitgeist, which loosely translated means how people en masse are thinking - what people are interested in, in order words the tenor of the times. Keeping your eye on the pulse of the nation is a first step, but it's also the most difficult. No matter how good a writer you might be, if you're not writing about a subject people are interested in, you won't succeed. I'm not a fan of writing classes. People who take these courses often mistake writing for mathematics or biology, which can be learned from a good teacher. Listen to me, folks, writing can't be learned. If you have the talent, certainly you can learn to be a better writer. If you don't have the talent, no one can teach it to you.
That said, go ahead and try writing. Then, give what you've written to your friends to read. If you have the talent, you'll soon know it. Ask them what they liked and what they didn't like. If you're writing short stories, I suggest going to a large newsstand or your local library and check out the mags that publish fiction. Try to see where the kind of story you've written would have the best chance of being published and submit it. Disclaimer: Don't hold your breath. But be positive. If you've written a novel, find yourself an agent. Do not submit a manuscript directly to a publisher. If it's not thrown out, it will be put into what's called a slush pile. It might be a year or more before some assistant looks at it.
If this all sounds discouraging, good. You're being realistic. Now go ahead and start writing!