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.
When are you going to write another novel starring Nicholas Linnear?
As a fun experiment, over the past two years I’ve written two short stories resurrecting Nicholas. “The Death and Life of Nicholas Linnear” and “The Oligarch’s Daughter” are both available from Open Road in ebook form only. They are available in the US and Canada only at the moment, but we’re working on expanding the availability. My idea is to write five or six stories and then publish them in both ebook and print form as an interlocking series of adventures that form a novel in a completely new form. To my knowledge this has never been done before. Each story can be read on its own, but when read in order of publication the overall plot and character arcs come into full focus, and the full history of who Nicholas Linnear is and where his progenitors came from will be revealed. Fun times!!!
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.
What authors have influenced you the most?
I grew up reading fantasy and science-fiction first, then thriller and spy novels. I was very much influenced first by Ian Fleming and Len Deighton, then Adam Hall and Charles McCarry. Nowadays I read John Le Carre, Emily St. John Mandel, Martin Amis, Adam Johnson, Roberto Bolano, Salman Rushdie, and Jennifer Egan, to name a few writers. But the author who has influenced me the most is Colin Wilson. I read his seminal book, The Outsider, when I was in college. Before that time, I did not understand who I was and why I never fit in. Wilson explained all that and more to me. I literally would not be the person — or writer — I am today had I not read, and absorbed every word of, his astonishing book.
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!