7 Seconds in Heaven with...Matthew Quirk

Today's guest: Matthew Quirk His debut: The 500

Why we love him: He knows how to write for men and women!

The scoop: A year ago, fresh out of Harvard Law School, Mike Ford landed his dream job at the Davies Group, Washington's most powerful consulting firm. Now, he's staring down the barrel of a gun, pursued by two of the world's most dangerous men. To get out, he'll have to do all the things he thought he'd never do again: lie, cheat, steal-and this time, maybe even kill.

Mike grew up in a world of small-stakes con men, learning lessons at his father's knee. His hard-won success in college and law school was his ticket out. As the Davies Group's rising star, he rubs shoulders with "The 500," the elite men and women who really run Washington -- and the world. But peddling influence, he soon learns, is familiar work: even with a pedigree, a con is still a con.

Read an excerpt here.

Our thoughts: We loved The Firm and have been waiting for another author to take us on an equally suspenseful and page-turning ride. PS: We were SO THRILLED Matthew agreed to be our guest today to answer our 7 "burning" questions. We love the story behind his author photo & the fact that he loves strong women!

Fun fact: The 500 has already been optioned to be made into a movie and has been translated into 20 languages. Did we mention this is his DEBUT?

Giveaway: 5 copies! Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll randomly select the winners after 6PM PST on Sunday, July 29.

Where you can read more about Matthew: Facebook, Twitter and his website.


Liz and Lisa:This is your debut novel and has already been compared to The Firm, been translated into 20 languages and is in development to be made into a movie by 20th Century Fox. What's been the biggest surprise to you about the success of The 500?

Matthew Quirk: Everything about the book’s reception has been a wonderful surprise. You always daydream about this sort of thing in the long years when you’re working on your writing without recognition. But for it to actually happen is just mindblowing. I was hoping to be able to write books as a day job. That was the dream. The rest is beyond everything I hoped. I had lost my job as a reporter at The Atlantic and my then-fiancée, now-wife was incredibly supportive, adamant actually, that I go for it (I dedicated the book to her). I wrote The 500 at a folding table in the little one-bedroom apartment where she and and I were both working from home. I finally sold the book a month before our wedding, just when I was running out of time on the whole writing experiment. Talk about suspense!

If I had to pick the most surprising element, it would be how receptive the film and publishing people are to a first-time author and how quickly it all happens. People often think of those industries as being really tough to break in to, and they are, but they are always looking for good stories and if they find something they like, it doesn’t matter who you are, they’ll snap it up. One day I had this giant word document on my computer and the next week it was shooting around Hollywood and people were makings bids on it from restaurants in Malibu. It’s nuts.

L&L:  What's the story behind the title of the book? The cover?

MQ: The 500 refers to the 500 most powerful people in Washington, most of whom have a relationship with the Davies Group, an extremely powerful DC consulting/lobbying firm run by a power broker named Henry Davies. Mike Ford, a guy with a shady past who has spent years working to earn a respectable life, puts himself through Harvard Law and lands a job at the Davies Group. He learns the ways of power in Washington, and soon enough, learns the secret behind Henry Davies’ power.

It was fun to mine all the real Washington grit I’d learned working as a political reporter in DC and put it to work in the service of a fast-paced, twisting plot like the kind I love to read.

I think the publisher and designer, Ploy Siripant, did an amazing job on the cover. Many of the foreign publishers are using the same design. There’s not too much of a story to it, which I think is its strength. I like that it’s not the usual DC thriller cover, you know, a guy with a briefcase running for his life with the Washington monument or the Capitol Dome in the background. I think it fits the book well, because hopefully The 500 will satisfy hard-core political thriller fans while standing out of the crowd a little because of the narrator’s voice, the humor, the characters, and the love story.

L&L:  We're women. A lot (make that most) of our readers are women. Why should women read your novel?

MQ: I love strong women, and I tried to make sure that the women in this book didn’t fall into any outdated thriller clichés. Mike Ford’s love interest, Annie Clark, is a badass: smart and strong and independent and successful. And there’s a fun love story in this as she and Mike fall for each other and take turns saving each other’s butts. Mike can definitely hold it down as a tough guy, but he’s also thoughtful and able to laugh at himself. I did have “chick lit” tropes in mind for one scene where, believe or not, a pair of Jimmy Choo slingbacks play a key role in some serious action. A good book appeals to everyone. I was shooting for a novel that above all, was fun to read and hard to put down, one of those books where you say, “oh my God, it’s one am. I should go to bed…maybe one more chapter.” A few people have written me notes saying the book kept them up way too late. That always makes my day.

L&L: Your book was recently written up in Entertainment Weekly's Must List and received an "A." What entertainment is on your must-list?

MQ: Breaking Bad. I can’t wait for the final season. That show is such a great mix of smart action, character, and humor. I’m loving Veep, too. It can be a little cynical, but it nails a lot of the petty, mundane aspects of political life you don’t see on the West Wing. I’ll talk more about books below, but a great, great book that everyone should read is Scoop by Evelyn Waugh. It’s hilarious. I need to go back and re-read all of his novels.

L&L: When not living and breathing your current book tour, what do you that has nothing to do with books or writing?

MQ: Going out with friends, cooking with my wife, hiking and cycling and skiing and sailing. You never know what will end up going into the books, though. I wrecked my knee skiing last year, a pretty harrowing accident where I tumbled down some steep chutes and ended up alone in the trees with a torn ACL fifteen minutes before the mountain shut down. The last thing I was thinking about was writing, of course, but I’m sure it helped. Periodically scaring the living daylights out of yourself is a good thing to do if you write thrillers.

L&L: What's something we'd be surprised to know about you?

MQ: People who have only seen the author photo are usually surprised when they meet me in person. When I was setting up my headshots, I looked at a bunch of thriller authors and said, Ok, industry standard is the total badass look. But when I’m hanging out with people, I’m usually laughing and smiling. When I went to meet the Dutch publishers for a book event in Amsterdam, the women who first met me, who had only seen the photo, greeted me by saying, “Oh! I thought you would be taller…and more regal.” It was hilarious.

L&L: What are you reading right now?

Tailor of Panama, by John Le Carré I’ve been reading a lot of Le Carré recently. As a former intelligence officer, he really knows what he’s talking about and as a stylist he can hold his own with most any literary author. Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead is great, as is Dare Me by Megan Abbot. And then I have a big stack of books on my desk about prison security, lock-picking, safe-cracking, corporate espionage, and political corruption. It’s all research for the sequel to The 500, which I’m wrapping up now. I’ve always loved research and reporting and am glad I get to do it for the novels.

Thanks, Matthew!


Liz & Lisa