Today we have the pleasure of taking with acclaimed author Howard Kaplan! Howard is best known as the author of The Jerusalem Spy Series. He is a native of Los Angeles and has lived in Israel and traveled extensively through Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. He holds a BA in Middle East History from UC Berkeley and an MA in Philosophy of Education from UCLA. The first book of Howard’s Jerusalem Spy series, The Damascus Cover, has been adapted into a feature film. You can check out all of his works on AMAZON and learn more about him through his WEBSITE!
1. Many of your books are set in the Middle East. What makes that setting particularly interesting to you?
I did my junior year abroad at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on a lark. A professor from Columbia, a Middle East expert, said to me, “What makes more sense, four years at Berkeley or 3 years at Berkeley and 1 in Jerusalem. His math was compelling and he facilitated my acceptance. In the spring a friend suggested that rather than study for finals we go to the Arab countries and see what was really going on there. We flew to Cyprus, got new passports at the American Embassy and from there flew to Beirut. We spent about 3 weeks in Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. I loved Arab hospitality, am continually invited into homes and for meals, this springs from the desert culture where wanderers were welcomed and have lived easily in both world since.
2. One of your novels, The Damascus Cover, has been adapted into a Hollywood movie. How did that come about and how involved have you been in the movie’s production? (It’s a great read by the way!)
I have often said that success is a combination of luck, skill and hard work, the film was pure luck. The producer Daniel Berk, was looking to do a Middle East picture and mentioned to a friend of his, who also was a friend of mine. She had a copy of The Damascus Cover on her shelf, gave it to him. He and I met at Peets Coffee in Beverly Hills and did a deal on the spot. I went to Morocco for 10 days of the two month shoot as a guest, I had no role there, though I did become very involved in the actual editing of the film. After they worked on it, they wanted a fresh voice and fresh eyes and I was happy to help. The film is fabulous and is out now for rental in all places where films are rentable and a new audiobook of the novel has just been released.
3. What drew you into the thriller/spy genre?
I read a lot as a child, especially The Hardy Boys and Tom Swift, then moved to Fitzgerald and Hemingway. I became drawn to exciting stories but with depth. Before to very long my favorite authors became John le Carre and the American, Charles McCarry who writes CIA novels. He’s less known but he’s fabulous, particularly his early Paul Christopher novels. So what I wanted to do was tell an exciting story, fast moving but also with depth of character, tackling current political conundrums and moral ambiguity. The thriller/suspense genre seemed perfect and I enjoy writing such novels.
Congratulations on all of your success, Howard! I know many authors can connect on your reasons for wanting to write the kinds of stories that you do. It’s amazing to see how your background has affected the settings you choose to write in, and it teaches an important point about how authors can pull from their own backgrounds to make their works more authentic. Best of luck to you!