Jeff Glor talks to Adam LeBor about "The Geneva Option."
Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?
Adam LeBor: Yael Azoulay, the heroine of "The Geneva Option," takes her name from Yael in The Book of Judges. After the Israelites defeated Sisera, Yael offered to hide him in her tent. She gave him milk and a blanket and he fell asleep. When Barak, the Israelite general, came by looking for Sisera, Yael ushered him inside. There was Sisera, dead, with a tent-peg in his head. Another version says Yael seduced Sisera seven times to exhaust him before she killed him. Sex, murder, betrayal, it's all there. I learnt Yael's story at school and it stayed with me for decades.
Yael Azoulay works for the United Nations, doing the secret deals that keep the wheels of superpower diplomacy and big business rolling. That comes from my time as a reporter covering the Yugoslav wars and UN peacekeeping operations, which led me to write a non-fiction book about the UN's failures, called "Complicity with Evil." Then I began to think, what if there was an essentially good person working at the UN, who was forced to operate in the shadows, even to kill?
JG: What surprised you most about the writing process?
AL: How the characters really do come alive and start doing things of their own accord. This was a real revelation to me about the power of fiction. It was a kind of magic and an amazing high. Some nights I could not get to sleep, there was so much happening. I was totally absorbed in the story, as though it were taking place around me.
JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?
AL: I wanted to be a writer since I was eighteen and read "The Road to Wigan Pier" by George Orwell, about poverty in 1930s Britain. Otherwise, I would like to be an architect. Fine buildings, like fine books, contribute to the greater good and add something to the fabric of life. Perhaps there is also something about wanting to leave a legacy. And you cannot demolish a book.
JG: What else are you reading right now?
AL: I have gone back to the master: everything by Eric Ambler. "The Craft of Intelligence" by Allen Dulles for hints and tips. I also have a non-fiction book out, "Tower of Basel," the first investigative history of the mysterious Bank for International Settlements, so I am re-reading "Lords of Finance" by Liaquat Ahamed.
JG: What's next for you?
AL: The next book in the Yael Azoulay series. She is going deeper into danger and her past.
For more on "The Geneva Option" visit the Harper Collins website.