"Most of my stories have some basis in fact." -- Ken Follett
Ken Follett (born 5 June 1949) is a British author of thriller and historical novels. He has sold more than 100 million copies of his works. Four of his books have reached the number 1 ranking on the New York Times best-seller list: The Key to Rebecca, Lie Down with Lions, Triple and World Without End.
"A very good editor is almost a collaborator.""An awful lot of thriller writers write women rather badly. So just doing it OK gets a lot of credit.""Be a perfectionist.""Culture clash is terrific drama.""For success, the author must make the reader care about the destiny of the principals, and sustain this anxiety, or suspense, for about 100,000 words.""I don't think there's any great mystery to writing female characters, so long as you talk to them. If you lived in a monastery and never met any women, maybe it would be difficult.""I enjoy learning technical details.""I like to create imaginary characters and events around a real historical situation. I want readers to feel: OK, this probably didn't happen, but it might have.""I use a professional researcher in New York who does all the legwork, all that stuff which would take me days and weeks of calling, waiting for people to call back.""In my books, women often solve the problem. Even if the woman is not the hero, she's a strong character. She does change the plot. She'll often rescue the male character from some situation.""It was the most romantic plane ever made.""James Bond is quite serious about his drinks and clothing and cigarettes and food and all that sort of thing. There is nothing wry or amused about James Bond.""Movies have influenced all writers, not just thriller writers.""My favorite period is World War II, and I'm in the middle of writing my fourth novel set in that era.""The CIA's research program is described in a book called The Search for the Manchurian Candidate.""The research is the easiest. The outline is the most fun. The first draft is the hardest, because every word of the outline has to be fleshed out. The rewrite is very satisfying.""The thriller is the most popular literary genre of the 20th century.""There was a very serious communist strain among American intellectuals before the war. America was a more tolerant place in those days, and Communists were not treated as pariahs. That ended with the McCarthy era.""Thrillers have been traditionally very masculine books; the women characters often rather decorative.""We all now tell stories by cutting from one dramatic scene to the next, whereas Victorian novelists felt free to write long passages of undramatic summary.""When I'm writing a woman character, I don't think, 'What would a woman do?' I just think, 'What would this character do in this situation?'""With hindsight, we see that the Soviet Union never had a chance of world domination, but we didn't know that then.""World War II is the greatest drama in human history, the biggest war ever and a true battle of good and evil. I imagine writers will continue to get stories from it, and readers will continue to love them, for many more years."
Follett was born on 5 June 1949 in Cardiff, Wales. He was the first child of Martin Follett, a tax inspector, and Lavinia (Veenie) Follett, who went on to have three further children. Barred from watching movies and television by his devout born-again Christian parents, he developed an early interest in reading but remained an indifferent student until he entered his teens. His family moved to London when he was ten years old and he began applying himself to his studies at Harrow Weald Grammar School and Poole Technical College, and won admission in 1967 to University College London, where he studied philosophy and became involved in centre-left politics.
Marriage and early success
He married his first wife, Mary, in 1968, and their son Emanuele was born in the same year. After graduation in the autumn of 1970 Follett took a three-month post-graduate course in journalism and went to work as a trainee reporter in Cardiff on the South Wales Echo. After three years in Cardiff he returned to London as a general-assignment reporter for the Evening News. Finding the work unchallenging he eventually left journalism for publishing and became, by the late 1970s, deputy managing director of the small London publisher Everest Books. He also began writing fiction during evenings and weekends as a hobby. Later he said he began writing books when he needed extra money to fix his car, and the publisher's advance a fellow journalist had been paid for a thriller was the sum required for the repairs. Success came gradually at first but the publication of Eye of the Needle in 1978 made him both wealthy and internationally famous. Each of Follett's subsequent novels has also become a best-seller, ranking high on the New York Times Best Seller list; a number have been adapted for the screen.
Follett became involved, during the late 1970s, in the activities of Britain's Labour Party. In the course of his political activities he met the former Barbara Broer, a Labour official, who became his second wife in 1984. She was elected as a Member of Parliament in 1997, representing Stevenage. She was re-elected in both 2001 and in 2005, but did not run in the 2010 general election after becoming embroiled in the United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal, where she was among the MPs found to have overclaimed the highest amount of expenses. Follett himself remains a prominent Labour supporter and fundraiser. He is currently the largest donor to Ed Balls' campaign to become leader of the Labour Party. He is quoted as saying "Ed Balls is the only Labour leadership candidate who offers a path to economic growth, his time at the treasury, with low borrowing and high growth shows he is the true candidate of the centre in this leadership election. Only Ed offers a broad appeal to all voters and is not afraid to stand up to the left wing of the party, much like Tony Blair."
On 15 September 2010, Follett, along with 54 other public figures, signed an open letter published in The Guardian, stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to the UK.