Thomas Kirkwood

Thomas Kirkwood

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
June 2, 2004

Q. Who is Thomas Kirkwood?

A. Thomas Kirkwood is a Denver-based writer who spends much of his time in Western Europe. A former professor, he has published both fiction and non-fiction. His best known novels are THE SVALBARD PASSAGE (Macmillan) and THE QUIET ASSASSIN (DIF). The latter was selected by Book-of-the-Month Club, appeared as a Signet paperback and a Brilliance Corporation Book on Tape. It was also the subject of a CNN documentary and has recently been reissued in a new soft cover edition. Kirkwood’s latest novel, VIRGIN CANDLES, set against the backdrop of the global sex trade, is scheduled for publication in the summer of 2005.

Q. What inspired you to write THE QUIET ASSASSIN?

A. Studying in Berlin as a university student, I met a girl in the East. After we became close, I learned that her brother was in the resistance. He was caught and tortured by the secret police (Stasi) and died rather than talk. Years later I asked myself what would have happened if the girl had, unbeknownst to me, become father of my son and had also assumed the role of her deceased brother in the resistance. What would have happened if she had summoned me to help her years later after I had established another life in Boulder? Reflecting on these possibilities produced the fantasies that inspired the novel.

Q. How did you come about the title?

A. Who knows? Sometimes you have a title before you start a novel, sometimes you finish a book and are still without one. In this case I was about halfway through the first draft when THE QUIET ASSASSIN appeared in my imagination, as vivid as words on a printed page. It felt right, it sounded right, I had my title. How did this happen? Your guess is as good as mine.

Q. How did you come about R. Clayton Bentley’s character?

A. Clayton as a young man was me. He evolved into a composite character with all of my weaknesses and many of the strengths I possessed only in my imagination.

Q. How did you come about Käte Frassek’s character?

A. Käte (whose real name I changed) was the girl I met in Berlin. Like Clayton, she is herself in the early chapters but evolves into a product of my imagination as what begins as a true story becomes a work of fiction.

Q. What genre is THE QUIET ASSASSIN written in?

A. The novel is a thriller, though it has a strong romantic element.

Q. How long have you been writing?

A. Too long.

Q. How many books have you written?

A. In addition to the two novels mentioned above and my non-fiction work, I have written another two novels. EMPTY SKIES was to appear around the time of 9/11. The film rights had already been sold to Twentieth Century Fox. Since the novel dealt with terrorism in the airline industry, it’s publication was suspended indefinitely after the twin towers went down. I expect it to come out within the next couple of years, especially if there is a change of administration in Washington. Look for my fourth novel, VIRGIN CANDLES, next summer.

Q. What type of atmosphere do you require to write?

A. Silence is necessary, comfort is essential. Writing is painful enough as it is. Variations in anything from temperature to chair angle can distract you from the necessary discipline. I like a small room. Beautiful studies with views of the sea, like archetypal writers’ dives with an ancient black Olivetti typewriter and books strewn all over the place, tend to produce the appearance that someone is writing. The vision you need is inside your head. If too much that reeks of "writer" is visible on the outside, that vision is usually lacking.

Q. Are you currently working on another novel?

A. Yes. I am finishing the final draft of VIRGIN CANDLES.

Q. What message would you like readers to receive from reading THE QUIET ASSASSIN?

A. Most things are possible; most things worth achieving require struggle, discipline, courage and love. Don’t give up.