Prolific Woods keynote


Stuart Woods has written 55 books. Most of them, 38 to be exact, have appeared on The New York Times Hardcover Best-seller List.

So he spends a good amount of time sitting in a chair, typing. But don’t think he leads a sedentary life; he is also a sailor, a pilot and an intrepid traveler.

Woods will be the keynote speaker at the first of The Post and Courier’s Book and Author Distinctive Events, 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Hibernian Hall, 105 Meeting St. General admission tickets are $30; VIP tickets, which include a 6 p.m. reception, are $50.

The presentation will include remarks by Woods, a short on-stage interview and a Q&A session.

Woods used to write three novels a year, he said. Now, under the terms of his new contract, he is writing four.

Every day, from 11 a.m.-noon, he writes a chapter. Then he eats lunch. He sticks to this routine whether he is living in Key West, Fla., or Mount Desert Island, Maine.

Born in Manchester, Ga., Woods served in the Air National Guard, then pursued a career in advertising, writing copy under deadline.

“I’ve often said to students interested in writing that they should get a job that requires them to write 1,000 words a day, whether they like it or not,” he said. Advertising taught him important lessons. “I learned to write whether I was in the mood or not, and to be demanding and write well. I didn’t like a blue pencil taken to my work. I learned to write quickly, and learned to be a minimalist. I had to learn to express myself in such a way as to quickly convey the idea.”

All of that came in very handy later.

He lived for years in England and Ireland where he led the life of an active bachelor and developed a keen interest in sailing.

In the late 1960s, he visited friends in Maine who raced a sail boat, and joined them on the water. “When I got to Ireland, I discovered a sailing club in Galway. I borrowed a couple of dinghies.” Then he rented boats. Then he experienced the thrill of sailing on more substantial crafts.

“The bug really bit when I discovered you could travel in a small yacht.”

Eventually, he would spent time on the Isle of Wight, “the sailing capital of Europe.” When, years later, he returned to the U.S., he always ensured he would be in close proximity to the sea. Today, he splits his time between Key West and coastal Maine.

His first book, “Blue Water, Green Skipper,” published in 1977, recounts his sailing adventures.

His second, “A Romantic’s Guide to the Country Inns of Britain and Ireland,” shares insights collected by an Anglophile over the years.

But it was his first novel, the police thriller “Chiefs,” that would set him on his current course.

That book, which draws on Woods’ experiences growing up in a small Southern town, exposes “the drama that lies beneath the surface of an American community, seemingly placid, but seething with pressures.”

Of the 53 novels he’s so far written, “Chiefs” remains his favorite, he said.

“It was my first born. It’s all caught up in my hometown and family history. I thought about it from the age of 10 until it was finished.”

Woods has refined his writing routine and can easily manage his productivity. He writes a chapter at a sitting, and he sits at his desk nearly every day.

“In the beginning, it took four hours to write that chapter,” he said. “As time went on, and I gained skill and confidence, I could do the same work in less time.”

He is in control, like a practiced skipper at the helm.

“In fact, I’m ahead of schedule. Once you have the skill, once you’ve honed it, then writing fast is not as hard as it sounds.”

He said he loves the creative process more than ever.

The Stone Barrington series, his readers’ favorite, continues to grow. The latest, “Doing Hard Time,” is scheduled for release Tuesday.

Other titles are in the hopper, and Woods continues to kick out his daily chapters, sometimes in Key West, sometimes in Maine, sometimes at his pied-a-terre in New York City. (He travels between these places in his own Cessna Citation Mustang jet.) He has no plans to slow down.

“I’ll do it for as long as I can think and move my fingers,” he said. “If I don’t write, I feel guilty.”

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