Hello, I am Ken Follett. I am a bestelling author whose work has been translated into languages around the world. My latest book, Edge of Eternity part 3 of the Century Trilogy, is going to be released in most countries on September 16, 2014. I am eagerly anticipating answering your questions. AMA.


Comments: 182 • Responses: 39  • Date: 

TheHellion38 karma


KenFollett39 karma

Long question!
I'm always fitting my imaginary characters into real events, and I have to be so careful not to make them do something that would have been impossible. So I really like timelines. For pleasure, I like to read the kind of history books that take a really broad look at a long period and try to figure out the underlying continental drift of history. I just read "1493" which is about the environmental consequences of the discovery by Europeans of the New World. I would love to have written "The Silence of the Lambs". It's one of the best suspense novels ever, and it has the scariest villain of all time in Hannibal "the cannibal" Lecter. I'm strong on story, weak on poetry. I'm working on another historical novel right now, but after that--who knows?

BRFRNH37 karma

Mr. Follett, I enjoy all of your historical works, especially Pillars and World Without End. Can you please share with us how work is progressing on Kingsbridge novel #3? Do you project its completion in time to be published in 2016? Also, approximately how many years into Kingsbridge's future will it be set? Thank you, sir.

KenFollett54 karma

I mentioned earlier that the new book will probably take Kingsbridge forward another 200 years, to the 16th century. I'm working on the outline, and I anticipate publication in 2017.

TheDamselfly16 karma

We all know that you're a master of historical fiction, and as a history major, I've always been curious about how you tackle the extensive research for your novels. What types of resources do you prefer to use, and how do you keep all that gathered information organized for later reference? Thanks for doing this AMA!

KenFollett16 karma

Almost everything I need to know is in books. But I also look at old paintings and maps. If I'm writing about a recent era there may be photos and video. And when I can I interview people who took part in the events I'm writing about.

beernerd13 karma

What kind of tools do you use to write your novel? Old school typewriter? Newfangled software?

KenFollett20 karma

I learned to type with all ten fingers almost fifty years ago, so I' familiar with the QWERTY keyboard, in fact I like it better than a pen. I always use the latest software.

Sanlear12 karma

Which of your novels required the most research?

KenFollett44 karma

"The Pillars of the Earth" was really difficult. I had to find out--or, failing that, to guess--exactly how the cathedrals were built, then incorporate those techniques into an exciting story. But we have sold 19 million copies so far, so I guess I figured it out.

unicorn10-1012 karma

Who is your favorite superhero?

KenFollett18 karma

I always liked Green Lantern.

DottGrumo11 karma

Hello Mr Follett. You always state that you want to write in a simple style and in a clear manner, not to confuse the reader. But have you ever felt the desire to try to write or publish a book in a more personal style? Kind of "this time I want to be obscure, I want to try a never-tried-before literary style"?

KenFollett19 karma

Hell, no. I respect writers who experiment with the language and with the novel form, but it's not my bag.

nikkiweikel11 karma

Good evening Sir! After your recent visit to the American South, what suprised you the most? What did you experience that you couldn't by just reading about it? Also, how many languages do you speak? Blessings from this Southerner and fellow Dickens fan, Nikki

KenFollett21 karma

What surprised me the most, on my visit to the Deep South to research the civil rights era for "Edge of Eternity", was how emotional I felt. I don't cry much, but when we were filming in front of the Wales Window at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, I broke down.

SOEDragon11 karma

Hi! I'm really really really looking forward to Edge of Eternity. I have read most of your books and the Century Trilogy is definitely one of my favorites so far. So, what is next for you after Edge of Eternity?

Also, at the cost of sounding like a star-struck fan, I LOVE your writing. I'm a PhD student so I don't do a whole lot of reading for pleasure anymore but I have read the entire Century Trilogy while in grad school. I can't wait!!!

KenFollett20 karma

In answer to this and several similar questions, I'm working on another story based in my fictional town of Kingsbridge. This one takes the town another couple of centuries forward. A lot of the drama is about spies and secret agents in the time of Queen Elizabeth I. But I can't say much more because I'm still working on the outline.

ozakalwe10 karma

Mr. Follett, first thank you for doing this AMA and for all of the hours of enjoyment you have provided. Pillars of the Earth is one of my favorite novels ever. Given the length of the work and the large number of characters how do you approach writing a work like this and keep track of the histories and background of each of the characters as you write?

KenFollett38 karma

I make a spreadsheet in Excel. Each time I introduce a new character, I put the name and age into the spreadsheet. Excel then calculates that person's age in each forthcoming chapter. I also paste whatever physical description I give of the person--mainly to make sure I don't use the same phrase next time I bring him or her on stage.

4a4a9 karma

what time of day do you do your writing?

KenFollett12 karma

I like to start early, 7am or sometimes before that. But I can't write after about 5pm. By that time of day I need to relax and have a glass of champagne.

loughrey7 karma

Hello Mr Follett, what part of historical researching for the Century Trilogy have you enjoyed the most ?

KenFollett13 karma

I don't know if "enjoyed" is the right word, but I was fascinated by the history of the Berlin Wall, and struck by the courage and determination of the hundreds of people who tried to escape across it. When people want to be free, you just can't keep them down.

jeremyhyltondavies7 karma

Ken, loved your books, since 'Eye of the Needle'. I've been writing series drama for the BBC for fourteen years, wondered if you'd ever considered writing a drama for tv from the 'ground-up?' PS - I'm from the Sirhowy Valley and lived in Cathays for a few years. From the Valleys, Cardiff is seen as a huge metropolis!

KenFollett5 karma

I did some TV writing back in the seventies, but I'm best at words, not pictures.

Ron_Tam7 karma

Hi Ken! Thanks for doing this AMA!

Important question. You have been sentenced to death for a crime you did not commit. What would you choose as your last meal?

KenFollett14 karma

Oysters and champagne, and maybe a bottle of Jack Daniels afterwards to knock me unconscious.

TheBeardedGM7 karma

What historical era that you have not written about are you most fascinated by?

KenFollett14 karma

I'm interested in human life before the dawn of civilization, when we were all hunger-gatherers living in small tribes. Is the philosopher Thomas Hobbes right to say that life was mean, nasty, brutish and short? Or was it a kind of sexy paradise?

Stoooooooo7 karma

Thanks for the AMA! Is there a process you follow/have developed for overall plot direction? Where do you start?

KenFollett13 karma

I spend a lot of time on this--six months to a year before I start writing chapter one. I start with a single paragraph, just one idea; then I ask: What happened next? What happened before? Who are these people? And I keep on doing that until I have the outline for a whole novel.

writermonk7 karma

Do you or your agents ever donate books to libraries/schools/hospitals?

Selfish Note: I'm a librarian in a poor rural public library and we're always looking for handouts.

KenFollett11 karma

Yes, of course. I keep one copy of every edition of each book. Any other complementary copies I get from the publisher go to charity. All the authors I know do the same.

Jamie3beers7 karma

Hello sir! I am a huge fan of your work, and have gotten several people to read The Pillars of the Earth due to me going on and on about it (usually after a few single-malts). I just wanted to say thank you!

One question, what has inspired your writing the most?

KenFollett10 karma

I was inspired to write "The Pillars of the Earth" by the great medieval cathedrals of Europe. As well as enjoying their magnificent beauty, I wondered how they had been built, and why. And that curiosity led me to learn about the people who built them, and finally to write a novel about those people.

AntonCutajar6 karma

Hi. I am presently reading World Without End, but I read your books which span all history up to modern times ... Ever considered a book with a background of history on Malta .. an island in the middle of the meditereanen which has been colonised by many nations .. romans, arabs, french, knights of St John, French, and British?

KenFollett8 karma

Yes, I've thought of this, and I love the idea.

wheeloficeandfire5 karma

Thanks for the AMA Mr. Follett, been a fan for years now!

How did it feel to transition from writing thrillers like Eye of the Needle to historical epics like The Pillars of the Earth and back again to thrillers like Night over Water (my personal favorite of those)?

KenFollett14 karma

The transition to long historical novels was difficult. You have to keep making up more and more stuff about the same people. Much easier to start again on a new story. But readers find the longer novels more deeply satisfying, so it's worth the effort.

lgsk5 karma

What is your favourite brand of champagne?

My dad loves your books and has read them all!

KenFollett13 karma

I like blanc de blanc champagne (all white grapes) and my favourite is called Salon. It ain't cheap, though.

Sakura_75 karma

What is your favorite animal?

KenFollett11 karma

My dog Nell. She's not very bright, but she's lovable.

Brun_Ursus5 karma

Hi, dear mr Follett as Mexican reader of his excellent books, I have much excited to see mentions of Mexico or other Latin American countries in his novels, as was the taking of the port of Veracruz in Fall of giants. My question is do you ever consider writing a novel centered in any Latin American country?

KenFollett15 karma

I might. But consider the problems. If I set a story in a totally unfamiliar environment, I would have to check every detail. The research would be overwhelming. And if I made mistakes, think how many people would say: He should never have written about a subject he knows nothing about.

heavyreviews4 karma

Do you consider continuing the middle age series? Make it a trilogy?

KenFollett8 karma

Yes--see the last answer.

Striderrs4 karma

Mr Follett! Thanks for doing this AMA :). I am a huge fan of your work and have read 7 or 8 of your books. I loved every single one of them! I don't have an actual question for you, I just want to thank you so much for giving me the ability to escape my high school days and float into the world you so intricately craft in every book you write. I loved Winter of the World, and can't wait for Edge of Eternity!

P.S. Way to tug at my heart strings with everything that happened in the Pacific in Winter of the World:(.

EDIT: I do have a question actually! Do you find it difficult or emotional to kill off a character? It's heart-breaking as a reader to read it, but the characters of your books are almost like your children in a sense. I imagine it must be horribly difficult to do so after spending months of carefully sculpting a character and their personality.

KenFollett11 karma

Oh, no. On the contrary. It's really important to keep surprising readers with developments they weren't expecting. Killing off a character can really shock. Then the reader thinks: OMG, what next?

JoHannilein4 karma

Dear Ken, how do you build up the personality of your characters? Have you thought when you met someone that 'Wow! He/she is such an interesting person, I should create this character in the book'? Or did you create a character based on your relatives/family/even yourself?

KenFollett13 karma

I use bits of people I meet: a gesture, a turn of phrase, an obsession, a facial expression. But I never use whole people. They might not want to do what the plot requires of them.

a_v94 karma

Hello Mr. Follett, lifelong fan and a huge admirer of your work here.

If you had to take a book to a desert island, what would it be?

KenFollett15 karma

A book that will last me years, even decades? Tough question, but I'd pick "Philosophical Investigations" by Ludwig Wittgenstein. If there is a more profound thinker in history, I have not yet come across him or her. I believe I could mull over Wittgenstein's meditations for many years.

TheGreenErik3 karma


How did you get into writing books? And which books inspired you to do so?

KenFollett13 karma

Like all writers, I began as a voracious reader. By the time I tried to write my own novel, I already knew 90% of what I needed. The other 10% was hard, though.

WeeabooFgt3 karma

What is your favorite character from the stories you've written?

KenFollett13 karma

I really like Ethel, who is in all three volumes in the Century trilogy. She is a coal miner's daughter with brains and guts, and she rises to the very top.

hannahstorm53 karma

Dear Mr. Follett, I love your books and think they're fantastic, my question is, what was your favorite character to write, and which character was the easiest/hardest to write? Also, do you have a dailt writing routine?Best from Scotland!!

KenFollett9 karma

I really enjoyed creating Augusta in A Dangerous Fortune. It was the first time I had written about a female villain. She was sexy but bad.

danielpassis3 karma

Mr. Follett, what does writing represent to you? Do you approach the craft with a more artistically view or historical?

KenFollett9 karma

What does it represent? It's my life! It's what I do all day, every day. It requires every effort I can make: such brains as I have, any wisdom I've acquired, all my knowledge of the world and life, all my ability to focus and concentrate--everything.

julianeve3 karma

Hi, Mr. Follett. I never look at cathedrals the same anymore. Which is your favorite cathedral?

KenFollett7 karma

I'm running out of time, so I'm going to answer a few quick ones then say goodnight. My favourite cathedral is Salisbury, because it is all in a uniform style.

AZbarra32 karma

I am waiting for booksigning tour details to be published, in order to plan a couple of visits. Are you planning a visit to Italy? Or in Europe too... I can arrange a trip to attend a booksigning. ;-)

KenFollett3 karma

Sao Paolo, Washington DC, New York, Toronto, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Montreal, Guadalajara. Watch my web site for dates.

deeptime2 karma

Hi, and thanks for doing an AMA!

I've read that Pillars of the Earth was not initially encouraged/accepted for publication, because it departed from the formula that publishers considered to be a more likely success.

Can you talk about risk taking, and what decisions or circumstances lead to you pursuing that novel? Any unexpected benefits or difficulties of the process?

KenFollett7 karma

Risk taking is all right as long as you are determined to entertain. Henry James--a highbrow writer if ever there was one--said that the only sin an author can commit is to be dull. Anything else is okay.

And that's it from me! Thank you for your questions, which I have enjoyed enormously. But it's bedtime here in England. Goodnight everyone, and I hope you have something great to read!

a_v92 karma

If there was a crime/spy novel "write-off" between you and Frederic Forsyth, who do you think would win?

KenFollett9 karma

Forsyth is a master, and I learned a great deal from him. He changed the way we all write thrillers.

dnalyrrolyat1 karma

boxers or briefs?

KenFollett5 karma


alexe_desco1 karma

Mr. Follet, thank you so much for doing this AMA! I was wondering when will you come to Canada on your book tour? And where? (I heard you were talking about Toronto and Montréal...?) Thank you!

KenFollett9 karma

Toronto on 19 September, Montreal 19-21 November. See you there!

whitewust1 karma

What do you think about Stephen King's novels?

KenFollett7 karma

Love them. He is the greatest.

daath1 karma

Proof-link leads to a 404. But it is him: https://twitter.com/DuttonBooks/status/501445679949316096

No questions for you Mr. Follett. I enjoy your work. Keep it up!

KenFollett6 karma

If this isn't me, who am I?