WASHINGTON, D.C. - Wednesday night, New York Times bestselling author Daniel Silva endured lighthearted ribbing and a gentle grilling by his wife, veteran journalist Jamie Gangel at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. The event celebrated the launch of Silva's latest novel, "The English Girl." The hero of Silva's series, Gabriel Allon, an art restorer turned Mossad covert agent, is drawn once again into a complex adventure - this time an attempt to rescue the kidnapped secret mistress of the British Prime Minister. The packed audience welcomed several prominent guests including the Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren; Newt and Callista Gingrich; and celebrated CNN journalist Bernard Shaw.
Daniel Silva explained how his background as a journalist, first at UPI, and then as a writer at CNN helped prepare him to create his popular series of novels. One audience member asked about how he dealt with "writer's block". Mr. Silva replied that, though he might not always be pleased with his writing, he does not have difficulty in writing the 1000 words per day required to complete a novel. He credits his time as a reporter with that discipline because there was no time for hesitation. Stories had to be written to a tight deadline.
Interestingly, Daniel Silva described how his main character, Gabriel Allon, was never meant to be the main focus of his first book. Mr. Silva does not outline his novels in advance, and they evolve as he writes. He described the character as "just taking over" as he wrote, which is fortunate for his fans now enjoying the thirteenth installment in the series.
Research plays an important role in the process, according to Daniel Silva, including library research, expert interviews, and travel. One memorable experience Mr. Silva described was visiting with the Vatican's expert restorers. By chance, as he walked through the workshop, he noticed an unfinished work by Leonardo da Vinci, unframed and awaiting repairs. Astonished, Silva was treated to an up close inspection of the masterpiece by the Vatican specialist.
He said the idea for this current book coalesced as he was standing in St. Peter's in Rome. As he stood there, he kept hearing a piece of scripture resonating in his head, "And the house which Solomon made for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide and thirty cubits high." Silva said, "Of course it wasn't my voice I heard saying it. It was Bernie's (Bernard Shaw)," which brought chuckles from the audience in acknowledgment of the broadcaster's famous baritone.
Though the character, Gabriel Allon, has aged into his sixties, Silva has no plans to retire the series anytime soon. When asked whether the series might someday make the leap to film, Silva said he had been in negotiations, but that he was very concerned about keeping control of the end product. Regardless, the future seems bright for the author and his novels with their unlikely fusion of fine art and spy-craft.