Peter Schechter was nothing if not prescient in his debut novel, Point of Entry. Within weeks of the thriller’s publication, a woman was elected president of a major South American country, the United Nations debated a resolution concerning Syria and authorities blew the lid off a plot to smuggle uranium through Colombia — all things that also happened in the book.
Schechter sat down with The Hill late last month. Excerpts from the conversation follow.
Q: The book goes all over the world, and describes everything from drug-smuggling techniques to border crossings between former Soviet Republics. How did you go about the research?
A: I’ve done a lot of traveling to these places through my work [with Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates (CLS), the communications and political consulting firm he co-founded]. CLS is 35-40 percent international.
I’ve done a lot of electoral campaigns in Latin America, and I’ve worked longest and deepest in Colombia. I also worked in Georgia for a number of years for the government of President Shevardnadze.
Q: There are a number of characters who seem recognizable, both in D.C. and during the international scenes. Is this intentional? How thinly did you fictionalize it?
A: I do intend for the reader to feel that the characters are real enough and seem recognizable, but they’re an amalgam. … The president of Colombia is an amalgam of a number of women candidates I’ve met and worked for. [The percentage of women candidates and officeholders in Latin America] is way ahead of us. They have no need for masculinity in their female leaders.
Q: What about the romance that develops between the U.S. and Colombian presidents?
A: Everyone asks me that! I have two answers. The serious answer is I have seen as a consultant how electronic communications have made embassies irrelevant. … We’ll arrive at a time when presidents can talk to each other directly. The less-serious answer is there is a long tradition of love blooming in the Oval Office, which we like to pretend does not exist.
Q: What’s the greatest challenge in moving from consulting to fiction?
A: Being able to filter out the noise. … Suddenly you are now in a business that requires you to be alone. There are no deadlines; the screen is dark. I wrote two mornings a week — Wednesday and Friday from 8 to 1.
The struggle is not looking at e-mail after a quarter to 8. With fiction, it’s all in your brain. … Even though you’re writing it, it’s as unexpected as a good movie.