Interview with Lisa Rogak
The writer's writer
Lisa Rogak is a rover of epic scale. She travels constantly and writes on topics ranging from working dogs to funeral food. In fact, it’s rare for her
to tackle the same subject twice, but when the topic is NH’s most enigmatic author, she’ll make an exception.
Rogak has authored more than 40 books and edited the New York Times best seller “Barack Obama in His Own Words,” so she has an idea of what it takes to succeed in the book business. And no one has mastered that game as well as #1 best-selling author and Exeter resident Dan Brown. Rogak released her first unauthorized biography of Brown back when his breakthrough novel, “The Da Vinci Code,” was keeping bookstores in the black. An updated version of her biography is out from Thomas Dunne Books, just as Brown’s latest page-turner, “Inferno,” is setting the publishing world afire.
You’ve written biographies for an odd collection of characters. What, if anything, do they have in common? Pretty much all the biographies are about writers, even if that’s not particularly what the guy is known for — Dr. Robert Atkins, Shel Silverstein, Dan Brown, Stephen King, Stephen Colbert — they all had to be pretty creative and go out on a limb and meet up with resistance to achieve their goals. But they forged full-steam ahead not thinking about the consequences.
You’ve also made a living as a writer on such a wide array of topics. Don’t writers tend to specialize to succeed? It’s not part of my makeup. I find I’m able to stay on a beat for two years before it gets stale. I’ve never been one to specialize for that reason, and it’s also why writing books is great for me because I can pursue one topic — or person — over a matter of months and get my fill and then go on to the next.
How were you able to find anything new to say about such a private (some would say secretive) guy? The first time around people would actually talk to me. For the second updated edition the most revealing item was the affidavit he prepared for his plagiarism trial in the UK. Seventy-six single-spaced pages on his history and working habits that provided more insight into him than perhaps he wanted to reveal.
If you could get a personal interview with Brown, I wonder what you’d most like to ask him. We’d probably talk about New Hampshire and why we both love it so. In fact, the dedication in the second edition was: “To NH and her people … try as I might, I just can’t stay away.”
Are there any other NH people you’d like to treat to an unauthorized biography? You! (Ha!) Actually, the whole standoff and tax evasion case with Elaine and Ed Brown in Plainfield back in 2007 fascinated me because I lived in Lebanon at the time, and I knew people who knew them and used her as their dentist.
NH seems to be a haven for writers. Any idea why? Because people aren’t so gaga over famous people in NH. And even if you’re not famous, NH has a long history of letting people live in the woods and do what they want, and most writers — including myself — need that from time to time.