Q&A With Douglas Brunt
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Q&A With Douglas Brunt
I have the honor of doing this Q&A with New York Times Bestselling author, historian, podcast host with Sirius XM and former president & CEO of the cyber security firm Authentium Douglas Brunt. Douglas’s books are Ghosts Of Manhattan, The Means, Trophy Son, & his recent release The Mysterious Case Of Rudolf Diesel.
Q: Douglas, would you like to tell the readers of the blog and I a little bit about The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel and what made you want to write it?
A: This book is a product of curiosity. Eight years ago I bought an old boat, and when I looked into fixing it up, the manager of the boatyard advised me to repower the boat with Diesel engines. He told me that 100% of boat fires come from gasoline engines and none from Diesel, that Diesel fuel doesn’t have fumes, that the fuel efficiency is three times as good.
So I repowered the boat with Diesels and shortly after learning more about the engine, I learned something about the man who had revealed the first working Diesel engine in 1897. I also learned that Rudolf Diesel disappeared mysteriously in 1913, just before the war. I then took a dive into archives around the world for almost five years and came back out with this book, and the answer to what happened to Rudolf Diesel.
Q: Where do your ideas come from to write your books?
A: The books come from whatever moves me to write about a topic – something that bothers me, interests me or riles my curiosity. In the past, these topics have been related to current events – Wall Street for one book, the intersection of politics and media for another, single sport specialization for early youth for another.
This last book about Rudolf Diesel, though it explores events more than a century ago, has incredible and eerie resonance with our world today.
Q: On top of being an author, you are a historian and have a podcast you are a busy man and I’m impressed you can juggle all of that. How do you juggle it all?
A: Coffee in the morning, wine or bourbon in the evening. And surround myself with interesting people that keep me on my toes! My wife and kids in particular are good at that!
I also love to read and have always spent many hours each week reading. Now, all the hours I would otherwise spend reading for pleasure I get to call work! I read the books of the guests on my show or read books to research my own next book – things have folded in pretty nicely.
Q: If you are currently writing your next book, can you reveal any details about it or is it too early to say?
A: It’s too early to say more than that I’m planning another work of narrative nonfiction that mainly takes place in the same time period as the life of Rudolf Diesel. In particular, the quarter century leading to WWI fascinates me.
Q: What’s it like having your podcast Dedicated with Douglas Brunt, & speaking with so many famous people many of which are authors? What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a podcast and keeping it successful?
A: The podcast lets me get out of my solitary research and writing place, and it’s always fun to speak with creative people. Some are old friends who come on the show and some are new – in all cases I come away from each show having learned a lot, and I think the listeners do too.
If you’re thinking of starting a podcast, make sure it’s interesting content and try to deliver it in a unique way that’s consistent with who you are and what makes you comfortable. For example, I love to sit with people over a drink for a deep-dive conversation, so to begin every one of my shows, I fix my guest’s favorite cocktail in the studio, and then we talk. Beyond that, keep it fun, and keep the pace moving along.
Q: You’ve spoken with Amor Towels, Jennifer Egan, Lee Child, James Patterson, Min Jin Lee, Emily St John, Anna Quindlen, Marlon James, Dennis Lahane, Nelson DeMille, Steve Forbes, Diana Gabaldon, Jess Walter & Brad Thor. I’m a huge fan of Amor Towels. Who else is going to be a guest on your podcast?
A: Season 2 has Scott Turow, Omar Epps, James Ellroy, Patricia Cornwell, Dani Shapio, Lawrence Wright, Zibby Owens, John O’hurley, Gareth Russell, Fiona Davis and many others – still booking out the season!
Q: What was it like being the former president and CEO of the cyber security firm Authentium?
A: I loved being an entrepreneur too – lots of common elements with that career and a career as a writer. In a sense you come to work and write the next chapter of the company each day and there are many opportunities to be creative. But there are also lots of elements with being a corporate executive that I enjoyed at times but didn’t love – managing a board of directors or the investors, for example.
But overall, I enjoyed it and starting the podcast was a way to fill the void of many of the things I miss from that career.
Q: What advice do you give to those who want to be an author and historian?
A: Be curious and write. Telling people to write (anything at all – a journal, a letter, an outline for a book or even short notes out of sequence) is the simplest advice to give and it’s often the hardest to take. But it’s the price of admission.