Author Revealed

About Harold Holzer

Q. What is your birthdate?

A. 2/5

Q. Previous occupations

A. Newspaper reporter and editor, political press secretary for Bella Abzug and Mario Cuomo, public relations director for WNET/Channel 13, for Governor Cuomo's economic development programs (and the state Urban Development Corporation), and for the last 16 years, head of external affairs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Q. Favorite job

A. I loved them all. During my first job, running a weekly paper on a shoestring, with creditors seizing the typesetting equipment every other day, my publisher, William Haddad, nostalgically recalled that one of his first jobs was working for the same newspaper as his wife. My wife was then working for me at "The Manhattan Tribune." My boss said: "Treasure this experience. You'll never love anything more." And he was right--though I'm not sure my wife would agree. I was a difficult editor.

Q. High school and/or college

A. Bayside High School and Queens College

Q. Name of your favorite composer or music artist?

A. Classical: Tchaikopvsky and Puccini; popular Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee, also Tony Bennett and Billie Holliday

Q. Favorite movie

A. Easy: "Casablanca."

Q. Favorite television show

A. "Law and Order"--because it stars Sam Waterston, the best Lincoln ever.

Revealing Questions

Q. How would you describe your life in only 8 words?

A. "Work, work, work is the main thing:" Lincoln

Q. What is your motto or maxim?

A. Excelsior

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?

A. Destruction of all blackberries forever

Q. What’s your greatest fear?

A. drowning

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?

A. Paris or somewhere Lincoln visited or home

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?

A. John Hay--Lincoln's onetime assistant private secretary, who became his biographer and, later, secretary of state

Q. Which living person do you most admire?

A. Mario Cuomo

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?

A. "Outrageous"

Q. What do you regret most?

A. Never winning any political campaign on which i served as a press secretary

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?

A. Singing

Q. What is your greatest achievement?

A. Our children

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?

A. Impatience and bad temper

Q. What’s your best quality?

A. Generosity (I'm told) and humor

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?

A. Passenger on a time machine

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?

A. white moustache--which ive had since i was 20

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?

A. Hercule Poirot

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?

A. Fred C. Dobbs

Q. If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?

A. Abraham Lincoln, of course--and I would want the first exclusive interview--scooping 60 Minutes, Baraba Walters, et al. I'd start by asking: "What was it with you and your father?"

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?

A. Indolence

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?

A. Playing with my grandchild

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?

A. Baseball player

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?

A. Wit, family loyalty, and honesty

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?

A. Ice cream

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?

A. Anything from Frank Sinatra's "Wee Small Hours" or "Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe" by Peggy Lee

On Books and Writing

Q. Who are your favorite authors?

A. This is a tough question--so many fine writers toil in the Lincoln vineyards that I try not to designate favorites, save for the ones who helped inspire me into the field: Richard Nelson Current and Stefan Lorant. Among historians of other periods, Robert Caro is probably the best in the business, and David McCullough as riveting a non-fiction narrative writer as has ever practiced the craft. My first love was Sinclair Lewis for some reason, and i still love his books, but the only fiction i get to read now, aside from that which is relevant to the period I'm writing abouit (like Edmund Ruffin, of all people, writing speculative fiction), are mysteries: I love Robert Barnard, M. C. Beaton, Jane Langton, Reginald Hill, Walter Mosley, and was a big Tony Hillerman fan too. I worship Edmund Crispin--have read everything he produced. And then there's David Thomson and his film books.

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?

A. The Lincoln Nobody Knows by Richard Nelson Current Lincoln: A Picture Story of His Life by Stefan Lorant Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis Scoop by Evelyn Waugh Vanity Fair by Thackeray

Q. Is there a book you love to reread?

A. For some reason, The Great Gatsby...though every time i finish i'm not sure why i re-read it, because there's really no there there.

Q. Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?

A. Start small: don't write the great American novel or the history of the world as your first project--try magazine or journal articles and build a reputation slowly

Q. What comment do you hear most often from your readers?

A. You know how to tell a story...and no compliment means more. Also, "you're a terrible proofreader." I know, I know.