Author Don Winslow finds joy in weaving together words

Don Winslow will talk about his latest book, “City on Fire,” during the Santa Fe Literary Festival. (Courtesy of Robert Gallagher)

Don Winslow often takes time to drive across the country with his wife.

It is during those trips he finds inspiration for his novels.

Winslow’s journey into writing started decades ago and he finds joy in weaving together the words.

“I treat it like a day job,” he says of his process. “I’ve been at this since 1987. My first book was published in 1991.”

“City on Fire” by Don Winslow

Winslow is one of a dozen authors participating in the Santa Fe Literary Festival, which takes place from Friday, May 20, through Monday, May 23.

He will participate in a talk beginning at 11 am Saturday, May 21, which will focus on his new novel “City on Fire.”

“I wrote the first chapter 27 years ago,” he says. “I picked it up to finish it a few years ago. The first sentence has never changed a syllable.”

“City on Fire” follows two criminal empires as they come together to control all of New England.

That is, until a beautiful modern-day Helen of Troy comes between the Irish and the Italians, launching a war that will see them kill each other, destroy an alliance and set a city on fire.

Danny Ryan years for a more “legit” life and a place in the sun. But as the bloody conflict stacks body on body and brother turns against brother, Danny has to rise above himself. To save the friends he loves like family and the family he has sworn to protect, he becomes a leader, a ruthless strategist and a master of a treacherous game in which the winners live and the losers die.

“The hardest part of writing is structure,” Winslow says. “Then you have to have good incidents, good dialogue and good characters. When I do my early drafts, I do them very fast and let the story unwind.”

Though during the later drafts, Winslow thinks about the reader.

“Pacing is important,” he says. “I find that I do a lot of rewriting structurally to make the story flow better.”

Though he’s written many characters, Winslow feels most drawn to Danny Ryan.

“We grew up in a fishing town and were raised Catholic,” he says. “I feel closest to him and that’s a great connection to have.”

With the literary festival, Winslow is humbled to be included in a line up of heavy-hitting authors.

He’s looking forward to returning to Santa Fe.

“My wife and I have driven through here and spent some time on previous trips,” he says. “With this event, I’m doing the panel and the next day I fly to Germany.”

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