I’m honored to have author Scott Selby answer a few questions about his fabulous new book, FLAWLESS, which investigates one of the greatest jewel heist in history. For more on the book and its authors, visit the book’s website
1. Your background as a scholar is impressive. (Scott is a graduate of UC Berkeley, Harvard Law School, and Sweden’s Land University, where he wrote his master’s thesis on diamonds.) Can you elaborate on how your studies inspired and/or influenced FLAWLESS?
Thanks. From law school, I learned about the importance of research. I worked as a research assistant in college as well as law school so that helped tremendously. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to go to such great schools. My masters thesis in particular enabled me to study the diamond industry which was tremendously helpful in writing Flawless.
2. In tackling a book on the heist, what was your plan of action? In your investigation of the facts, which avenues did you pursue first?
The first thing was to write everyone who knew anything at all about the Antwerp Diamond Heist. Next, we tracked down each additional source of information that we could be it a document, court case, blue print, or person.
3. What aspect of the project do you find most irresistible or intriguing?
I loved the mysteries at the heart of the story. My co-author Greg Campbell and I had to work hard to dig up as much as we could to try to solve such mysteries and in the process we ended up finding out that things that originally looked straight forward were anything but. For example, the more we found out about the combination dial on the vault door, the more of a mystery it became. The manufacturer and the locksmith who worked with it both explained in detail why it would be virtually impossible to film the combination being entered. Before we did this research, we had believed like many others that it could have just been recorded surreptitiously.
4. The book does an excellent job of putting the reader in Leonardo Notarbartolo’s point of view. How were you able to grapple with such a difficult task, considering his reluctance to discuss the unadorned facts of the case?
My co-author Greg was able to meet with him face-to-face in a Belgian prison. Unfortunately, Mr. Notarbartolo was not willing to discuss specifics without being paid, which we were not willing to do. He was however kind enough to permit one of his closest friends to accompany us during our research in Turin.
5. What tools for non-fiction writing do you find most helpful? Are there any resources you turn to again and again in your own writing?
I think the most important thing is to do your research and then once you have written something, continue to edit it over and over again. Greg and I, along with our editor at Sterling Iris Blasi, revised our book countless times. The main resource I’d say are my friends who have been kind enough to read my work and give me much needed feedback. The track changes function on MS Word is a lifesaver.
6. Do you have any advice for writers (non-fiction or otherwise)interested in creating a flawless (or perhaps a less flawed) narrative?
Buy a few of the more popular books on how to write a proposal and how to write generally. Think about what you admire in others writing. And keep working on your own projects as long as it takes. If one book doesn’t work out, then start another one and try to learn from what you’ve done before. Good luck!