Kitty Pilgrim

I was a very successful news reporter and anchor with CNN for 24 years. I had absolutely no intention of doing something different because I loved everything about the news business: the energy, excitement, traveling all around the world, meeting so many interesting people. I was broadcasting to an international audience, and was often watched by millions of people. Yet, in a flash of inspiration I decided to try to become a novelist.

The moment of decision came very unexpectedly. It was the end of the day at CNN and I had just anchored the 7 p.m. broadcast. Most people had left the studio. While putting on my coat, I was half listening to the TV in my office. Someone was interviewing a very famous novelist about her method of writing. She explained how she wrote her books by picturing each scene in her imagination, and then putting her mental images down in prose. She said “I write, picture, picture picture. I write visually.”

A light bulb went off in my head. As a TV reporter, the very first step of an assignment is to shoot the pictures for your story. Television literally means “tell-a-vision.” You go out and shoot the video first, then tell the viewers about what is happening.

Until I heard that author’s interview, I never realized that writing a novel was basically the same process. So that night, I began my efforts to write a romantic thriller. For the next few months I worked on it during my evening train commute. And I wrote my first book, The Explorer’s Code, in about six months.

It was accepted by a major New York publisher — Scribner — and became the first of a series of romantic thrillers set in international locations. The second in the series, The Stolen Chalice, was just released, and I am working on the third book.

Being an author is so much fun that I have retired from the news business and now am a full time novelist. This doesn’t mean that I have abandoned all my training. I report and research my novels the same way I would investigate a news story. My books take me all over the world, the same way my reporting did. Last year for research I went to Egypt, London, Greece, Venice and Scotland. In The Explorer’s Code, I did a lot of historical fact finding about polar exploration in the Victorian era. For The Stolen Chalice I traveled to Egypt to research ancient archaeological sites. By traveling to each location in my books, I can be very accurate about the details. I call my books “fact-based fiction.”

My VIV Moment was a life-changer. I was so glad I went with my impulse to try something new. I never could have anticipated this wonderful second career.

Photo credit: Carol Seitz