Kitty Pilgrim began crafting her first novel during her long commute from her gig at CNN.
Writing gave the broadcast veteran a break from the stresses of the 24-hour news cycle and the depressing nature of the day’s headlines. But her adult sons cautioned Pilgrim against any impulsive job decisions.
“They sat me down and said, ‘Mom, you can’t just quit your news career to become a romance novelist,'” Pilgrim tells Big Hollywood.
Yet Pilgrim’s first novel, last year’s “The Explorer’s Code,” proved successful enough for her to hit the pause button on her 24-year career at CNN as both reporter and anchor to focus on her fact-based fiction.
“The Stolen Chalice,” released late last month in hardcover, revisits “Code’s” dashing archeologist John Sinclair and his glamorous squeeze, Cordelia Stapleton. This time, the duo grapples with a terrorist attack, a bio-weapon plot and a dash to recover stolen artifacts that takes them to New York, London and Egypt.
Pilgrim says she writes fiction the way she reports a news story, and that often means forcing herself to visit exotic locales – for research, of course.
“I’ll eat the food, stay in the luxury hotels, then I’ll spin It together in a plot. In a weird way, I’m reporting again,” she says. “The whole thing is very escapist, five star hotels. Every book tries to put in an exotic location people necessarily wouldn’t get to.”
Pilgrim initially wondered if the popular culture’s stance toward the rich, epitomized by Occupy Wall Street mocking the “one percent,” might make readers wince at such opulence. Early feedback told her otherwise, she says.
“I’m a single mom. I understand financial pressure. Everyone wants a touch of glamour and escapism. It takes your blood pressure down,” she says.
Pilgrim isn’t ruling out a return to broadcast journalism. She applauds the growth of social media and web-based news outlets even while some of her colleagues bemoan the encroachment of bloggers and overly partisan voices.
“I’ve reported on repressive societies, like North Korea,” she says. “A multiplicity of news sources is a good thing. The more information you have in a society shows the maturing of society.”
She cringes at the uniform nature of the old brand of reporting, where an august anchor like Walter Cronkite delivered the news with such finality that it was assumed his take was the only take worth absorbing.
“You have to be a grown up and figure out what sources are not telling the accurate truth,” she says, adding American culture is entering the “adult years of our information society.”
And, if she does return to journalism, she thinks becoming a novelist has made her a better reporter.
“Taking a break has really helped me,” she says. “At the anchor desk you’re pretty isolated. The kind of people I’m talking to now … it’s just the lady down the street and how she liked your book. They’re telling their personal stories [to me]. The book is a vehicle to open up this dialogue.”
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