Sunday, August 8, 2010


Judith L. Pearson has that rare ability to be creative yet entrepreneurial.  She's published two hugely successful biographies about war heroes who've flown under the the radar--has had her books optioned for films, has been the guest speaker to a group of CIA agents at CIA Headquarters and has commanded thousands of dollars for speaking engagements around the world. What gets lost sometimes is just how talented a writer she really is.  She was kind enough to take a few minutes to discuss projects new and old.

1- What inspired you to write your first two books about two entirely different types of war heroes in the second World War?

The war played a key role in stories my dad told me as a child. He had been an Air Corps pilot and we would often watch WWII movies together, with him explaining the intricacies of espionage and warfare. I loved the movies, I loved the music, I loved the way the country came together as one.

I was a freelance newspaper and magazine writer when the story that became BELLY OF THE BEAST fell into my lap. It was such a powerful story, with real life heroes, I realized it was more than an article, it had to be a book. Looking for another WWII story after that was a little harder. But as happened the first time, the story of Virginia Hall fell into my lap, and writing WOLVES AT THE DOOR was an enormous personal success. Spies don’t write letters or leave diaries. Digging up the info became a quest.

2- What doors have been opened for you because of the incredible success of those two books?
A secene from WOLVES was selected as the subject of a painting to be hung in the Central Intelligence Agency Fine Arts Collection. The painting was unveiled at the French Ambassador’s residence in Washington D.C., and I (being an ex-advertising agency exec) wrote my own press release about the event. It was picked up by the Associated Press, which in turn turned into interviews with media outlets worldwide. That led to contacts from Hollywood. The book is now in option with Out of the Blue Entertainment for a major motion picture.

The producers, Sid and Nancy Ganis, have asked that I consult on the script writing and on set. Think I’ll get to rub elbows with any celebs? Depending on the stars involved, I may want to rub cheeks as well!

3- What are your daily writing habits?
That’s a funny question at this point in my career. I am, by nature, very disciplined when it comes to writing. But 18 months ago, life intervened. I met a wonderful man, fell in love and married him two months ago. Over the course or our courtship, I was starry eyed, and not terribly driven to write. The teenager in me returned in full force. Our meeting and the events leading up to it were so sweet, I’ve had lots of folks tell me it’s the stuff of romance novels. Just one more book to write.

That aside, in general (and you have my word, from this point on!) I get up, work out, clean up and hit the keyboard. I have an office in my home, so I venture downstairs to fix lunch and take it back to my office. I work until 3 or 4, depending on what the rest of my life holds that day.
Writing non-fiction is a little different than fiction in that there’s a great deal of research involved. That includes interviews, books, internet searches, trips to libraries and archives, and more. I never feel I’m really “working” unless I’m actually putting words on paper. But of course, that’s not true. Often, I take books or my laptop to bed, reading with one eye and watching TV with the other. My husband does the same, and we agree on “quittin’ time.” Otherwise I’d be surfing and highlighting all night.

4- Why did you choose to write and speak specifically about women's courage?

As a result of writing two books about very courageous people, one a man and one a woman, I realized that women behave very differently when frightened, stressed or facing obstacles, the very times we most need our courage. But courage has always been measured by a male yardstick, involving lots of physical acts that most women can’t accomplish. Women see that and assume they’re not courageous, and with that attitude, are far less inclined to tackle things that might require courage.

My interest in the subject morphed into speaking engagements around the country. And the speaking launched the idea for the book I’m working on now. Don’t you love this segue to the next question?

5- What's on the horizon for you? 

Glad you asked, Gary! I’m currently at work on a book entitled A DIFFERENT KIND OF COURAGE. It weaves together current gender/brain research (yes, we DO behave differently than you do and no, we CAN’T help ourselves), and anecdotes of women who’ve been courageous in various walks of life. These include business, government and politics, on the front line, facing chronic illness, in education, in violent situations, and more. Each story is accompanied with cutting edge research results explaining why women behave as they do when stressed and frightened, and why working together rather than against men in these situations is a good thing.

The book will also include the results of a nationwide survey. I would invite all your female readers to take the survey on my website at And expect the book early next year.

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