Before Yancey, 50, pursued his lifelong dream of becoming a novelist, he pursued people who owed the IRS money for taxes. After working for the government for 10 years, Yancey decided to incorporate his job with his art by penning a memoir, Confessions of a Tax Collector. Nine years later, he's got 13 novels under his belt, including his well-known young adult novel, The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp. This month, Yancey is releasing a post-apocalyptic thriller, The Fifth Wave, which has already been picked up by GK Films and Sony Pictures. On May 18, Yancey will make a Tampa appearance at Inkwood Books, 216 S Armenia Ave.
What's on your nightstand?
I'm in the middle of writing a book, and I do not read fiction while I'm in the process of writing because I just don't want someone else to influence my own voice. So, I always keep nonfiction handy. I've got two nonfiction books. Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power by Steve Coll. The book begins with Exxon Valdez and damage control. It's about the reach of oil companies around the world, and it's a fascinating story about power. The second book is In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson. He's a narrative nonfiction writer. I had read his Devil in the White City and had just loved it.
What's he able to do that got you to read him again?
He's an excellent sifter and sorter of facts. I'm also reading his Isaac's Storm. I think Larson is very good at historical characters, and he is able to do what Hemingway talked about: He knows what to leave out. I also (recommend) Robert Caro. I've got his Passage of Power. He has several volumes on Lyndon Johnson. It's brilliant and mesmerizing. What's interesting is that I also found in a bookstore recently a full set of Carl Sandburg's Lincoln biography, and I think Caro is pretty much at that level. And, as a writer, I'd like to meet Caro. I hear he gets dressed up and goes to an office with a coat and tie on.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.