It's hard to know exactly how people develop the characters they do. There could be people from humble beginnings that turn into jerks. Some characteristics are just part of that special soul of that human being.
I look for two things when I am about to launch into a book. First, there has to be a dramatic arc to the story itself that will carry me, and the reader, from beginning to end. Second, the story has to weave through larger themes that can illuminate the world of the subject.
I want my books to last, to stand the test of time, and to do that I focus on the forces that shape the subject - the cultural and sociological geography - to capture them in a way that will explain them no matter what they are doing.
My basic philosophy is that no human being is a saint.
As a journalist for 35 years, and now author for 20, I've learned that there's always more.
I want to write for history, not for the moment.
If you start with the mindset that you know nothing, you will learn a lot that nobody knew before.
The young Obama's lack of playing time on the high school basketball team was due more to his ability than the coach's preference for white players.
I believe that life is chaotic, a jumble of accidents, ambitions, misconceptions, bold intentions, lazy happenstances, and unintended consequences, yet I also believe that there are connections that illuminate our world, revealing its endless mystery and wonder.
I discovered in writing the biography of Bill Clinton that it is actually easier to write a biography of someone who is dead. Although you can't interview them, you have a fuller perspective on their whole life after they're gone and people are more willing to talk about them.
I said that I'm only there to write the truth, I'm not going to cover anything up, but I'll put everything in context and get as close to the truth of this person as I can.
People always try to separate the good from the bad in Clinton and say that, if he had not done certain things, he would have been a great president. But you can't do that. Those were his major characteristics.
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