Doug Brunt is the best-selling author of three novels. He is also Megyn’s husband. He has dipped his toes into the nonfiction waters with his new book, The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel, which is available now.
On Tuesday’s show, Doug joined Megyn to discuss how the book came to be (it started as historical fiction!), the process of writing a nonfiction work, and why it is challenging to close the chapter and say goodbye to the characters and subjects of his books once they are published.
How The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel Came to Be
While the world shut down at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the concept of Doug’s latest work was really taking shape. As Megyn explained, he had been toying around with the idea of a book about Rudolf Diesel and had already done some research on his life and death when he finally settled on the idea of a nonfiction work.
The only problem? He’d never gone through the process of writing a nonfiction book before – let alone writing a nonfiction book during a global pandemic. “I was thinking about doing it as historical fiction… but then I found more stuff and had a clearer vision of what it could be as a nonfiction book,” Doug shared. “It is a totally different publishing process… that I didn’t even know about.”
Doug explained that unlike in fiction writing where you sell a manuscript that is just about finished, nonfiction books require an extensive proposal. “It’s roughly a 30-page document – there’s a very detailed chapter outline, there’s usually a sample chapter to get a sense of the writing, there’s a discussion of books in the market, and a discussion of the research you’re going to use,” he explained. Doug said he found a new agent to coach him and ended up going through the auction process with publishers via Zoom before reaching a deal with Simon & Schuster.
He faced a very unique research and writing process given the state of the world. Megyn recalled the times he was trying to get museums in Germany that weren’t open to return his calls. “It was nuts,” Doug said. “No one other than an employee could go in these archives and the employees weren’t going in very much.”
Falling in Love with the Subject Matter
Writing this book on Diesel was a three and half year effort. Doug said Megyn is his “first reader” and “most trusted feedback,” particularly when it comes to the storytelling. And the research and writing process really becomes a family affair. “We’ve kind of fallen in love with Rudolf Diesel, like he’s become a real character in our lives,” Megyn noted.
Even their kids became familiar with him. “They all know elements of the case, and what happened, and what he did, and his letters to his wife, and the many sides of his life,” Doug shared. “He is this three-dimensional person walking around the house.” That familiarity is hard to part with in some ways. “I kind of miss working on the book,” he said. “As much as I’m excited to talk about it, I’m sad that it’s passed the phase of spending eight hours a day with Rudolf.”
Megyn said she experienced similar emotions after Doug published his first novel Ghosts of Manhattan. “It is an absolutely beautiful novel about this one man struggling to save his soul in the midst of the financial crisis and the financial world down on Wall Street,” she said. “Nick Farmer was the protagonist in the book, and I’ve been begging you since you published that in 2012 to write a follow up. I want Nick Farmer to live again.”
You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Doug by tuning in to episode 630 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.