I pride myself on having a journalistic remove.
At some point in the idea process, I simply wear myself down and force myself to choose. But here's the thing: Once I do choose, suddenly all the other possibilities wither and die, and thus I never have a backlog of well-formed ideas waiting for me when my latest book gets finished.
That's what I love about history - nuance. I don't believe in unalloyed heroes. Everyone's got warts, and everyone's got a surprise side.
Trying to find ideas is the hardest part of my job. You'd think it would be the most fun. Just sitting around reading whatever I want, going to cafes and libraries. But I always feel so unproductive. I think I was raised too well by my parents.
As a rule, I am very skeptical of tying books to anniversaries. I don't think readers care. I also feel that it just about guarantees that somebody else will be writing a book on the same subject, but being a former journalist, I'm always interested in, like, why write about something today? Why do it now?
A writer could spend years reading already-published books just to gain a grasp of the historical terrain.