Ben Mezrich, who began his career writing thrillers, has had two works of narrative nonfiction (“Bringing Down the House” and “The Accidental Billionaires”) turned into successful films (“21” and “The Social Network”). This fall, Mezrich returns to fiction with “Seven Wonders,” a novel intended for the screen, developed with the film producers Brett Ratner and Beau Flynn.
THE HIGH LIFE: We live on the top floor of the Prudential Center, and my office is one floor down. It’s been my apartment since 1996. It’s my refuge. It used to be my bachelor pad, and I still call it my man cave. It used to have air hockey and fish tanks and leather couches, but now my wife got ahold of it and it looks more like something from the set of “Mad Men.’’ Sometimes I write in hotels. I wrote “Bringing Down the House’’ in Vegas in a different suite every night.
DARKNESS AUDIBLE: I have rituals. After college, I used to sit with a bottle of Jack Daniels on my desk. I learned very quickly that was a bad way to write. Then I used to play backgammon with myself for 45 minutes before I started writing. Now my ritual involves music and the dark — I turn off all the lights.
BUZZ FEED: I drink a lot of Diet Coke, and when I’m really writing, I switch to Diet Red Bull. But Red Bull gives you just 45 minutes [of energy], and by the third one, you feel awful.
DON’T LOOK BACK: I’m one of those writers who, when they hand something in, never want to look at it again. In a lot of ways, “Bringing Down the House” was my best book, and I didn’t change a word and finished it in six weeks. Lately I’ve been using dictation software. It was a real learning process, but now I speak a chapter, then I go through it. There’s a mistake in almost every sentence — it’s dictation software, so it’s not that good yet — and as I retype it, that’s when I’m doing most of the editing. Once I finish a chapter, though, I don’t look back.
CAN’T STOP WON’T STOP: I do all the research I can, and then I have massive amounts of pages and photographs and interviews, and then I lock myself up and write. It’s around-the-clock writing. I’ve got little kids, so it’s trickier to do the all night thing, but I lock myself up for three months. Then I go onto the next project. I never take off. I’m not a big vacation guy. I can’t stop. You have to remember to eat. I think it’s harder on my wife than on me.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: I was in between projects, and I have a list of people that I always e-mail when I’m in between projects to see if they have any stories. I e-mailed [FILM DIRECTOR] Brett [Ratner] to see if he had any ideas, and [Ratner and PRODUCER Beau Flynn] got on the phone and asked me if I knew anything about the Seven Wonders of the World. I’ve always been a geeky kid — I was building dioramas of the pyramids in my backyard when I was 12, so I’ve always been obsessed with things like that. I put together a proposal, and we actually sold the book and the movie simultaneously. It’s going to be a trilogy of films for 20th Century Fox — an Indiana Jones for the 21st century.
LICENSE TO THRILL: I’ve always approached my nonfiction as if it’s a thriller. To actually write a thriller, I didn’t have to change all that much. If you read Janet Maslin’s review of me in The New York Times, [writing fiction] doesn’t change anything [about my writing process].Eugenia Williamson is a writer and editor living in Somerville. She can be reached at eugenia.williamson@ gmail.com.