How to write a journalistic bestseller?

with Patrick Radden Keefe

The podcast

True Stories - Writing bestselling non-fiction – Behind the scenes with Patrick Radden Keefe

by True Stories podcast online

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Patrick Radden Keefe shares the ins and outs of writing his bestselling non-fiction novel Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland. Of the four years he spent on the book, he claims 90 percent went into research and outlining and only 10 percent into the actual writing. So what did that process look like? In a candid conversation with Dutch journalist Inge Oosterhoff, Patrick Radden Keefe talks all about the best way to tell a true story and how to arrange the truth into a compelling narrative that reads like a novel. He explains why he believes access is overrated, why footnotes offer creative freedom, and how he came to terms with the understanding that there were stories he didn’t need to tell.

An insightful look behind the scenes of book-writing with Patrick Radden Keefe. He will teach you about the eight big beats and how screenwriting helped him to outline and sequence the story. How compression, juxtaposition and cutting can help you to keep the momentum of the story going and your audience engaged. As Radden Keefe puts it: ‘You don’t always have to finish the thought.’ A podcast that is a true must-listen for anyone with ambitions to write a non-fiction bestseller!


Host and interview: Inge Oosterhoff
Editing, mixing and sound design: Wederik de Backer
Research: Inge Oosterhoff, Roos van der Lint, Evelien Kunst
Executive producers: Judith Eigeman and Laura Das
Senior production: Evelien Kunst
Music: Chad Crouch
Audio excerpts: Penguin Random House audio and the radio documentary ‘The Chaplans Diary’ by Lorelei Harris for RTE Radio 1.

The Narrative Journalism Foundation receives support from the Democracy and Media Foundation, Pictoright, Lira Reproright, the University of Amsterdam and the Evens Foundation.

About the book Say Nothing

In March 2015, Patrick Radden Keefe wrote the article “‘Where the bodies are buried” (The New Yorker magazine) about Jean McConville, who disappeared in Belfast in 1972.

Jean McConville, mother of ten, was kidnapped by masked men in 1972. Everyone in the neighborhood knows that the IRA is responsible for her disappearance, but no one dares to talk about it. One of the most infamous events of The Troubles, this horrific murder is the beginning of the great story of the bitter conflict that has gripped Northern Ireland for thirty years.

In 2019, based on this story, the book Say Nothing was published. Patrick Radden Keefe portrays radical and rambunctious IRA members in this compelling story. The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, is ranked in the top 10 best books of the year by the Washington Post and The New York Times, and has been named the best nonfiction book of 2019 by Time Magazine.

Listen to a fragment of the book Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe below (credits: Penguin Random House Audio SoundCloud) and order the book at Savannah Bay’s online bookstand: books with the best narrative journalism especially selected for True Stories online!

Biography Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is a writer and journalist at The New Yorker. He wrote The Snakehead and Chatter, and has published for The New York Times Magazine, Slate and The New York Review of Books. Radden Keefe is a commentator for the BBC. His journalistic work has been awarded many times. His book Say Nothing is the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, in the Washington Post and The New York Times’ top 10 best books of the year, and has been named the best nonfiction book of 2019 by Time Magazine.

Photo by Philip Montgomery

Biography Inge Oosterhoff

Inge Oosterhoff (1988) is a freelance journalist and board member at the Narrative Journalism Foundation. She kickstarted her journalistic career at Dave Eggers’ oral history publisher Voice of Witness and went on to publish at, among others, De Groene Amsterdammer and The Correspondent. Last year, she made the radio documentary ‘Drie weken zonder Troubles’ (Take the Troubles away), in which she reconnects with two Northern-Irish women who grew up on opposite sides of the Northern-Irish conflict, but stayed with Inge’s family for three weeks in 1988 as part of an idealistic cross-community project.



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