Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth
is an epic so big, so sweeping, it takes 973 pages to tell the tale—and still leaves us wanting more! Set in medieval England, the saga centers on the construction of the greatest Gothic cathedral in the world. But the road to Kingsbridge is not an easy one, fraught with fire, famine, sabotage, violent attacks and bloody wars. Go inside this medieval masterpiece.
Known for suspenseful spy thrillers, Ken has sold more than 90 million books and is one of the world's most popular novelists. Although Ken says writing was the only thing he was ever good at, he had other ambitions as a young man. "I wanted to be some kind of captain of industry. Then I wanted to be in advertising, and then I wanted to be a newspaper reporter," he says. "Actually, that's what I did become. [I] became a reporter, but I wasn't great as a reporter. I started writing stories in my spare time."
In a twist of fate, a broken-down car prompted Ken to write his first novel. "My car broke down, and it was going to cost 200 pounds to fix it, and I didn't have the money," he says. With a new baby and a big mortgage, Ken applied for a loan and was denied. "One of the reporters at the newspaper [had] written a thriller, and he got 200 pounds from the publisher, so I said to my first wife, Mary, 'I know how we'll get the car back. I'm going to write a thriller.' And she said, 'Oh yeah?'"
Ken successfully submitted his manuscript to the same publisher, who paid him enough to get his car back. "Then, I said, 'Well, maybe if I try harder, I could do something better,'" Ken says. "My second book wasn't much better, but I gradually improved."