WATCH: Isabel Allende on studying real people for characters in her novels
When writer Isabel Allende creates characters for her novels, she often looks to real people as "models." For a crime novel she wrote, Allende said she needed to connect with a member of the U.S. military.
"I didn't want to have a caricature of a soldier, I wanted a Navy SEAL," she told the PBS NewsHour.
Allende said she eventually interviewed one of the Navy SEALs involved in the team that killed Osama bin Laden. Allende said the man was open, willing to talk about his work, "but the most important part was to watch him." Allende noticed details like how the member of the elite special operations force was an expert on wine, his love of classical music, and how he moved his hands.
Allende's new novel, "A Long Petal of the Sea," draws on historical events as its backdrop, including the Spanish Civil War and the 1973 coup in her native Chile, during which the military, supported by CIA forces from the U.S., toppled the government of socialist President Salvador Allende. Isabel was the goddaughter of Salvador, who was her father's first cousin.
For her latest book, the author said she found a "wonderful witness" to some of the real events that served as inspiration.