I recently had the opportunity to interview Scott Turow who will be one of the guests of honor at the Bouchercon 2020 this fall in Sacramento, and he kindly agreed to answer a few questions for the Rogues. If you’re not familiar with him or his legal thrillers, he’s a Harvard-educated attorney who still practices law (part-time these days). His most recent book, THE LAST TRIAL, will be out May 12, 2020. Per Booklist, in a starred review:
“Turow has established the gold standard for legal thrillers for decades, and he delivers another bar-raising example of his talent here, with his signature absorbing legal details, cerebral suspense, and fascinatingly flawed characters all on full view.”
1. Which is harder: writing the first or last sentence? For me, the last, although once I have the first sentence I know the novel is on its way. The last, however, requires me to fully understand what I am writing about.
2. Where do you like to write? One of the great blessings in my life was that my high school journalism teacher, Dr. Boyd Guest, insisted that reporters needed to be able to write anywhere. No cork-lined rooms for them! As a result, I learned to write anywhere that people will leave me alone. It’s a well-known story that I wrote much of Presumed Innocent on the morning commuter train. Airplanes also suit me well. Recently the single best place to write has been my home office in the house we rent in Naples, Florida during the grey months in the midwest, where I am often at work at sunrise.
3. What do you do when you need to take a break from writing? Respond to email and play golf.
4. If you could have lived in a different time period, what would that be? Clearly some time in the future, at least 50 years forward. I’d love to look in on my grandchildren, see how we’ve handled global warming and witness the new wonders that science has brought us.
5. What’s your favorite drink? Club soda at the moment. I’m trying to cut down on Coke Zero, which I also adore. Lagavulin is an indulgence for a celebratory moment.
6. When you were ten (or thereabout) years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Around ten, I first declared that I was going to be a novelist, my mother’s wished-for ambition for herself.
7. If you could do it all over, would you still become a lawyer? Without question. There is no doubt that the practice of law is an often nasty business, with plenty of strife between opponents and lots of silly economic pressures, but the law itself remains, as my character Sandy Stern would tell you, a noble profession, about deciding how the little of life (that) people can control can become fairer.
8. Do you have a literary hero? A teacher, mentor, family member, author who has inspired you to write stories? Saul Bellow, by the time I was in college, was the famous Jewish-American Chicago Novelist whose work seemed to hit home. But his life was no ideal. Dickens continues to fascinate me. About five years ago, we spent Christmas Day in his former house in London. He was an immense talent, who never forgot how hard his younger life was, and who was one of the first to recognize the enormous health risks to the poor from urban pollution.
11. Do you have any words of inspiration for aspiring lawyers? (My daughter is 1L, so had to ask.) Yes. The most fulfilled lawyers I know live lives where they are never remote from the core job of practicing attorneys, which is to do justice. If it becomes about only meeting deadlines or pleasing clients or making money, the law becomes a grind. If you stay in touch with the law’s larger ambitions, you can feel allied with something truly worthwhile.
Stay safe, everyone! I hope you’ll leave a comment to let us all know how you’re doing!
How terrific to have the great writer, Scott Turow as our Rogue guest! I'm envious of his being able to write "anywhere" – along with his obvious self-discipline to practice law while penning such great thrillers. It's also nice to have Scott here in Naples for part of the year — a local hero!Now, I can't wait to read THE LAST TRIAL. Welcome, Scott – and yes, please stay safe!
I can also write anywhere. I started out writing at work (don't tell anyone in Cleveland), and have written on planes, volunteering on hospice visits, and once up the street from a crime scene while waiting for a video to download.
I can almost write anywhere. I especially like airports, airplanes, trains and long car trips (riding shotgun) as long as it's not winding roads. Once, in The Netherlands, while on a tight deadline, a train to get back to Amsterdam was delayed 2 hours, and so I started writing on my phone. (Have Scrivener downloaded.) Amazing how much I got done on that tiny screen!
Looking forward to reading The Last Trial!!
Love all the insights. I've enjoyed your books for many years!
I love that your mother wanted to be a writer, too. My mother always threatened to write a book about the social lives of the people who live in Evergreen, Colorado. I great up there, and she was firmly ensconced in the society world of the Evergreenites. Oh the scandal. She would have made more in graft money! Thanks for blogging with us!
I was so looking forward to this interview with Scott Turow and can't wait to read The Last Trial! Impressed too that he (and a lot of you) can write anywhere. I can write most places, but coffee stores/cafes definitely don't work for me. I find that I start listening to the conversations around me, which can be amusing or interesting or…really banal. Too easily distracted, I guess.
Always fun to read about writers and their process.
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