December 9, 2011 10:26 pm

Small Talk: John Grisham

What is my writing routine? I start each morning at 7; same desk, same cup of coffee, same everything
John Grisham

John Grisham was working as a criminal lawyer at a Mississippi practice when he began to write fiction. His first novel, A Time to Kill, was published in 1988 but it wasn’t until his second, The Firm, became a bestseller in 1991 that he devoted himself to writing. He went on to publish numerous legal thrillers, including The Pelican Brief (1992) and The Associate (2009). He has sold a total of around 300m books worldwide in 40 languages. Born in Arkansas, US, in 1955, Grisham is married with two children and lives in Virginia.

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What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?

Mark Twain’s book Roughing It, although I first read it about 20 or 30 years ago. It’s about his early days in the Wild West and the silver mines of Nevada and California. It’s always a great pleasure to get a Mark Twain book and sit down and start laughing.

What books are on your bedside table?

I keep 10 or 12 on there. I start two or three books a week but seldom finish any because I lose interest. But I have just read a great one, The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje. Also I always have a stack of non-fiction books about legal issues – I’m always probing for something that might turn into a novel.

When did you know you were going to be a writer?

I never made the decision; it wasn’t a childhood dream. It started as a secret hobby – then, halfway through A Time to Kill, I remember thinking it would be nice to publish it: I could make a few bucks and take the pressure off. It was the success of The Firm that allowed me to start writing full time. A little hobby turned into a vocation.

What book changed your life?

There are a few that I remember having a profound impact. The first was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer when I was a kid. Then Huckleberry Finn and later Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

What is your writing routine?

Once there’s a deadline for a book I start each morning at 7; same desk, same cup of coffee, same everything. I work for four hours. It’s quiet, private, there are no phones, faxes, internet. On a good day I’ll do eight to 10 pages; on a slow day, five or six.

What book do you wish you’d written?

 

Bleak House by Dickens is my favourite book about the law. I couldn’t have written it, though. Another book that has always inspired me is Little Drummer Girl by John Le Carré but I couldn’t have written that because I didn’t live in that time.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

I would have to say our horse farm in central Virginia, as we chose to live there. When we travel we often go to Paris; my wife likes Paris.

John Grisham’s latest novel is ‘The Litigators’ (Hodder & Stoughton)

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