Small talk: Scott Turow

Scott Turow began his university education in creative writing but finished it studying law. Born in Chicago in 1949, he graduated from Harvard Law School and worked as a US assistant attorney in his home city for eight years. His debut novel, Presumed Innocent (1987) and the eight novels that followed have sold more than 25m copies worldwide. Of his two non-fiction books, Ultimate Punishment (2003) is a reflection on the death penalty. Turow is a partner in a Chicago law firm. He has three children and lives just outside the city.

What book changed your life?

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, when I was 17. It thrilled me so profoundly.

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

I’ll Mature When I’m Dead: Dave Barry’s Amazing Tales of Adulthood. He’s the funniest man in the US.

What books are on your bedside table?

I’m away from home so on my iPad I have Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I want to see what all the fuss is about.

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

Age 11, after reading The Count of Monte Cristo [by Alexandre Dumas]. But at university I decided writing would not support me.

What is your writing routine?

I usually start by 8am and if I spend three hours in the chair then it’s a great day. I only spend 45 minutes out of every hour writing – the other 15 is spent sending e-mails and at the fridge, zoning out. I work part-time as a lawyer a couple of afternoons a week.

Who are your literary influences?

Saul Bellow. He and my father were in high school together. He is the literary recreation of my father’s sensibility and he helped me to come to terms with the world I came from. Dickens has had more direct influence on my style, syntax and grammar than anyone else.

Which literary character most resembles you?

Levin in Anna Karenina. He’s someone who wins by persistence.

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?

Probably Madonna.

When were you happiest?

I’m absolutely happy right now. I’m busy and productive, I’m in love, I’ve just published a book I’m pleased with and I’m in a good place with my kids.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Florence. It’s one of the world’s treasuries.

What does it mean to be a writer?

For me it means being really, really lucky. Writing is one of life’s great gigs, to be able to sit around all day with my imaginary characters.

Scott Turow’s latest novel is ‘Innocent’ (Mantle)

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