A Deb Moment with Guest Author John Grisham

It’s fitting that our theme this week is I Want to Learn, as I had the good fortune of meeting today’s guest author, John Grisham, while in pursuit of something I had long wanted to learn, Italian. John has wisely parlayed his Italian experience into books set in Italia: first, his bestselling novel, The Broker, and now–in a departure from the legal thrillers with which we’ve come to associate the iconic author–Playing for Pizza: A Novel. Pizza is about hack third-string NFL quarterback Rick Dockery, who becomes a national laughingstock after singlehandedly losing the AFC playoff game his team was on the brink of winning by a landslide. Booted from his team and shunned by the NFL, his agent amazingly lands him a starting quarterback position…in Parma, Italy. Thus Dockery sets off on an adventure, discovering all he did not know about himself, about Italy, and about football Americano, Italian-style.

John–or should we say Gianni–was kind enough to agree to be a guest on the Debutante Ball, despite his busy travel schedule, a pending book deadline, his sponsoring a fundraiser this week for Hillary Clinton and the release of his latest novel (check out People Magazine’s terrific review). So without further ado, a Deb Moment with esteemed author John Grisham:

Q: You have shown with previously published works that you don’t want to rest on your laurels, but rather choose to continue to stretch creatively and branch out into other subjects and genres with your books. Your last book (The Innocent Man), in fact, was non-fiction–about a man wrongfully convicted of murder, sentenced to death, and ultimately his spirit crushed despite the eventual overturning of the conviction. And now, a light-hearted story about American football in Parma, Italy. What gives?

JG: After 15 legal thrillers, I began to wonder what else I might be able to write. This is only natural for a writer to want to explore and stretch the imagination.

Q: Your audience at the Debutante Ball will be a lot of aspiring authors who are interested in the mechanics of your writing career. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing habits?

JG: When I am writing, with a serious deadline not far away, I start early in the morning, around 7 or 7:30, and work hard for about 4 or 5 hours. That’s enough. After 5 hours the brain is pretty well shot and the creative impulses have disappeared.

When I’m not writing under a deadline, which is about 7 months out of the year, I am usually collecting notes and research for future books and thinking about what to write next.

Q: Ever get anxiety over what to write at this point in your career?

JG: At this point I have more stories than I can ever write. Words and ideas are flowing freely, and I still enjoy the process.

Q: Do you have any sage words of advice for writers who might be reading this?

JG: I don’t give much advice. Each writer works differently and has a different background. The one truth, however, is that until you are writing at least one page each day, nothing will happen.

Q: What’s next for you, writing-wise?

JG: I am writing the next legal thriller, which is due in New York this fall, to be published early next year. As of today, I do not have a title, and that’s always a bad sign.

And as some at the Debutante Ball have already learned, the publisher will be happy to change your title for you anyhow, so no worries there!

After John and I spoke I tried to follow up with a burning question I’d forgotten–plotter or pantser? But John was buried deep in his work, so we’ll have to wait for that answer for another day. Look for John on the Colbert Report on Comedy Central at 11:30 EST tonight–it promises to be an amusing interview!

Thanks again, John, for taking time from your hectic schedule to spend a few minutes with us!

And for those of you thinking about pursuing a new interest, go for it! You never know what–or who–you’ll encounter along the way!

Deb Jenny (who next wants to learn violin, but fears a family revolt due to noise pollution if she attempts it!)

31 Replies to “A Deb Moment with Guest Author John Grisham”

  1. I have a friend who just had her second child and was just unable to focus to write during the pregnancy. After the baby came, she set out to write just 500 words a day. With two small children (one a needy baby) and all that entails, that is a modest yet attainable goal. She said “Hey, I’ve got 9 pages done I didn’t have last week!” Which is probably more than I’ve done in the last week!

  2. Joanne–there is no pain no gain in this business! You’ve been through the pain, that gain is just around the corner, remember!
    You should learn sign language! My aunt taught that at a university when I was little and she taught us all the naughty words πŸ˜‰

  3. Fantastic post — we’re so lucky to have him here with us!. I wonder, if he still does a page a day during his seven months of thinking?

    Jenny — I had the same trouble when I was pregnant with my second child — I became pregnant immediately after I returned from my UK book tour (Welcome Home Dear!), and then was too exhausted and/or too brain dead to write. I managed to get my column done on time, but once our daughter was born, but it took me another two years to start working on my second book. Also, I found the process of novel writing to be much slower going than whipping out a non-fiction book.

    I have to say, I enjoyed the novel-writing process more.

    What’s your favorite John Grisham book?

    Mine is SKIPPING CHRISTMAS — I loved the idea, was charmed to see a different side of him here, especially how funny he is.

    PELICAN BRIEF (my second favorite) gave a glimpse of the same things — love that line about “they run their law school and we run this hospital” So sad, the actress didn’t quite pull it off in the film.

    The man does tell a good story. πŸ™‚


  4. Thanks Deb Jenny, you asked some very insightful questions. I’m not surprised to hear that such a multi-faceted writer has more story ideas than he will ever need. Therese

  5. I loved The Broker–also partially set in Italy and I’ve read almost every book he’s written. He’s great!

    And I love it when an established author takes the huge risk of going in a new direction-you get to see another side of their writing and it’s also just admirable when someone refuses to sit on their laurels. I can’t wait to read this new book.

  6. I’m so excited to read John’s new novel! Love the premise. Please thank him once again for joining us here today to share his thoughts despite his busy schedule…can’t wait to see him on The Colbert Report tonight!

  7. This was SO cool, Jenny. Imagine my thoughts this morning as I watched and listened to John Grisham being interviewed by Matt Lauer on TODAY, while knowing I would soon be reading this post. Talk about a personal touch!

    The most practical comment — to write one page a day — makes everything seem possible. However I’d also like to know if he writes that one page throughout the year? And how does he have such a collection of stories that will never see the light of day?

    Thank you for this interview. I’ll be using my 46% discount coupon (from Barnes and Noble) to buy “Pizza” tomorrow! πŸ˜‰

  8. As others have already said, I love the page a day and also LOVE that he’s writing something so different and the fact that I went to Italy this year makes it even more intriguing for me… Thanks Jenny and John!!

  9. Thanks for posting Danielle and Jess–it’ll be fun to see him on Colbert–he’s got a funny dry southern wit so they’ll probably be a riot together.
    Larramie–I’ll try to remember to ask him that next time I run into him. I also so want to know if he writes with everything all plotted out or just by the seat of his pants. As a pantser, I’m always interested in knowing who else does that (I think his friend Stephen King is a pantser–I seem to remember reading that in his book On Writing Well). Gail–I bet it makes it more fun for you to read it ( I am dying to get back to Italy!). And Farrah–thanks for visiting –that’s pretty cool that his books were some of your early favorites!

  10. In University I once had to choose between dinner and buying a book (in hardcover no less!) I had never heard of the author- but the first page of book had me. The book was The Firm. It was well worth missing a meal- not to mention .25 beer night.

  11. Judi–you’re not supposed to be here–you’ve got campaigning to do! But thanks for swinging by! Edie–thanks for coming over as well!
    And Eileen–what a sacrifice, giving up the 25-cent beers for John’s book πŸ˜‰ . Only a dedicated writer would even consider that!

  12. What a fabulous interview- just rubbing elbows with JG is inspiring. I’ve been on a difficult brain wave for a while in regards to writing so the idea of one page a day sounds great! I’ve shot for five most days–but as we all know some days are better than others. Honestly it’s a miracle any of us women authors manage to get anything done. Boy authors don’t change diapers or manage the lives of small school-aged people too often. LOL. It takes a special bag of perseverance to do it all– write, be a mom & manage a household w/o staff. OR any career a woman might pick. Because as we know, not too many of us have staff–or helpful husbands LOL.

    I’m suddenly thinking of Hilary in the White House and Bill picking out menus for State dinners :~)

    I love that he’s branching out! Can’t wait to read the new approach. So great he agreed to do this interview. Way to GO Jenny!! Suzanne

  13. You mean all this time I believed you had a STAFF and you didn’t? I’m so surprised! πŸ˜‰
    It is true, big different between what women authors deal with and what men do. Which makes our success all the more enjoyable!

  14. Yes, I know at my house it would be a very hard sell for me to start writing at 7am! Although I am certainly up at that time and would love to have my writing done so early in the day.

    Glad I’m not the only one who thinks this motherhood/author/career thing is tough!

  15. Great interview and it’s John Grisham. How cool is that? At the beginning of the year I set a goal to write 500 words a day. That’s 152,500 words. I finished two novels this year. One book than last year. I can say John Grisham has a point with write one page a day.

  16. That was a very cool book! I loved it! I want to get it for my stepbrother and stepfather for Christmas. Even though they don’t read all that much, I think they just might make an exception for this one!

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