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!)