I remember when John Grisham exploded onto the scene, and THE FIRM went huge. I was thinking about law school, and a family member gave me a copy of the book, saying I should read it. I did, and I loved it. The whole country loved it. Of course, John’s career took off after that (rightly so), and it was amazing to watch. A number one book every year. All those great movies.
No offense to my lawyer friends, but I never much liked being an attorney. I suspected as much in graduate school, which is when I wrote two spectacularly unpublished novels. Once in practice, I was a criminal law guy, which gave me about a hundred reasons to hate the job. Killers. Rapists. That sort of thing.
And there was John, just kicking it.
I think every lawyer in the world was envious. Fame and money? Sure. No more guilty clients? That sounded good, too. Watching John take off like a rocket is what gave me the spine to write yet another novel. That third effort became THE KING OF LIES, and changed my life; but that’s another, much longer story.
The point is that writing is hard to do, and making a living at it is even harder. We can all use a reason to hope and strive, to accept the sometimes-massive sacrifice of time, energy and peace-of-mind. To even try for success means risk, sweat and pain - because you’ve got to put it all on the page, heart and soul. Every writer who’s finished a manuscript knows what I’m talking about. For that kind of dream-chasing it’s good to have a little inspiration. For some, it’s the idea of fame or money, or simply proving to the world that you can do it. I’ll admit to having had all of those things in my heart.
But there was also John. And watching him storm the beaches of this difficult, unforgiving industry, watching him commit and deliver book after book was the most impressive thing, and, to my mind, the ultimate expression of personal freedom, the way he built that life, just carved it out of pure imagination. We’re friends, now. We live in the same town, and hang out with other writer types, drinking wine and talking books. John likes to say I stalked him all the way to Charlottesville. My reply, invariably, is that he’s worn that joke to a nub; but there are these small truths behind it. First, that I might not have been here without his example – and that we all need such examples. Second, that it’s good to meet your heroes, to say Thank you, face to face; that it’s even better to be friends.