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If you like John Grisham's story, you might also like:
Tom Clancy,
Khaled Hosseini,
Norman Mailer,
Frank McCourt,
James Michener
and Amy Tan

John Grisham's recommended reading: The Grapes of Wrath

John Grisham also appears in the video(s):
So, You Want to Be a Writer Vol.1,

So, You Want to Be a Writer Vol.2

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring John Grisham in the Achievement Curriculum section:
So You Want to be a Writer

Related Links:
John Grisham

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John Grisham
John Grisham
Profile of John Grisham Biography of John Grisham Interview with John Grisham John Grisham Photo Gallery

John Grisham Interview

Best-Selling Author

June 2, 1995
Williamsburg, Virginia

Print John Grisham Interview Print Interview

  John Grisham

Did you have a clear idea of wanting to write books? What was your earliest goal?

John Grisham Interview Photo
John Grisham: To play professional baseball, like every kid, from the time I was six years old until I was 20. It took a long time for the dream to die. It took a long time to realize I didn't have the talent to play, which is always difficult to accept.

At what point did you decide to become a lawyer, and how did you go on to become a writer?

John Grisham: There was a pivotal moment. I grew up in a very small, close-knit, Southern Baptist family, where everything was off-limits. So I couldn't wait to get to college and have some fun. And I did for the first two years. And I regret a lot of it, because my grades were in terrible shape. I never got in serious trouble, except for my grades.

For two years of college, I was going nowhere. And before my junior year in college I said to myself, "Enough of the partying, it's time to get busy and get serious." And I decided to study accounting, which was a tough degree to get, and to take that and go to law school and become a tax lawyer. I had sort of a business background, or mentality, I guess. That's what I enjoyed. And I did. At that point I just said, "Okay, it's time to get serious." And I was 20 years old. And at about the same time I said, "Okay, it's time to forget about playing baseball." I'd played baseball in junior college, and so it was time for that boyhood dream to go away. And at that point I was no longer a kid.

Sometimes giving up a dream can lead to other dreams.

John Grisham: Yeah. I had to give that up before I could really be happy pursuing something else. It had been with me so long and the talent simply was not there. I can't tell you what made it happen, but it was a very real, definite moment, when I said, "Okay, it's time to grow up."

John Grisham Interview Photo
The writing has come fairly late in life. I never dreamed of being a writer when I was a kid, even a student, even in college. In fact, I'd been practicing law for about three or four years in the early '80s, when I decided to make a stab at writing a story that I'd been thinking about. And the story eventually became A Time to Kill.

It took three years to write it, and I was very disciplined about doing it. It was very much a hobby. By the time I finished it, I had developed a routine of writing every day. When I finished it, I went to the next book, which was The Firm. Once that was written, everything started changing. I wouldn't use the word "accident," but it certainly wasn't planned. I never dreamed of it.

You found the time to write, so you must have been pretty motivated.

John Grisham: The bulk of the first two books,

A Time to Kill and The Firm, those books were written over a five-year period, back-to-back, from about 1984 to about 1989. The bulk was written at five o'clock in the morning, from five 'til seven in the morning. I'd get up and go to the office that early. And again, it wasn't any fun, but it was a habit. It got to be part of the daily routine. And I remember several times being in court at nine o'clock in the morning, really tired, because writing takes a lot out of you. It's draining. And I would do it for an hour or two in the morning, and get ready for court, and go to court. Be standing, waiting for the judge, and be really tired.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

What is so satisfying to you about writing?

John Grisham: When I started all this, my motives were pure, I was not driven by greed or money. I had a story. It was a courtroom drama.

I was doing a lot of courtroom work, I was a very young lawyer. But I was handling a lot of court appointed criminal cases, in trial a lot. And I knew the criminal system, and I knew a lot about it. And so, I came up with a story about a murder trial, and some of it was based on personal experience, most of it was not. And I kept telling myself, I would like to be the lawyer who defended a father who murdered the two guys who raped his daughter. I think that would be a fascinating case. One thing led to another, and I was sort of consumed with this story. And one night I just said, "Okay. I'm going to try to capture it, see what I can do with words." And that's what happened.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

Did you have any experiences when you were a kid that inspired you?

John Grisham: There were a couple of things that were very important in my childhood. Number one, my mother did not believe in television. We just didn't watch much of it. She just thought it was bad, and that was 30 years ago. She believed in books, and we were taught to read early. We were encouraged to read, throughout childhood and adolescence, by my mother.

We moved a lot when I was a kid, throughout the deep South. We would always go to a new town and go to the library, get our library cards and load up with books. And we spent our time reading, reading to each other. And my mother spent a lot of time reading to us. I've always had a love for books and a love for literature and a love for reading. Oddly, I never thought about writing until late in life.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

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This page last revised on Mar 23, 2009 11:42 EDT
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