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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
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John Grisham Interview (page: 3 / 3)

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  John Grisham

What advice would you give to one of these kids if they wanted to write a novel?

John Grisham: There are certain things you can do now. I don't know how much of it is talent. There has to be some talent there, the ability to tell stories, the ability to handle language. There are certain things you cannot do now, but there are certain things you can do now to prepare for it.

The basics of grammar and vocabulary are very important. And you tend to take it for granted, until you start trying to write. It is terribly important to read extensively. Virtually all writers I know are voracious readers still, and that is preparation. The more you read, the more you know. The more your imagination works, the more you read. And that's -- those are the tools of a good writer. You have to live. Nobody wants to hear -- the world does not want to hear -- a great novel from a 21 year-old. You've got to get a real job and get a real career, and you've got to go to work. And you've got to live and you've got to succeed and fail, and suffer, a little bit, or see suffering, heartache and heartbreak and all that before you really have anything to write.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

If you've got the money, it's nice to travel. Keep journals. Take notes about what you're doing. You can practice writing. You can start writing now, writing stories and books, or whatever you want to write. The discipline of it is important. All those things are important. Now, can you piece them all together and tell a wonderful story? You won't know until you try.

Did you have any conception of the kind of success that you've come to?

John Grisham: It's been one book at a time. A Time to Kill was published, but nobody bought it. About the time it was published, I was finished with The Firm. The Firm slowly became a best-seller when it was published. While it was getting this attention, I was writing the next book, which was The Pelican Brief.

Each book has built on the other. Then the movies came along and added a much heavier layer of fame and notoriety, and pressure. It's just snowballed, but there's no way I could have predicted that, because I can't predict what's going to happen next year with the movies and the books. I don't have a feel for everything that's coming.

The pressure of really sudden notoriety and success, it's good and bad. I mean, it's something you think you'd like to have, and it's something that's nice. There are a lot of rewards. The good far outweighs the bad. But you catch yourself trying to remember what's important to you, your friends and families and what you enjoyed doing years before. We have two small children, and we had a life before all this happened. And even then -- we call it BF, before The Firm, that's how we judge time -- everything we did revolved around the kids, and it's still that way. We've sort of regrouped as a family, and we kind of stick to ourselves, with a few friends.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

John Grisham Interview Photo
It makes you appreciate the friends you had, because now everybody wants to be friends. It makes you deeply appreciative of the people who are truly friends. We've stayed away from the success. We live in Mississippi, and in Virginia. We live in both places, but it's country living. We try to keep it simple, and we stay away from Hollywood, New York and all those places where the attention really is.

What does the phrase, "the American Dream" mean to you?

John Grisham: It's hard to define, but I guess I'm living it. At times I feel like I'm living a dream.

My parents did not have the benefit of college. They didn't get to go to college. They were from a very rural part of the deep South, where most of my relatives were from. College to them was always a dream. For us, it was always a requirement. We knew -- because they told us -- we'd go to college. And they worked very hard to pay for it, and to provide it for all of five kids. And I was the first member of my family to finish college, and to get a graduate degree in law, and to start practicing law. And for the family, that was a source of immense pride. To me, that's the American Dream, for one generation to keep building the dream for later generations.

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream

John Grisham Interview Photo
My success was not planned, but it could only happen in America. We entertain the world. There are very few foreign authors that sell here. There are a lot of American authors who sell well around the world. There are very few foreign movies that anybody will watch here. Yet our movies and our music are watched and listened to around the world.

True. Thanks for talking with us. It's been great.

You're welcome.

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