Question 1: How do you find time to write?
A. I’m a criminal lawyer, my wife works full time as a television news producer, and we have three kids, so my usually response to this question is: What were you doing at five this morning? Here are a few tips:
1. Set your alarm for five a.m. (Note: I mean it.)
2. The Morning. Avoid the newspaper – and email. The cliché is you have to write every day. It’s like exercise – stop and you lose your muscle tone. So best to start early in the day.
3. Kids' Programs. Once out of diapers, kids provide a great writing opportunities – a swim lesson is a good hour, drama class is two. I’ve even written at my oldest son’s hockey games. I tap away when he’s not on the ice.
4. Mind-numbing tasks. Raking leaves, shovelling snow, chopping wood, digging ditches. Great stuff. You need time to let your mind ramble. Agatha Christie said she got her best ideas while doing the dishes.
5. Trains, Boats and Planes. I’ve often take the train to New York, a 12-hour milk run from Toronto. Bliss. Lucky Scott Turow - I understand he commutes by train to his law office in Chicago. Perfect writing time.
6. Lunch. Arrive late, when the restaurant is emptying out. Find a plug. Get in an hour before heading back to the madhouse. (Note: Avoid your pals. You really want to be a writer? Get used to eating alone.)
7. Find Those Half Hours. I call them the margin times. Five o’clock Saturday afternoon, nine o’clock on Sunday night when everyone else is watching Downton Abbey.
8. Most Important: Never take time from your clients, your friends and especially your family. Write on your own time. (Note: charge up your laptop every night)
Question 2: Where do you write?
A. Where do I not write is probably a better question. When I’m at home I tend to wander around. Out in the world, I write in noisy coffee shops, at the back of crowded courtrooms, in half-empty restaurants. I also carry copy with me, so when I can’t plug in, I can edit. Editing is a good three-quarters of the job. And I have my law office, where I both write and meet clients.
Question 3: Do you plot everything out before you write?
Answer: I wish. For some reason my brain just doesn’t work that way. I usually start with the opening chapter. Then all these characters keep coming on the stage and stumble around trying to find out what happened. I follow. At some point I try to get ahead of them. Plot is the hardest part of writing. I think that’s why so many people have half a novel in a drawer.
Question 4: Will the same characters be in your next book?
Answer: Yes, but not in a conventional sense. This will be quite a long series. But if you’ve read any of my novels, you know I don’t write typical legal thriller. I have an ensemble cast, and it keeps growing. Which is a lot of fun. The books will work standing alone, but there’s a line through all of them. I just have to keep drawing it.
Question 5: What’s your favourite part of all this?
Answer: After my first book came out, I got a call from a reader in England. She wanted to talk about the scene with Detective Greene and his father in Greene’s snowbound car. Suddenly she paused. There was a catch in her voice. “I was so moved,” she said. “It reminded me of a time I had with my mother before she died.” All I could think was: even across an ocean, with someone I didn’t know, how wonderful and powerful words can be. It’s all about the words. Their strange and infinite magic.