John Grisham In Conversation with Candice Millard
Kansas City, Missouri
October 30th 2017, 7 pm
On Monday, I had the privilege of attending a book and writing discussion in Kansas City with #1 New York Times bestselling author John Grisham as participant and host. Grisham was joined for the hour and twenty minute by New York Times bestselling author Candice Millard, and Vivien Jennings, the founder and president of Rainy Day Books.
During the discussion, Grisham, Millard, and Jennings spoke about a wide range of topics and also informed the audience that the conversation would be recorded and professionally edited for a podcast that will drop in about a month or so online.
Some of the things discussed during the event included:
John Grisham on Books/Films/Netflix Series
Grisham spoke about…
:: The Firm and how it came about through someone shuffling around a bootleg copy of the manuscript in Hollywood before any book offers came in for it. He said the book deal only came after the movie deal was in place. He also spoke about the ending for the film and how when he saw it in theaters, his first thought was, “Who wrote that crap?”.
:: The Innocent Man, wrongful convictions, and the new six episode series coming to Netflix that has already been filmed. He seemed especially proud of this book though he has no plans to write another nonfiction book. Too much work.
:: His love for collecting rare books and how that led to his writing Camino Island. He also talked about his recent visit to Princeton University where he got to see the handwritten manuscript for Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as well as one other Fitzgerald work.
:: A Time To Kill and Sycamore Row being the only time he’s gone back to write one of his legal thriller characters. He loves Jake Brigance and feels like that is the character that is most like him and the book, A Time To Kill, is fairly autobiographical in terms of being a small town lawyer.
:: The Rainmaker and how he feels it is the best adaptation of any of his books. He spoke about hanging out on set with Francis Ford Coppola and Matt Damon being “a young kid” at the time.
:: His books being plot/issue driven, though not all are issue driven. He’s written about the mafia, wrongful convictions, law school scams, stolen manuscripts. He talked about finding an issue that gets him going and tackling it in his books, like this current release, The Rooster Bar.
Candice Millard’s Work/Books
- Millard worked for National Geographic for six years before leaving to start her family and finally write a book. She said she always wanted to write a book and her first book came about because a friend was talking to her about The River of Doubt and said it would make a great book title, which she used. Millard then spoke about the book, The River of Doubt, and Theodore Roosevelt’s exploration of the river as well as some of her own travel mishaps while researching the book overseas.
- Millard admitted to working on a Benjamin Franklin book for over a year, but in the end, she had to walk away from the project because she couldn’t “make it work”. Too bad because her ideas/research for it sounded fascinating.
- Millard talked about her current project and how it’s about the man who found the source of the Nile, which included some gruesome details she’s uncovered through her research. She mentioned how it normally takes her about five years to write one of her books because of the length of her research and Grisham responded that it’s because she writes about dead people, though in her defense, that is likely good because they can’t sue her like living people can. This moved the conversation into Grisham talking about how he was sued because of his writing the wrongful conviction book, The Innocent Man.
Grisham said he believes believes every author knows what’s going to happen in their story before they write it, whether they admit to it or not—and most, he said, do not want to admit to it. He also said he “always knows the last scene” before he writes the first scene so he knows where the story is going before he starts. He researches and outlines extensively before starting his legal thrillers on January 1st each year and finishing by July 1st. He will continue to publish his legal thrillers each October by using this schedule and will occasionally branch out in the fall each year and writing something else, like Skipping Christmas or more of Theodore Boone books. He does not plan to age Theodore Boone because he sees him as a 13 year old forever, but he’ll “never say never” to it, or anything else when he writes since he doesn’t know what will strike him as making a good story later on down the line.
Grisham admitted he gets his ideas from news headlines that intrigue him, like that of his newest book, The Rooster Bar, which came about because he read an article about The Great Law School Scam.
He mentioned someday wanting to write more Ford County books because he holds such a connection to the area.
At one point, an audience member told Grisham of her connection to and love for Reggie Love from The Client. He then spoke about becoming frustrated when he writes female characters, because it is hard for him to get inside a female character’s head and figure out what they’re thinking. He also discussed having a lot of ideas that never pan out to a book because his wife or agent will tell him they aren’t good ideas, and sometimes they aren’t. But if he starts a book and gets going on it, he said doesn’t quit it because that’s a waste of time and he’s not into doing that.
Be on the lookout for the podcast for this event because it will definitely be worth the listen. It was such an entertaining and informative evening but especially so for the fans of both authors.