Larry Tye

How did you become a writer?

By accident. 

I was deferring law school after college and, as a native New Englander, wanted to see another part of America. Being a reporter seemed like just the way to be a voyeur, so I talked myself into a job at the Anniston Star in Alabama, found I loved reporting and writing, and stayed in journalism 20 years (I never did get that law degree). Then I made the easy jump to books, which were a longer form of telling the same kind of stories I loved doing in journalism.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

Too many to name them all, but the ones who matter most in my life are my literary agent/friend/handholder Jill Kneerim, my old Boston Globe pal and best journalist I know Sally Jacobs, my Nieman Fellowship curator/mentor Bill Kovach, and my wife Lisa.

When and where do you write? 

I start at 4:30 in the morning, go until lunch, restart early afternoon and go until dinner. I like writing best at our place near the water on Cape Cod.

What are you working on now?

I just sold to Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt my next book--a bio of Senator Joe McCarthy, whose dark story seems more relevant today than ever.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

Journalists can't afford to, and that's one of the best habits I have taken from journalist to books.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

To think before I start writing about what my book talk will be, because those are the high points/takeaways you want to convey to readers, then to work backwards.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Persistence -- with everything from coming up with just the right topic, to finding a literary agent who loves you and your topic, to sticking it out and reworking your proposal until you find a publisher, to writing about something you love so much you have no choice.

Larry Tye is a New York Times bestselling author whose most recent book is a biography of Robert F. Kennedy, the former attorney general, U.S. senator, and presidential candidate. Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon explores RFK’s extraordinary transformation from cold warrior to fiery leftist.