How did you become a writer?
I guess the simple answer is that I became a writer during my junior year at UC Berkeley, when after about a thousand sketches of one thing or another, I decided to write a novel-length work. So I started trying to put down a page or two a day, and within about four months, I’d finished my first book. It wasn’t very good, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I had written — and gotten to the end of — a book! So, published or not, I was a writer!
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
My first writing influence was Ernest Hemingway. I loved his voice and his style and also, to be fair, his life story, tragic though it may have been. But I really can’t blame it all on Hemingway — I was a voracious reader from an early age, and by the time I was in college, I’d found dozens of great writers to enjoy and sometimes try to emulate: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Albert Camus, Lawrence Durrell, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rex Stout, Elmore Leonard, Patrick O’Brian, and a host of others. I read everything I could get my hands on.
When and where do you write?
I’ve been incredibly fortunate in having a career that’s gone on for so long, 29 books (including next January’s) and counting, and most of those have been written under contract. This has allowed me to treat my writing as a “day job” now for many years. So I’ve got a regular office (actually, a small house!) that I go to every day to put in my pages. I usually get into “work” at around 10:00 or 10:30, then I answer my emails and phone messages, basically doing all that I can to put off putting my ass in my chair and starting to write by about 1:00 o’clock. Once I get going, I tend to keep at it until around 5:00, and hopefully I’ll have pages I can live with by then.
What are you working on now?
Just last week, I finished the copy-editing on my next book featuring Dismas Hardy/Abe Glitsky, and the gang. Entitled THE RULE OF LAW, this book comes out, as mentioned above, in January of 2019. So . . . what I’m working on now is not writing anything for a while. I’ve not even gotten to the galleys of THE RULE OF LAW, so I’m taking a little break at the moment, and enjoying it immensely.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
The best definition of writer’s block that I’ve ever heard is that it’s a “failure of nerve.” It’s basically something that real writers have to learn to cope with, often by simply not acknowledging its existence. After all, plumbers don’t get “plumber’s block.” What writers have to do is come into work and put down pages on a regular basis. It often helps to consider yourself a genius during this phase, and not be too critical of the work you’re creating. You can fix any errors on the next draft. Meanwhile, keep writing and if writer’s block rears its ugly head, don’t give into the temptation to whine about how hard it all is, just swat it down . . . hard!
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
When I first started trying to write, I wanted to make sure my characters were interesting and multi-faceted, with all kinds of personal stuff — demons, habits, fears, foibles — to make them come alive. All of this was well and good as far as it went, but unfortunately it didn’t do much about plot. When I was just beginning to work on my first Dismas Hardy story, I knew that I had quite a well-rounded character, but there still seemed to be a large element that was missing. At about this time, I went to a Mystery Writers meeting in Los Angeles and Jon Kellerman happened to be the guest speaker, talking about . . . guess what? Plot. It was all very simple, he said. You’ve got to have great characters, yes, but just as important, you’ve got to have them do something. You have to have action. Character is revealed through action (which includes dialogue)! And beyond that, it’s the only way that character is revealed. And, as an added bonus, it turns out that (in the words of Andre Malraux), character is fate. That was all I needed . . . the best bit of advice I’ve ever heard about writing. Thanks, Jon.
What’s your advice to new writers?
Believe. It can happen. Pardon the language, but don’t let the bastards bring you down. There will always be people who criticize your work, but if you continue to believe, improve and produce, you will win out in the end.
John Lescroart is co-President (with Heather Graham) of the International Thriller Writers ("ITW") and the author of twenty-nine novels, eighteen of which have been NY Times Bestsellers. Libraries Unlimited has named him among “The 100 Most Popular Thriller and Suspense Authors.” With sales of over twelve million copies, his books have been translated into twenty-two languages in more than seventy-five countries, and his short stories appear in many anthologies. His short story “The Adventure of the Giant Rat of Sumatra” was selected for the 1998 edition of Houghton Mifflin’s THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES, edited by Sue Grafton. Additionally, his short story "Dunkirk" appeared in the 2015 Anthony and Silver Falchion Award winning anthology, IN THE COMPANY OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. John and his wife, Lisa Sawyer, live in Northern California.