Alain de Botton

How did you become a writer? I wanted to experience the pleasure of systematically working out what I thought and laying down my ideas for other people to read. I liked the calm that came from expressing, rather than just feeling things.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.). I was influenced by the tradition of essayistic writing. In this category, there is Montaigne, Stendhal, Virginia Woolf, Roland Barthes. I was also influenced by the photographer Sophie Calle, who mixes text and image.

When and where do you write? I write in a little rented room in North London, near my home. I also write in bed, late at night.

What are you working on now? I am writing a novel about marriage.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? Most days there are periods when I cannot write. Writing frightens me.

What’s your advice to new writers? Never ever become a writer. Go into management consultancy instead.

Scott Turow

How did you become a writer? MY DREAM WAS TO BE A NOVELIST FROM THE TIME I WAS A KID.  I ALWAYS SAY THAT THE GREAT BREAK OF MY LITERARY CAREER WAS GOING TO LAW SCHOOL—IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST FORTUITOUS DECISIONS OF MY LIFE. I WAS A LECTURER IN THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT AT STANFORD, AND FOR ME GOING TO LAW SCHOOL MEANT GIVING UP A TEACHING CAREER. BUT I REALIZED I WAS PASSIONATE ABOUT THE LAW AND THE QUESTIONS IT ASKS, ABOUT DECIDING RIGHT FROM WRONG FOR AN ENTIRE SOCIETY, FASHIONING RULES THAT ARE FIRM YET FLEXIBLE ENOUGH TO FIT THE MULTITUDE OF HUMAN CIRCUMSTANCES. THOSE QUESTIONS CONTINUE TO PREOCCUPY ME. THE TRUTH IS THAT I BECAME NOT ONLY A MUCH MORE SUCCESSFUL WRITER WHEN I STARTED WRITING ABOUT THE LAW, BUT ALSO A MUCH BETTER ONE AS WELL, BECAUSE I WAS WRITING ABOUT THINGS THAT GRIPPED ME TO THE CORE. 

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.). DICKENS, SAUL BELLOW, GRAHAM GREENE, JOHN LECARRE’. I THINK DICKENS HAD A LOT OF INFLUENCE ON THE WAY I CONCEIVE OF NOVELS, BUT THE STYLE AND CONTENT WERE MY OWN BLUNDERING DISCOVERIES. AS FOR BELLOW, THERE IS NO IMITATING HIS REMARKABLE VOICE, BUT HE CERTAINLY GAVE ME AN IDEA OF THE AMPLITUDE OF THE THIRD PERSON AND THE RICH MIX OF IDIOMS AND RHETORICS IT CAN CONTAIN.

When and where do you write? I WRITE IN THE MORNINGS. THE GREATER PORTION OF DAYS FINDS ME UP BY 7 AND LOOKING THROUGH THREE NEWSPAPERS OVER COFFEE. BY NO LATER THAN 8:30 I’M AT MY DESK, WRITING.

What are you working on now? I’M WRITING A YA NOVEL RIGHT NOW FOR WHICH MY GRANDFATHER IS THE INSPIRATION. I’VE ALSO STARTED THE RESEARCH FOR A NOVEL SET AT THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT AT THE HAGUE.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? YES AND GETTING STARTED IS HARD. RESEARCH HELPS OVERCOME THE INITIAL BLOCK. LATER ON I SIMPLY RE-READ WHAT I’VE WRITTEN BEFORE.

What’s your advice to new writers? WRITE. DON’T TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO WRITE, OR FIGURE YOU’RE GETTING SOMEWHERE BECAUSE YOU’RE RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH WRITERS. NIKE PUT IT BEST: JUST DO IT. 

Bio: Scott Turow is a writer and attorney. He is the author of ten best-selling works of fiction, including his first novel, Presumed Innocent (1987) and the sequel, Innocent, published by Grand Central Publishing in May, 2010. His newest novel, Identical, was published by Grand Central Publishing in October, 2013. He has also written two non-fiction books about his experiences in the law. Mr. Turow has been a partner in the Chicago office of Dentons (formerly Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal), an international law firm, since 1986, concentrating on white collar criminal defense, while also devoting a substantial part of his time to pro bono matters. He has served on a number of public bodies, including the Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment to recommend reforms to Illinois’ death penalty system, and was the first Chair of Illinois’ Executive Ethics Commission which was created in 2004 to regulate executive branch employees in the Illinois State government. He is also President of the Authors Guild, the nation’s largest membership organization of professional writers, and is currently a Trustee of Amherst College.

 

Tim Siedell

How did you become a writer? The usual way. I wanted to become a sports columnist so I went to journalism school. I fell in love with advertising and became a copywriter instead. Then a creative director. Then I owned my own agency, which meant I spent more time in meetings than actually writing. Then I started tweeting as a creative release, which helped me find a comedic voice I didn’t know I was looking for, really. And I got some attention as a result. Then I was brought out to Hollywood to work on some projects, which opened up even more doors. Now I’m a freelance writer doing all kinds of things. One of which is writing a column for a sports magazine, so I guess I made it.  

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.)? Ray Bradbury. Hemingway. Ad man David Ogilvy. Writer/performers like Stan Freberg, Bob Newhart, Steve Martin, and Bob and Ray. If you like great writing, listen to The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart. My favorite author, however, is Cormac McCarthy. I happen to think “Blood Meridian” is one of the best American books ever written. I also wonder if this is the first time Bob Newhart and Cormac McCarthy have been mentioned in the same paragraph.

When and where do you write? I write at my computer in my upstairs office, but I try to do as much thinking as possible away from the computer. It’s the ad guy in me. I do a lot of my thinking with a pencil and blank paper. I have a system built on scribbles and doodles and circles and stars and arrows. Then I go write and rewrite (and rewrite) on the computer. I’m a night owl, but I tend to do my thinking at night and my writing in the morning. The afternoon is my self-loathing time.

What are you working on now? I’m putting the finishing touches on a comic book miniseries for Dark Horse. The first issue of “Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows” comes out December 18. This is my second Vader series.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? I use the excuse all the time, but even I don’t believe myself. Sometimes I feel really productive and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes my brain pumps out great idea after great idea and sometimes it doesn’t. I try to look for clues one way or another and adjust accordingly. It might mean working on something else for a while. Or letting the subconscious work things out while I take a walk. Other times it means a 15-hour writing session.

What’s your advice to new writers? Beyond reading and writing? My advice would be to live a creative life. By that I mean, keep your radar up at all times. Go places. Do things. Look around. Observe other people. Listen to how they talk. The worst thing a creative person can do is sit in a room and create all day. Let new stuff flow into your brain and collide with all that old stuff you’ve accumulated over the years. Then make sure you have a pencil and some blank paper handy, just in case there’s a spark.

Bio: Tim Siedell is a freelance writer living in Nebraska. He remains best known for his Twitter account, which is a fact he finds somewhat embarrassing. He’s been called one of the best people to follow on Twitter by the likes of Maxim, MSNBC, NPR and TIME magazine—and has twice been named the top person to follow by Paste Magazine. Advertising Age named him one of 21 influencers reshaping media.