John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. One day, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987.
His next novel, The Firm, spent 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and became the bestselling novel of 1991. Since then, he has written one novel a year, including The Client, The Pelican Brief, The Rainmaker and The Runaway Jury. Today, Grisham has written a collection of stories, a work of nonfiction, three sports novels, four kids' books, and many legal thrillers. His work has been translated into 42 languages. He lives near Charlottesville, Virginia.
Author Interview: John Grisham
International best-selling author talks about his first book for kids
By Alysa Goethe
Author John Grisham is a blockbuster author who is a favorite among grown-ups all over the world for his legal thrillers and the movies they have inspired. But on May 25, a whole new audience will discover John Grisham: kids.
Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer is Grisham's first book of fiction for kids. In this gripping story, Theodore "Theo" Boone is a 13-year-old whose dream is to become a trial lawyer. When the biggest trial in his town's history begins, Theo gets involved when he discovers a possible witness who could change the whole trial.
Kid Reporter Alysa Goethe talked with Grisham about how he created Theodore Boone and what made him decide to write for kids. The Scholastic Kids Press Corps was one of only a handful of media outlets to interview Grisham about Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.
Kid Reporter: What inspired you to write this particular book? Why a series?
John Grisham: I'm always inspired first by a story, and I've been thinking about a 13-year-old lawyer for a long time. The series is the best format to tell many stories, and I have lots of ideas.
KR: Why did you decide to write a children's book after writing so many books for adults?
Grisham: I'm intrigued by the kinds of books I have not written, yet. I'm not bored with legal thrillers, but I find myself restless at times and wanting to explore.
KR: What other books for children are you planning to write?
Grisham: No plans for anything other than the Theo Boone series, plus the annual legal thriller for adults.
KR: How did the character of Theodore Boone originate? What inspires you about this character?
Grisham: There was no "Ah Ha!" moment when Theo came to life; rather, he evolved slowly. I remember when I first thought that both his parents would be lawyers and that he would be an only child. In that environment, Theo would know a lot of law.
KR: How much research do you do before and during the writing of a book? Was it easier to write a children's book?
Grisham: There's always research. Some books require more than others. For example, with Theo, I had to study cases in an effort to determine what a real trial judge might do with a surprise witness. There was no clear answer. Theo was indeed easier to write than a legal thriller. The plot is not as complex, and the manuscript is shorter. I enjoyed writing the book.
KR: Are your books inspired by actual cases that you have worked?
Grisham: I'm inspired by things I remember from being a lawyer, though that was 20 years ago now. More frequently, I am inspired by actual events, headlines, current affairs, and so on.
KR: What has been your most challenging book that you have written? What's been your favorite book?
Grisham: The most challenging book, by far, was The Innocent Man. It's a true story, and thus required a ton of research, far more than what is required by a novel. My favorite book is still my first, A Time To Kill.
KR: What are you planning on writing next either for kids or adults?
Grisham: I'm almost finished with The Confession, a legal thriller for adults, scheduled for publication this November.
KR: What did your kids think of Theodore Boone? Did they have any input in the character or the story?
Grisham: My son is now 27 and my daughter is 24, and though adults they thoroughly enjoyed Theo Boone and his adventures. We had several disagreements. For example, Theo seems somewhat disinterested in girls, at the age of 13. My son assured me that by that age he was keenly interested in girls. My daughter confirmed this – when she was in the 8th grade she was boy crazy.
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