Wednesday, February 15, 2012

William Landay

From a Q & A with William Landay about his new novel, Defending Jacob:

What was your motivation in writing a thriller about a family in crisis?

I’d written a couple of novels before Defending Jacob that were more traditional crime novels, which is to say they were set entirely in the world of cops and criminals. (At least that is how they were pigeonholed.) I was an assistant district attorney for several years, and at the time I wrote those books the crime world was something I thought about quite a lot. By the time I started Defending Jacob, though, I had left the DA’s office and become a full-time writer — and, most importantly, a father. I remember sitting down with my editor, Kate Miciak, to discuss what to write next, for book three. We talked about writing something that was closer to my heart, a book that reflected my own life a little more, given how my life had changed. So Defending Jacob began as a way to bring together these two worlds, these two parts of my life, the world of criminal law and especially of prosecutors, and the world of raising kids in the suburbs. (I suppose this would be the time to point out that my own two boys have nothing at all to do with Jacob Barber. The only crime my kids have ever committed is not listening to their father, though they are shameless repeat offenders.)

Has your experience working as an Assistant District Attorney shaped DEFENDING JACOB?

Absolutely. I was an Assistant DA for several years in the 1990s, and many of the details in the book grew directly out of that experience. The prosecutor’s office portrayed in Defending Jacob, the Middlesex County (Massachusetts) DA’s Office, is the same one where I worked — though the characters themselves are entirely fictional. (Yes, really.) And Jacob’s murder trial, which is the main set piece of the book, is described in as much authentic detail as good storytelling allows.

But the book shows the influence of my years as a prosecutor in less obvious ways, too, I think. Those years as an ADA simply made me more aware of crime, of its danger and pervasiveness and, I admit, its drama. To put it simply, I just spent a lot of years...[read on]
Visit William Landay's website and blog.

Writers Read: William Landay (May 2007).

The Page 69 Test: The Strangler.

The Page 69 Test: Defending Jacob.

--Marshal Zeringue