Sunday, September 2, 2012

William Landay

From Linda Yezak's Q & A with William Landay about his latest novel, Defending Jacob:

Q: Defending Jacob is an excellent psychological study of the impact of traumatic news on a family, in this case, not so much the fourteen-year-old defendant himself, but on his parents. Your characterization is amazing. For a prosecutor, you illustrate incredible powers of empathy to be able to step into the shoes of a defendant’s family and convincingly describe their side of the story. Did you allow yourself this empathy on the job? Do you draw on your experience as a prosecutor for your characterization?

A: Yes, absolutely I drew on my experience as a prosecutor in drawing Andy Barber and his world. That is the one irreplaceable advantage of having done the job for eight or so years: I know and understand that world intimately, I can speak the language fluently, I understand the process as an insider. No amount of research could replace that.

In some ways, it makes it daunting to move on to other sorts of stories after Defending Jacob. Of course I could keep writing about prosecutors and their cases, but I have no desire to write the same book over and over, to churn out the literary equivalent of TV’s “Law & Order.” I hate the idea of falling into a rut. As Orwell said of Dickens, “What people always demand of a popular novelist is that he shall write the same book over and over again, forgetting that a man who would write the same book twice could not even write it once.” Amen. So I will have to venture out of my comfort zone — it’s the only thing I’m comfortable with.

As for “allowing myself” to empathize with defendants and their families while I was a prosecutor, I’m not sure...[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