When my debut novel, Lemongrass Hope, came out in the fall of 2014, the local library hosted a launch event complete with press, a Q & A session, and a cake decorated with the cover of my novel. It was a full circle moment for me as that novel had been five years in the making. I’d left my prior law career in 2009 for what was supposed to be a one-year sabbatical.
Before that, when I was a corporate litigator in Manhattan, the building that housed our offices also housed the Vogue Magazine offices. Every morning, I’d walk in the building with droves of other people reporting to work for the day and the seas would part with all of the boring-looking-navy-blue-trial-suits heading to the left, while all of the beautiful people headed to the right.
It was a striking visual and I remember thinking often that I wanted to be with the beautiful people headed to the right – the creatives.
At my debut launch, I fielded questions about the process of writing and my journey to publication, but there was one question posed that stumped me:
“Are you a lawyer who writes? Or a writer who used to be a lawyer?”
I fumbled for a moment, and then I answered honestly.
I write like a lawyer
Over the years, as I have spent more time reflecting on and honing my writing process, I have realized that I did, and I do, write like a lawyer. For lots of reasons. Not the least of which is that I have generally written toward an ending.
Put simply, my three published novels have come to me the same way: as endings. And I often describe my process as having worked backward to unravel the story – back to its beginning – in a way that would help that ending make sense.
My experience of practicing law was similar. As a litigator, my cases often came to me as endings. My clients were already being sued. The conflict had already occurred.
Indeed, the consequences of actions had often already unfolded, and it was my job to unravel a way back to the beginning – to help tell the client’s story in a way that would shine a new light on that ending.
Help it all make sense.
Recently, I have been thinking about that debut launch more and more, as I work on my fourth novel. I’ve been away from the practice of law for nearly decade, and while my thirteen years of experience in the law certainly shaped my writing, the time away from the law has begun to shape it even more.
Start at the beginning
In fact, my current novel in progress has come to me in a very different way than the others … as a beginning. I have been developing it into a winding, twisting story for over a year now. It may well be that soon I will have a very different answer for that question asked all those years ago.
I just might be a writer who used to be a lawyer.
It could be time for a new beginning after all.