Thursday, December 2, 2010

Legal eagles

This cycle we're doing two really exciting things:  we're talking about our journey to becoming writers, and we're also giving away free books!  What could be better than free books?!  Especially during the holiday season.  Just leave a comment on this post and you'll be entered to win a signed copy of my novel, Jack with a Twist.  (Signed for you or for a friend, if you'd like to give it as a gift!)

The question I’m most often asked about being a writer is how I made the transition from lawyer to published author.  People want to know why so many authors were lawyers first.  There’s Emily Giffin, Lisa Scottoline and the Girlfriends Book Club’s very own Maggie Marr, just to name a few.

There are lots of answers to this question—there’s the discipline that it takes to be a lawyer that translates really well into being an author.  Sit in front of a computer screen for hours upon hours? No problem! Work in your isolated office by yourself for days on end? Just part of the job. And then there’s the ability to work with the partners or senior lawyers. After you’ve had a scary partner mark your brief up with red pen (and quite possibly yell at you about it), working with an editor who’s only trying to make your manuscript even better is a piece of cake.

But for me, the truth is, I’ve always been a writer. Even as a little girl, I’d make up stories and write them down. My love of writing is the reason I became a lawyer in the first place—trying to find a career where I could write full time. I practiced at a large law firm and also did a federal clerkship, but I just couldn’t find the perfect niche for myself in law. Even while I’d been practicing law, I’d find thinking about these fictional stories that I wanted to write.

My debut novel
I began working on my first novel while I was still working full time. The first step in becoming a published author was to take a writing class. Before that, I was really writing without a net, not knowing anything about story structure or how to really craft a novel. A friend of mine suggested a writing class and I scoffed. “I know how to write,” I told her. “I know you know how to write,” she told me, “but don’t you want to learn the rules?”

It was a real a-ha moment for me. I immediately enrolled in a writing class and, armed with the basics of character, story structure, and story elements, began writing like crazy. I wrote whenever I could. Instead of renting a movie on a rainy night, I would just sit and write. If I was able to take a lunch break, I’d be there in the coffee shop, writing. If a friend was late in meeting me for dinner, I’d be at the bar, pen and pad in hand. And buses and subways? I’d always be there, head down, scribbling away furiously.

My second novel
Once I had completed my manuscript and edited it to a polished gem, it was time to find an agent. There was a lot of rejection at first (and I mean A LOT), but then I met Mollie Glick from the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency (she’s now with Foundry Literary + Media). It was an instant connection and I immediately knew that I wanted her to represent me. Mollie then took it from there and found the perfect home for my book with Selina McLemore at Red Dress Ink. Selina offered me a two book deal, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Two novels under my belt, I’m now working on my third. I don’t even miss law one little bit! Who are your favorite lawyers-turned-authors?

Anyone else out there who started in one career only to abandon it and start another?  How did you do it?

Just leave a comment on this blog post and you'll be entered to win a signed copy of Jack with a Twist.  Don't forget to give me your contact info so that I can reach you if you've won.  Good luck and happy holidays!


  1. It's funny- I've noticed how many lawyers-turned-authors there are, but I've never really thought about why that is. Your explanation makes sense, though.

    I'd love to be entered to win your book. I love the cute cover!

  2. Hi Brenda, You write about an intriguing transition from writer to lawyer to writer. It makes me want to read one of your books! Your titles and covers are great too!

  3. Brenda, you're right, there are a ton of recovered lawyers writing! In the mystery field, legal thrillers are huge sellers--think Lisa Scottoline, Scott Turow, John Grisham...

    Do your books use your experience in the field of law as part of the story?

  4. I wonder if people know how much writing is involved in the field of law. Lawyers are writing CONSTANTLY.

    Loved reading about your journey, Brenda! I can picture you scribbling away every chance you got. :)

  5. Ahhhh. You've helped explain why I have so many writers in my novel writing classes. It all makes so much sense now. BUT... let's not underestimate the power of your vivid imagination and your wonderful sense of humor. That's what makes your books so much fun... don't know too many lawyers who are as witty and wise. Thanks for a great post Brenda... can't wait to read your latest.

  6. Very interesting post. Wasn't Julie Buxbaum also a lawyer? And Emily Giffen? Now that makes me want to go check.

    Only disciplined writers end up finishing, right?

    Happy Holidays, Brenda.

  7. Brenda...I thoroughly enjoy your books and cant wait for something new!!!!

  8. Great blog, Brenda. I'm a fan of Emily and Giffin and Julie Buxbaum and you, of course!

  9. I've always wondered why there were a lot of ex-lawyer/writers. Makes perfect sense to me! Your books have always intrigued me, Brenda. I have to put them at the top of my tbr pile :)

  10. What a great story, Brenda . . . and so much of writing involves discipline, doesn't it? In my former life I was a high school English teacher--which was also great practice for my writing life.

  11. Great post, Brenda. I always want to eat the cover of Scot on the Rocks.

  12. After leaving a banking career to care for my four small sons, I used to drop them off at Mother's Day Out for 5 hours twice a week. At the time, I wondered if there was any other mother in the whole Mother's Day Out universe who used every last child-free minute to polish essays.

  13. Hi Brenda--nice to "meet" you! (I'm here via Lauren Baratz-Logsted's post on Facebook.)

    I've always thought of lawyers as the stodgy, straight-laced sort, so thanks for giving me a new perspective on that. And now...I'm eager to learn more about your novels!

  14. i love Scot on the Rocks & have read it twice. also love Jack with a Twist. Can't wait for the next book. i am a huge fan of Emily Giffin & read tons of John Grisham & some of Lisa Scottoline. Keep up the good work & have a happy holiday season!

  15. Hi Brenda,
    You certainly have all of the elements of a writer! Congratulations on your wonderful success!

    I was a high school English teacher before becoming a full-time author. Your agent, Mollie Glick, is a neat woman. I met her at an event in NYC some years ago. (I love my agent, too - nothing makes a writer's career better than an awesome agent!)

  16. Thank you so much for all of the wonderful comments!!

    Jonita and Lauren, thank you for the compliments! I appreciate it so much.

    Roberta, I don't use my experience too much. In JACK WITH A TWIST, the protagonist is involved in her first big case and I used my experience with large scale civil litigations to fill in the details about what she'd actually be doing in order to get the case started. And then I used my experience in clerking for a federal judge for all of the court conference scenes. Okay, so now that I'm saying it, I guess I really *did* use my legal experience!

    Ellen and Saralee, you guys are just the best!!

    Malena, yes! You are right. I can't believe I forgot about Julie Buxbaum.

    Lucas & Ryan's mom, thank you! You totally rock.

    Thanks, Karin! You inspire all of us to write kick ass blogs.

    Maria, thank you! And please do move me to the top of your tbr pile. :)

    Judy, I did not know that about you! I wonder if we would've succeeded as writers without our pre-writing lives....

    Lauren, I am emailing you a pic of the cake my sister-in-law had made for me- it's my book cover in fondant!!!

    Cindy, I'm writing this as my son is napping upstairs!

    Melodye, so nice to meet you, too! I'm thrilled you are here. Funny what you say about lawyers being straight-laced. Suffice it to say that I was NOT one of those lawyers! And neither are my characters.....

    Daphne, thank you so much! And I love you for telling me that. :)

    Happy holidays, everyone!! Winner of the book will be announced later tonight!

  17. Thanks for posting this giveaway. I'd love for a chance to win this book. :)
    I started out majoring in special education and then switched to psychology. Then I ended up in office jobs that have nothing to do with either. However, I now work for a Jewish non-profit, which is very meaningful to me. :)

    mbamster0720 at gmail dot com

  18. Brenda
    What a great post. Ahhh...the law. I miss it sometimes. You are right there is a definite discipline that comes with the first year of law school and then every job after you graduate. You just sit there, in your office, alone, reading and writing and reading until you get the argument right. Great prep for the first, second, third, fourth, twentieth draft of a manuscript.

  19. Hi, Brenda! I know a lot of lawyers. They are, to a one, extremely bright, extremely disciplined and extremely verbal people, so I'm not surprised to see so many lawyers-turned-authors. I do wonder, though, whether it's hard to leave the lawyer's salary behind. :)

  20. As a current lawyer, I don't think the average new lawyer salary is anything that would be missed. I hope to transition to writing someday soon, but student loans are keeping me practicing law for the time being. Don't forget Laura Caldwell in the lawyer-turned-author category.

  21. Loved your story, Brenda, and the insight into the similarities between law and writing ;). I remember Emily Giffin was a lawyer and Kelly James Enger. Was Alesia Holliday, too? I was a teacher in my life before becoming a novelist. Lots of writing in that profession, too!

  22. I have noticed that. And while I thought it was curious I never really thought about why before. But really your post makes a lot of sense.

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

  23. Thanks for the look into "what makes you tick!" I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! It really clicked with me. Maybe it will help me get the discipline I need to sit down and write instead of walking around saying "I've always wanted to write a book."

    I read Emily Giffin and Lisa Scottoline, but through this blog, I've collected more names to add to the list! Looking forward to reading Jack With A Twist! Thanks!

  24. I didn't realize there were so many lawyers turned authors! I have a cousin who started out as an English major and ended up a lawyer!
    ra6352 (at) gmail (dot) com

  25. I am having so much fun reading all the Girlfriends "how I did it" stories. Thanks for yours, Brenda! I know when I was growing up (and writing, but not thinking that being a writer was an actual career), I wanted to either be a lawyer or a teacher. Then I ended up majoring in public relations. All those careers definitely draw people who love words, eh? Seems lik lots of mystery & crime fiction authors come from the legal world (or academics).

  26. There are a host of lawyers-turned-writers, especially romance authors. Cara Putnam is one.

    I enjoy stories about how authors got their start.

  27. Thanks for an interesting post Brenda! I love Emily Giffin and am looking forward to checking out your books. Love your cover and title! This is such a great topic!

  28. I'm always the only dude! Congrats on your 2 book deal!

  29. It is nice to see someone so passionate about their profession!

  30. I always wondered about the lawyer to fiction author transition & how it happens. Thank you for shedding some light on that, awesome giveaway!

  31. Awesome, awesome comments!!

    Heather, amen, sista! I totally agree with you.

    Melissa, so glad to see lots of other people are profession-swapping these days!!

    Maggie, you're kidding about missing it, right?!

    Lauren, VERY good point about that salary! Oh, how I miss it. And so does my shoe collection.

    Angie, how could I forget about Laura?!

    Marilyn, there are other teachers-turned-writers I'm learning. Maybe you should do a post about that. :)

    Donnas, thanks for visiting! Now I've given you something new to think about!! :)

    Susan, I hope I can inspire you-- just sit down and do it!!

    Heather, I think there are LOTS of english majors turned lawyers. We just love writing, but don't know what to do with that love....

    Susan, PR is another natural for writers. Often when I'm doing book events I feel like a one-woman PR agency!!

    Patricia, thanks so much! You are going to LOVE this cycle, since we are all sharing our how-we-did-it stories.

    Marian, thanks for visiting! So glad you enjoyed the post.

    Greg, we are THRILLED to have a guy here!! Welcome and please do keep coming back to visit!!

    Michele, thank you! It's good to be passionate, don't you think?

    Diana, thanks! I wonder about it, too. There are just so many of us out there doing it!!

  32. Well, your comments all rocked -- thank you all so much for commenting and entering to win a copy of JACK! has picked: Melissa. Big congrats! Can't wait to sign a book for you and get it out in the mail.

  33. Bummer that I already missed this! Oh well.

  34. I love these stories and am sharing them with the writers I know - everyone has a different path to publishing. The only common denominator seems to be a huge amount of determination.

  35. Well, then, there's my favorite lawyer turned author - Laura Caldwell. But as an semi-ex-technical writer, I can say that first we saw lawyers fleeing law to be a technical writer when the boom was hot - now they're authors - lol! Anyway, love the covers of your two books - must investigate! :)

  36. I would love to win a copy of your novel...thanks for the opportunity!

    If you need to contact me my email is pianolady_62 at yahoo.


  37. These sound like great books - and you mentioned 2 of my favorite authors in your post. :)

  38. i hope i'm not too late to enter :) coz you are a new for me author .

    uniquas at ymail dot com