His works rival the best, his tenacity and perseverance are unquestionable, but how much do we know about this writing giant? Most people know his name, but when asked about the man behind the novels, I was at a loss. I could name his works from A Time to Kill, The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Rainmaker, and the list goes on. I marvel at his writing ability and creativity, but I couldn’t really describe the man.
I have an internal desire to know what drives someone so successful in the line of work that I strive to get a foothold in, and what better way to learn craft than studying the best. It pays to know what compels someone to write, their backgrounds and history. I dare say most people write from their own loses, triumphs or dreams. So, it was with great pleasure that I studied up on the man behind the legend.
John Grisham, born on February 8, 1955 to a cotton farmer and homemaker, started his life on a farm in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The second of five children, John moved with his family to several places after his father changed from farming into the field of construction. Moving from Louisiana to Mississippi, John’s family landed in Southaven, Mississippi in 1967 when John was 12.
According to an article published in The Clarion-Ledger, John’s father was quite the storyteller as well as being the deacon in his church.
While in high school, John played football and basketball, but his heart stayed true to baseball. He dreamed of becoming a major league player after school. It wasn’t until senior English that he became intrigued by Steinbeck and read voraciously. However, writing wasn’t in his immediate future. He took several back-breaking jobs before deciding on attending Northwest Mississippi Community College. According to a friend, John was reserved to those unknown, but relaxed around his friends.
John believed his arrival at Northwest would be the budding of his plans to be a major league player, but after failing freshman English, yep English, he rode the bench and decided to leave. Next up was Delta State University, but when the baseball plans fizzled and his coach recommended he hit the books, John agreed and ended up at Mississippi State University. However, he hadn’t found his path as he changed his major three times in subsequent semesters, but he eventually majored in Accounting at Mississippi State and graduated with a law degree from Ole Miss in 1981.
After a decade of practicing law in Southaven, Mississippi, he got the writing fever and proceeded to write a couple hours before work, during breaks and even after work. He read up on historical fiction and well known authors as well. Eventually he took the leap, against his friends advice, and quit law altogether to move his family to a farm. He worked on his first novel for three years before getting a deal with an unknown publishing company and spent his energies on begging friends to buy his book and holding book signings whenever he could.
John was discouraged after “A Time to Kill” wasn’t an initial success, and upon further encouragement from his agent, he wrote a second novel which launched his career. “The Firm” was made into a movie after his agent sold the rights for $600,000, and of course, the rest is history.
John went from absolute obscurity selling his books out of the trunk of his car to being one of the all time best selling authors. His formula of hard work and perseverance are something to keep in mind for any aspiring author or for anyone in different fields. Never give up on your dreams!
I hope you found this article inspiring and insightful, and I hope you never give up on your dreams:-)
Keep writing, keep reading, keep dreaming!
P.S. If you’re interested in reading any one of his books, check out his Penguin Random House site!