Good Sunday Morning Fans and Followers! Oh wow, do we have a great interview to share with you today! Amazon Kindle Select sent me my week’s worth of new releases a couple weeks ago, and right away A Criminal Defense came straight into my line of view. Anyone who knows my reading style, which many of you do, knows how much I love a great legal novel. OMG, I absolutely live to read a really good and juicy legal novel and I must say, if you haven’t had a chance to read our guest’s debut novel, you have GOT to add it to your eReaders! This was an outstanding read on so many levels. In case you missed my book review, please feel free to check it out: https://mellojune.com/book-review-a-criminal-defense-bookboost-promo-legal-thriller-suspense/
I was so thrilled when William agreed to do our interview. It is with great pleasure that we introduce you to Author William L. Myers, Jr., Esq. He’s an attorney by day and a serious get-down-to-it author by night. I must say, he’s truly missed his calling, or perhaps not–seeing as how he’s doing both so well. I cannot wait to read his second novel. So, without further ado, grab your favorite drink, have your eReaders handy, and sit back and enjoy our special guest.
A Conversation with William L. Myers, Jr.
You must be very proud of your debut novel, A Criminal Defense. It was well written and appears to have been well thought out. So tell us, how did A Criminal Defense come to be?
I’ve always loved to read and hoped that one day I would sit down and write the great American novel. I was never convinced, though, that I had the talent to write story, which is very different from the technical legal writing that goes into briefs. Then, one day a few years ago, it hit me that story is what trying a case is all about. If you think about, it, a trial is two “authors” (the lawyers) using the same characters and the same set of facts to tell competing stories. The best trial attorneys are the ones who tell their clients’ stories in a way that conveys what all the evidence means, what it stands for, the attorneys who can mold their stories in ways that not only tell the truth, but reveal core truths. And that’s what the best writers do as well.
So when I sat down to write A Criminal Defense, I didn’t want to create a thin legal procedural, but to tell a story populated by deeply conflicted characters; real characters with real weaknesses suffering real pain. As for the driver of that pain, I chose abandonment and the need to reconnect. I also chose crushing guilt, betrayal and, for fun, ambition and sprinkling of lust.
Then I rolled up my shirt sleeves, and wrote. For two years, I wrote and revised and revised again. And while doing so, I read books about writing, and about how to craft a story. It was a huge learning process for me. Very hard, and, because it was so difficult, deeply satisfying.
When it was finished, I was lucky that a friend knew Ed Stackler, my editor, who did a masterful job as both a developmental editor and line editor. When he was finished, Ed introduced me to my agent, Cynthia Manson, who got the manuscript in front of Gracie Doyle at Thomas and Mercer, who accepted the book.
The character, Mick McFarland, had so many ‘trials’ (pardon the pun) and tribulations to deal with. Because he appeared so real, I’m wondering, was Mick based off of a person in real life?
As a person, Mick is not based on any one I know; I wouldn’t wish Mick’s ordeal on anyone, and I also wouldn’t wish the pre-redemption Mick on any family I know. As a lawyer, and plotter and schemer, Mick is drawn from some of the brightest, and darkest, stars in my profession–let’s leave it at that.
And while we’re on the subject of characters, how much of ‘yourself’ went into this book, besides the legal angle?
From the legal angle, I drew from my experience in the courtroom. Trying a case is like juggling bowling ball pins on a roller coaster You’re up one minute, down the next. The morning witnesses may have the jury in tears for your client, while the afternoon witnesses have the jurors shooting daggers at you and your client both. You can start down a line of questioning thinking its brilliant only to have it blow up in your face, and the other side can present a witness you think will destroy you but who turns out making the case. And through it all, your mind is spinning a thousand miles an hour, trying to see around the next curve, trying to anticipate your opponent’s moves, all the while knowing that just because you’re client is in the right doesn’t mean he’s going to win. In my courtroom scenes, I tried to capture both the hubris and sense of imminent peril that rushes through a trial attorney’s mind as he’s trying a case.
How long have you been a practicing attorney?
I graduated from Penn Law in 1983, so that makes it 34 years. Ouch – that makes me feel old.
What type of law do you practice?
I handle almost all types of personal injury cases, with a special focus on representing injured railroad workers. These men and women work very hard and are subjected to very real dangers, which is understandable given the size of the machinery they work with (trains!). I’ve represented men and women who’ve suffered catastrophic injuries, and the families of some who’ve perished. The responsibility of representing someone who has lost the ability to work, or the spouse of someone who has died tragically, can be crushing at times. But it’s worth it because I know I’m doing really important work for very good people.
What, if at all, did you find most difficult when writing A Criminal Defense?
Paring it down. Once I started writing, I found I had so much information I wanted to share about the characters (to make them real to the readers, make them three-dimensional), so many things I wanted them to share with each other (to make them real for each other), that the scenes became too involved. With Ed’s help, I learned to cut, first with a butcher’s knife, then with a scalpel. Cutting material I felt passionately about was hard for me, but learning to do so to make the story better was probably the most important thing I learned.
I must admit the one character that sort of threw me off was Piper McFarland. At first, I felt like she was some sort of space cadet just going through the motions of being married, but you quickly had me re-examine my feelings for her when you gave intricate background information regarding Piper’s and Mick’s relationship. The more I read about her, the more I noticed how fragile she actually was. You handled Piper’s character with finesse. Did you find it at all difficult to write her character?
I had a hard time with Piper, because my own wife is such a strong person. Where Piper seems to be someone who is acted upon, my wife a woman who takes charge of her own destiny. So, I had to conjure Piper up pretty much from the ether. The challenge was to create her in such a way that she wasn’t a two-dimensional stereotype, but a complex and deeply-feeling person who took the wrong road because she was wounded and hurting.
The character I felt the most connected to, which, oddly enough surprised me, was Tommy McFarland, Mick’s younger brother. His character had so much depth and realism to him. At times, I felt like you were going in one direction with his character, but you managed to have Tommy grow as the story matured. Without giving any “spoilers” to our readers, why do you feel Tommy’s story was important to tell?
I’m glad you asked about Tommy. He’s perhaps my favorite character in the book, and one of the hardest to draw. We first see Tommy as a hard case with a criminal record. But as we peel his story like an onion, we find the noble young man he started out as, and, finally, learn the source of the crushing guilt that moved him to all but destroy his own life.
Tommy is important to the story first because he is a deeply drawn and (hopefully) satisfying character. But Tommy is also critical to the story of Mick, because it was Mick’s own failings as a brother that caused Tommy to do what he did. Mick, in large part, broke his brother, and Mick’s redemption requires that he and Tommy face what happened and that Mick stand by Tommy to ensure he doesn’t repeat his tragic act.
If you’re like most attorneys I know, they very rarely relax. In fact, when going on vacation, they take their entire office with them in their tablets, laptops and cell phones. So, I’m wondering, Bill, how do you juggle practicing law and writing novels?
It’s not easy, but what I’ve actually found is that the writing and lawyering feed off of each other. Sometimes, when I’m stuck at work with a legal problem, I’ll taken an hour to write, and what happens is that while I’m working on the novel, my unconscious mind is busy figuring out the legal issue. Conversely, when stuck on a novel, I’ve switched gears to work on a case I’m handling and when I’m grinding away, a light bulb will go off over my head and the plot-problem or dialogue difficulty will have resolved itself.
What would be one thing most people would find surprising about you?
That, at home, I’m pretty laid back. I’m so intense and focused at work that I don’t think my staff would recognize me in a social setting. It might also be surprising to some that, although I’m an attorney, I’m a terrible golfer. Probably one of the worst in the world.
Who are your favorite authors?
My two favorite authors are Elmore Leonard and Dennis Lehane. Leonard’s honest dialogue and crusty, low-life characters are the best. Lehane is great at making my heart ache for some of his characters. I also enjoy Cormac McCarthy—the starkness, and violence of some of his works. And Carl Hiaasen, who has a real knack for painting “shit weasels.”
Where do you call home?
I live on the Main Line, west of Philadelphia.
What can we expect from William L. Myers, Jr. in the future?
I have a second novel set for publication in January of 2018, and I’m presently working on a third. The second book I’ve crafted to be a racing train. My hope is to sweep readers up and carry them fast to the end. The third book is all about the dialogue.
William L. Myers Jr. is a Philadelphia lawyer with thirty years of trial experience in state and federal courts up and down the East Coast. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, he has argued before the United States Supreme Court and still actively practices law.
Mr. Myers was born into a proud, working-class family and now lives with his wife, Lisa, in the western suburbs of Philadelphia.
Bill’s Social Horizon
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, as you can see from above, Bill takes his life’s work serious and his writing just as serious! I’m telling you A Criminal Defense blew me away. I’ve worked in law for almost thirty years and have come across various attorneys’ personalities. Most of the time they are very serious and extremely busy people with law on the mind, but it was so nice for Bill to take time out of his crazy schedule to sit and chat with us. He has a sense of humor and although I know there are many attorney jokes abound, he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and that’s refreshing. This is one attorney I really like (chuckle!!!!!).
Mello & June would like to thank Author William L. Myers, Jr. for speaking with us and for writing such a great book. Legal novels like this caliber don’t come often, so when one does, you have to shout it from the rooftops! My readers know when I love a book I let the entire world know about it, and it’s our hope that you, too, take joy in reading A Criminal Defense and become a fan as we have. I am positive Bill will not have a problem rising in the legal literary game. In fact, he’s definitely a game changer! Make sure you give his book a try! I can’t wait until Jan. 2018!
Please make sure you connect with him socially using the links above. As always, Intellectual Minds, Keep on Reading! With writers like Myers, it’s easy to do! Best of luck to you Bill, and thanks!