Author and attorney Scott Turow visits MU

Friday, February 3, 2012 | 11:02 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Author Scott Turow had an unconventional path to becoming a novelist.

"I wanted to write my way to greatness, and at 22 years old, you won't do that," Turow said. 

Best-selling author and attorney Scott Turow visited MU on Friday as the John William Proctor Distinguished Author of 2012. Turow, known as the father of the legal thriller, entertained local fans as he disclosed humorous and enlightening tales of his journey as a novelist.

His first attempt to publish a novel was during his freshman year of college. It was called "Dithyramb," and it was rejected. He sent in several more works to publishers, but one by one, they were also rejected.

He tried again, this time with "The Way Things Are." Again, his attempt failed. He decided to go to Harvard Law School — he needed to get away and do something different.

As it turns out, that's just what he needed. His string of rejections ended after starting law school when he received a book contract offering him the opportunity to write a non-fiction novel depicting the life of a law student. The result was his book, "One L." 

"It took me a long time to become an instant success," Turow said, evoking laughter from the audience.

Later on as an assistant U.S. attorney, Turow had to find time in his busy work schedule to write. His time spent on commuter trains to work was the only available option. During those rides, he wrote his first fiction novel, "Presumed Innocent."

A best-selling author of nine fiction novels, Turow has sold 25 million copies worldwide, and his works have been translated into 25 languages. He's also a contributing writer for publications including The Washington Post, The New York Times and Vanity Fair, all while working as an attorney at SNR Denton in Chicago.

Turow finds inspiration for novels in haphazard ways. Once on vacation, Turow spontaneously scribbled a single sentence on a hotel notepad, unaware at the time that it would evolve into "Innocent," the sequel to his first novel.

"Don't try to figure it out," Turow said. "If you feel it, write it."

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