James Rosenberg is a third generation attorney who has tried cases in a multitude of jurisdictions. He utilizes his experience cross examining recalcitrant witnesses as a basis for his legal thrillers. When not practicing law he hangs out with his wife, three kids and Allie the dog. –This text refers to the paperback edition.
- Where are you from?
I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I’ve worked as a lawyer for the past 30 some years. I play as an author. By writing I get to decide how each case ends, rather than letting a jury decide the result.
- Why do you write?
I write for many reasons. When I first started to write is partly as a stress reducer and partly because stories started percolating in my head and they had to get out. There are not many things better than watching a story develop on paper. With each chapter I learn more about my characters, their pasts, their motivations and what evil may lurk in their hearts.
- What do you write about?
My books are generally classified as Legal Thrillers, but I think they are much more than that. Each book is actually a study of character relationships. Plot is very important, but it’s how the characters’ actions affect the people they know that is at the center of the stories I write.
- Do you have a specific writing style?
Like I said, my stories are very much plot driven and I find that simplicity in writing allows the plot to move forward. I am not a big fan of long descriptive passages, so I avoid them. I want to see how a character reacts to a specific situation which allows me, and the reader, to learn much more about who this character is.
- What are obstacles that come in the way of writing?
My biggest obstacle to writing is time. I still work full-time as a lawyer, so I have to squeeze in my writing time when not working or playing with my family. This means I have to economical with my writing. I have to get to work and get the words down to move the story along.
- What’s the most memorable thing asked/said by a reader about your work?
I think it was when a reader wrote me a letter (yes, a pen-to-paper letter not an email) saying how much he was moved by reading The Jersey. His account of his emotional journey through the book and the bond he felt with Charlie because what had been going on in his life moved me.
- How long have you been writing?
I started writing late—about seven years ago. My first writing was an essay about an experience my son had in Little League and how it moved me. Once I realized how cathartic writing could be for me and how much others could get out reading what I had written, I couldn’t stop.
- When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
When I was young I had no interest in writing. As a lawyer, I get to write a lot, but it’s a different kind of writing. Once my life settled down a bit and I was able to get some stories onto paper, I realized I never wanted it to end. This is what I’ll be doing until I can’t think anymore.
- What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
When I’m writing, I am very disciplined. I allocate 20-30 minutes each day with the goal of getting 1000 words out. If I can follow that schedule, I can get a book done in four months. It always takes longer, and the editing process takes about as long as getting the first draft done, but getting a new chapter done and pushing the story towards the finish line is awesome.
- What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I would say it’s that I don’t outline. I know in my head where a story starts and where it ends, but it’s the rest of the story that I don’t really know until it’s written. That’s why I love to get words down because I’m learning so much about the story as it comes out and get so excited when a new plot point surprises me.
- How long does it take to write a book? (if you’ve written one -published or non)
If I follow my schedule, it takes almost a year to get a book finished. I have to take the time to write the story, but the multiple rounds of editing take huge amounts of additional time and energy. This doesn’t take into account marketing for my other books or getting a cover developed for the latest book.
- Do you have suggestions on how to become a better writer?
The best ways to become a better writer are to read and to write. Read in your genre, but also read in other genres. Read the best writers and be mindful of how they craft a story or how they choose to portray characters or plot. But you also have to write, write, write. If you write everyday and critically evaluate your writing and style, you will improve, and your readers will notice.
- What challenges do you come across when writing/creating your story?
My stories usually involve a trial. Trials are very wordy. I worry that line after line of dialogue can be challenging for the reader. I work hard to make my trial scenes realistic, but also modify reality to try and make the interactions among the participants even more involving for the reader.
- What do you think makes a good story?
Conflict. This comes in many varieties. In my stories, when there is a trial, there are inherent conflicts among the participants. There are winners and losers at every trial. But to me, although trials are essential plot elements in my books, the true conflict is between the characters. Often, they want similar things and conflict ensues when only one can achieve their goals. I think this makes legal novels gripping to read.
- What does your family think of your writing?
At first, I think they were a little wary. My kids were worried about being embarrassed. With success writing, I think their wariness has transformed more into pride. My first book was modeled after an experience of one of my kids. Now the others want to be the models for the next book. I’m working hard to satisfy them.
- Do you see writing as a career?
Hopefully. I still practice as a lawyer, but I would love to move full time to writing. That’s also scary. I have been a lawyer for a long time and it’s a major part of my identity. Giving that up would be difficult, but I really do love to write.
- Do you have anything specific you’d like to tell the readers?
Thanks for taking the time to read through this interview. Also, thanks for thinking about trying one of my books.
- When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Even after I finished my first book, Legal Reserves, I couldn’t call myself an author. I felt like a fraud. But once the book started to sell and move up lists, I began to think that people actually liked what I wrote. Once I saw my books were selling in countries around the world and I received positive feedback, it helped my confidence as a writer. I find it much easier now to call myself a writer.