The actor Raymond Burr was best known for his portrayal of Perry Mason, a trial lawyer who never lost a case. Growing up, I was a devoted fan of the show and it probably influenced my decision to become a trial lawyer. And, it’s probably not a coincidence that I named the protagonist of my first legal thriller series Lou Mason.
What does all of that have to do with the question “why do I write”? I’ll tell you in a minute. For now, let’s talk about the question.
I’ve told the story many times about how I got started writing; how a law partner of mine complained about another partner and I suggested we write a murder mystery, kill the son-of-a-bitch off in the first chapter and spend the rest of the book figuring out who did it.
I’ve talked about what I write about – what happens when things go wrong, especially when no one is looking. And, I’ve talked about how many of my books focus on families and the conflicts they have to navigate.
But I don’t think I’ve talked much, if at all, about why I write. What’s in it for me (besides fame, glory and riches beyond imagination – oh, wait, we’re talking about writing, not winning the Powerball lottery)?
In one sense, the answer is simple and obvious. I love it. I love creating a world, filling it with characters and putting them in dangerous, difficult situations and watching what happens. Writing fiction is a way of playing God without the men in white coats coming to take me away. I love sharing that world with readers who enjoy visiting it, hopefully coming back again and again and telling their friends and neighbors that they should drop by too.
Spending my days in creative pursuits adds something special to my life that billing clients for legal advice never could. And, while I’m at little risk of being burdened with fame, glory and riches beyond imagination, it’s nice to know that I can have such a good time doing something that keeps the lights on.
But when it’s all said and done, the answer to the question, why do I write, comes back to Raymond Burr. He had a very distinctive way of breathing, taking deep breaths that would swell his chest, adding resonance to his baritone and giving comic impressionists lots to work with. Someone once asked him, Mr. Burr, why do you breathe that way? His answer – to live. And that’s why I write.