Phillip Margolin Gives Some Writing Advice

Posted on July 3, 2008

Phillip Margolin discusses his work habits and his new legal thriller, Executive Privilege, in which the president of the United States is a suspect in a terrible crime. Margolin has been a criminal defense attorney for 25 years. He still goes to the office at 7:30 am every morning, but now he's there to work on his latest book, not to write legal briefs.

Q: Was this novel timed for an election year?

A: "No, I had the idea in the early 1990s. Writers like to push the envelope so I thought what if you had a president who was a serial killer? I usually get an idea for a book and think about it for quite a while. I kept getting ideas but could not work out how to end it. Then I was in my car about two years ago and the ending popped into my head. It just so happened to come out in 2008 in the midst of a presidential election."

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Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?

A: "The first thing I tell people is not to rush. If you get an idea the natural instinct is to get excited and start writing. I say put it away, work out an outline and an ending first. Scott Turow took 12 years writing "Presumed Innocent" on the train to and from work. The other thing is to do an outline. Work out the book completely before you write so you won't get writer's block. And be organized. People think authors get up at 10 and get a snifter of brandy and pull out a quill pen and let inspiration come. That is not how it works."

At least none of our current presidential candidates is a serial killer. Still, what an intriguing idea. This book just landed on our summer reading list.


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