Stephen Woodfin is the author of eight legal thrillers and an attorney.
Since it is obvious that you have had a long career as an attorney, tell us what really started first: writing or the law?
I wrote off and on from an early age, but I didn’t really get serious about writing until I was about twenty years into practicing law.
Being an attorney is a fantastic advantage when one writes legal thrillers; apart from the legal themes, what are other topics and interests as underlying motifs of your novels?
I hope that I am always writing about larger issues like love, justice and fairness. When I write courtroom scenes I am not thinking about legal procedure. My thoughts are on the story in the book, which usually has little to do with what happens at the courthouse.
When you discovered you wanted to keep on writing – that you were not just a ‘one novel writer’- how did that impact your other career regarding time, energy and research as, I believe, those both professions ask for a lot of time, research and dedication?
I kept both professions going and still do. When a case I am in needs attention, I put the writing on hold briefly. But most days I work some on each profession.
Through your professions what would you say about ‘justice’ in today’s world? Is it true that good prevails – even that it ultimately wins, or is it just a myth reserved for elevating stories?
Justice and reality have little to do with each other. Another way of putting this is that justice is whatever the most recent court decision or legislative enactment says it is. In a story the concept of justice is powerful and should always be invoked. That doesn’t mean it will ever become a reality.
What is your response to injustice: both in your working environment and in your private life?
I hope always to be on the side of justice. In my professional life, I felt this most strongly when I was doing a lot of court-appointed criminal defense work. In the U.S., a lawyer who represents indigent persons charged with crimes is the person who sees the innate injustice in the system up close and personal.
Did you ever have a feeling, or a need, to ‘fix the wrongs’ of a real life by writing your novels?
I never felt I could “fix” the problems, but I believe by addressing them and speaking out about them I may have some impact on the system.
In your opinion, is there more crime and injustice in modern society?
No. Human nature hasn’t changed much in the last ten thousand years or so.
When you look back at your first novel, having more experience as a writer today, would you change anything, would you ‘better’ it in any way?
I don’t micromanage my books like that. If I go back and read the older ones now, I see things I would change, and I see things I liked. I think the best thing an author can do is to keep his eye on the future and not fret about the past.
So far you have published six novels while keeping your practice alive; any signs of slowing down or is this just the right pace for you?
I am up to eight novels now. My plan is to write one about every six months, which seems just about right for me. I finished my last novel, The Compost Pile, about three months ago and have since begun two other novels and abandoned them. I have now settled on the one I hope to write next and plan to finish it around the first of June.
Who are your literary models, or your heroes?
I haven’t attempted to model my writing after anyone’s. However, my favorite authors are probably Ernest Hemingway, James Lee Burke, and the pulp fictioneers as a group (Dashiell Hamett, Raymond Chandler, John D. MacDonald, Ray Bradbury).
If you were allowed to read only one book ever, which book would that be, and why?
The King James Bible. It is unsurpassed in the beauty of language and power of its stories.
What is Venture Galleries: why and how did you come up with this idea?
Caleb Pirtle and I founded Venture Galleries a few years ago. Our conception of it has evolved, so that now we see it as a meeting place for authors and readers. It is really just a place where people in the book business can share their thoughts, share a story, or just get something off their chests. In 2014 we hope to take the site to the next level and bring many more people on board.
What are you doing at this moment?
I am in Florida on a trip with my youngest daughter, and I am answering your questions at one end of a conference table while she works on a college assignment on the other end.
Was there any motto by which you were guided in your life?
Two mottos: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And, know thyself.
If you were asked to give advice in three words, what would you say?
Kindness and fairness.
Thank you very much Stephen, what a pleasure to introduce your work to a wider audience.