Steve Martini talks with his publisher, Putnam, about writing and the Internet.
How did you begin writing?
I actually started writing as a journalist in 1969 for a newspaper in Los
Angeles. At the time I was not a lawyer, but had just graduated from the
University of California and intended to enter law school. I wanted a couple of
years in the real world before plunging back into studies. What started as a
brief diversion became an obsession. I found something almost therapeutic about
composing at a keyboard. At the time it was an ancient manual typewriter. The
news stories I wrote were converted into print for the paper on an old hot lead
"Linotype" machine. I became hooked on writing, though at the time I
had not ventured into fiction. All of my writing was on a daily deadline and
intended for publication in the newspaper. I covered the courts and local
government, and in 1970 I was transferred by the newspaper to the State Capital
in Sacramento where I became a capital correspondent and ultimately bureau chief
covering state government and the courts.
Did you intend to become an author, or do you have a specific reason
or reasons for writing each book?
For many years I thought about writing fiction, but couldn't seem to find the
time to do it. I actually crafted several story lines and started at least one
manuscript in the mid 1970's. It was probably a good thing I didn't finish it. I
don't think I was ready to write a good novel. You find a great many novelists
who seem to launch their careers in their 40's. Every writer is different, but
for me, I don't think I had the wealth of experience needed to craft a good
story until that time. When I started my first serious manuscript, like everyone
else I had hopes of being published, but suffered the same anxieties as every
writer at that point -- could I find a publisher or an agent willing to read the
manuscript? The reasons I write are both therapeutic and commercial. I enjoy the
process of writing, setting thoughts to paper, and my stories generally have a
theme. Often times it is the message that the law is not necessarily the best
place to go searching for the truth, and that justice is sometimes a stranger in
the courtroom. As much as I enjoy the esthetics of writing, I consider myself a
commercial author. I write for a living. I try to tell stories that will be
appealing to a wide audience in a manner that will both inform, excite and
entertain the reader.
What authors do you like to read?
Most of my reading is in the field of non-fiction. At present I am reading Thomas
Jefferson, a Life, a biography by Willard Sterne Randall. Also on my
nightstand is A Civil Affair, by Jonathan Harr.
What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your
For me it is a mix of good story tellers and great writers. Occasionally, very
rarely, you find both in the same writer. In the field of fiction the book I
most admire is The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald.
What are the details of your writing schedule and the process of
My day is somewhat unstructured, but I usually try to start writing as early as
possible. I find that to be most productive. To be successful I usually try to
eliminate as many distractions as possible. When I am involved in a manuscript I
will usually spend a minimum of four to five hours a day writing. When
approaching a deadline I usually work for more extended periods, at times as
long as eight or ten hours. I compose at a computer screen and generally rewrite
as I go. Each day as I begin I usually go back over the previous day's work,
polish and rewrite and then move on. I do not write a complete draft and then
revise. When I reach the end of a manuscript it has usually been rewritten
anywhere from eight to ten times from start to finish. At that point it should
require only a few minor adjustments before sending it off to my publisher.
Based on past experience I do not require heavy editing.
Do you meet your readers at book signings, conventions or similar
I have not done extensive touring on any of my novels to date. I have traveled
in California, and on one occasion to Texas and Louisiana. When I have toured I
have met with a good number of readers at scheduled autographings and have
spoken at a number of these gatherings. I have found it to be a pleasant
experience. I try, but am not always able to respond to all fan mail.
Do you interact electronically with readers or use the Internet for
To date I have not interacted with readers electronically. I have spoken to
other authors who have, and on occasion they have found their E-mail being
jammed with too many messages to respond. I do use E-mail for business, though I
am a relative novice in this regard. I have used the Net for research and find
that I learn something new about the Internet each time I do. The problem with
surfing the Net for a writer is that it can become addictive. It is like going
to the library to do research on a specific issue. Soon you find yourself
browsing and reading things that have nothing to do with the project at hand.
While it's a mind expanding experience, it may impede progress on your book. The
Internet is wonderful as long as I can maintain my focus. My novels tend to
involve some research. The trial stories I have written each relied
in large part for their credence upon scientific forensic evidence whether it be
ballistics, or the results of an autopsy. I maintain a considerable forensics
library for this purpose and try to up-date and add to it regularly. What is on
the Internet is wonderful, but I often find that the depth of information is not
as detailed as what I might find in a text or detailed reference book. Don't
misunderstand, the Net is a very useful tool, but not an end-all. Books continue
to dominate as a source of information for me. That may change as more
voluminous materials make their way onto the Net and the technology improves.
The ability to search for specific items electronically is a wonderful time
saver, but I still like to have the necessary books on my shelf.