I love my job. Even on the worst day when I can't seem to put together a coherent sentence, I am grateful for having been given this magnificent opportunity to participate in the literary exchange of ideas. My mother says I was telling people I wanted to be a writer when I was seven. I know that seems incredible, but she's my mom, so we have to believe her. I never missed an opportunity to visit the library, which was blissfully near my home, and the librarians there took a great interest in this nerdy, shy, bespectacled kid who kept reappearing almost every day. They encouraged me to read widely and to read the best of everything, and that is exactly what I did and have continued to do all my life.
I sent off my first submission when I was eleven, to Highlights Magazine. This was a poem of which I was particularly proud concerning the Oklahoma Land Run. They turned me down. Yes, that was my first rejection letter. Over the next twenty years, I collected over 300 more of them. No, I'm not exaggerating. I still have them. Every last one. There was a reason, I realize now, why all those compositions were being rejected. They weren't very good. But they improved over time. I didn't know it, but during the entire torturous process of submission and rejection, I was learning how to write.
I finally had my first novel published (by Ballantine, a division of Random House) when I was thirty-one. To some, this may seem an early age to publish, but if you clock it from my first rejection, it took twenty years! That was a great year—my first son, Harry, was born in August, and my first book, Primary Justice, was born in December. The book, introducing lawyer Ben Kincaid, surprised everyone. The follow-up, Blind Justice, did even better and before I even realized it I had accomplished my goal—I was a real honest-to-gosh writer. I've been writing ever since. I've written more than twenty novels, edited two anthologies, done two books for children, and published numerous stories, essays, puzzles, and poems. I have three children now, and this job allows me to be present when they come home from school and available when they need me during the day, which is a blessing I could not have anticipated back when I was a seven-year old gazing dreamily at author photos on dust jackets, wishing I could see myself there.
My goals for the future are to continue to learn, to grow, to find new ways of doing my work and doing it better. I think the current interest in thrillers provides a marvelous opportunity to spin bigger and more exciting stories. I am grateful that Ben Kincaid remained not only popular but fun to write for eighteen books! I've learned that I enjoy teaching, which has led to the William Bernhardt Writing Programs and The Fundamentals of Fiction DVDs, as well as many speaking and teaching engagements throughout the year. My interest in mentoring aspiring writers led to my founding HAWK Publishing Group. And I want to be the best parent possible to Harry, Alice, and Ralph. I'm very excited about the future, creating new stories for you wonderful people who still understand the importance of storytelling and the written word.