Do we even realize how ubiquitous John Grisham has become?
Turn on the television this holiday season and you’re likely to catch “Christmas with the Kranks,” which is based on his book Skipping Christmas.
Head to the mall to do a little shopping and you’ll see his latest bestselling novel The Guardians prominently displayed near the front of your favorite bookstore.
Check your kid’s backpack and you just might find a novel from his Theodore Boone juvenile fiction series.
And that doesn’t even begin to cover the shelves and shelves of bestselling legal fiction thrillers by Grisham you’ll find at your local library, or the binge-worthy movies and television shows available through your favorite streaming service.
It takes moxie to be entertaining everywhere, and John Grisham has it. Here’s how:
Moxie crosses genres.
It usually goes something like this: an author publishes a book, it becomes a best-seller, and the rights are optioned for a movie.
John Grisham turned that convention on its head. A draft of his second novel, The Firm, somehow made its way around influential Hollywood circles before it was even published. The film rights purchased, and that sparked a bidding war for publishing rights. The movie was a smash hit, and the book spent 44 weeks at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.
Since then, Grisham’s work has dominated best-seller charts and top-grossing film lists. The Runaway Jury, The Pelican Brief, A Time to Kill and others have all been brought to life on the big screen by luminaries such as Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, and Sandra Bullock.
It’s notable that Grisham’s skills as a storyteller are so sharp that they translate well across media. That takes moxie.
Moxie takes good advice.
It’s unusual for an author to have a solid debut novel and then fade away into obscurity, unable to repeat the early success. No less an author than Harper Lee managed to only pen one significant work only to let decades pass before releasing a second.
But Grisham has been reliably churning out at least one book – sometimes two – every year since 1991.
Why the prolific output? Early in his career, a young publishing executive pointed out to Grisham that all the most successful authors like Michael Crichton, Stephen King, and Ken Follett released a book every year. That was all the fire Grisham needed. He’s a disciplined writer who rises daily, shuts himself in his office with some strong coffee, and gets to work.
There’s no substitute for hard work and dedication. The discipline of writing daily has honed Grisham’s talent and skill as a storyteller, empowering him to consistently craft deeply engaging tales for the last several decades.
Grisham took a solid insight and turned it into success. Being teachable takes moxie.
Moxie speaks values.
Grisham has clear political ideas. Before becoming an author, he was an attorney and served in the Mississippi state legislator. He identifies as a moderate Democrat and isn’t necessarily shy about his ideas.
He’s a board member for The Innocence Project, which works to free death row inmates who have been wrongfully convicted, and often advocates for criminal justice reform. He’s written about his views in both fiction and non-fiction works, and his writing explores the flaws and inequities in America’s legal system.
But you won’t hear him preaching his values dogmatically despite the pulpit his books provide. His values are evident in the stories he chooses to tell and how he chooses to tell them, but they flow subtly and organically.
Grisham uses his platform to give a voice to those who don’t have the power to speak up for themselves.
If I ever have the chance to interview Grisham, what story would you most like to hear him tell?