Author Interview – William Landay

Photo from


I first came across NYT Bestseller William Landay‘s work when I was on a road trip, and downloaded DEFENDING JACOB to listen to on the way. What followed was a compelling, riveting tale about a senior prosecutor whose 14-year-old son is accused of murder. As he and his wife try to put together the pieces of the crime, and defend their son and family, they also are forced to confront dark questions about their own family–including their son’s innocence.


Image from


Needless to say, I finished DEFENDING JACOB in one long stretch. The book has received numerous accolades, including being named one of the best books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, The Boston Globe, Kirkus Reviews, and more. The New York Times called the book “ingenious” and Booklist said that it “rivals the best of Scott Turow and John Grisham.” Not surprisingly, William Landay’s previous career gave him great insight into the courtroom: after graduating Yale University and Boston College of Law, he was an assistant district attorney for a number of years.

I’m excited to day to feature an interview with William Landay about his experience in publishing and his advice for other authors. And at the end of the post, be sure to check out all the ways you can follow William Landay and his work!


1. What is some of the best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing?

“Write the book you would like to read.” This sounds obvious, but it is important to trust your own taste. Unless you feel–passionately–that the book you are writing will be a great one, then you won’t have the strength to see the project through, at least to see it through at the level of excellence required to break into a crowded market.


2. What is some of the worst advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? 

“Go with the biggest, most prestigious agent and publisher you can get.” Much better to go with the agent and publisher who fit you best and who feel most passionate about your work. You need these people to be your champions. That is less likely if you are just one of a crowd of clients. An agent’s prestige only helps if she is willing to spend it on you.


3. What is something that surprised you about your career path?

That it became a career at all. I never viewed novel-writing as a proper career. I still don’t. It’s too chancy, too volatile. No writer is ever assured that there will be a next book contract, so all you can do is make the project currently on your desk as good as it can possibly be.


4. What is a common misconception that you encounter about writers or publishing?

That there is some kind of conspiracy against new writers among agents and publishers, or that they are unwilling to take on a new author. Nothing could be further from the truth. All agents and editors constantly prowl for new talent. That’s how they make a living.


5. What is one book–fiction or nonfiction–that you would recommend writers pick up?

THE ART OF FICTION by Henry James. I like it so much, I put a copy online myself so it would always be available.


Here are the ways you can connect with William!

Visit his site.

Find him on Goodreads.

Follow him on Facebook.

Follow him on Twitter.

Sign up for his newsletter.


If you’d like to stay up to date on all interviews and other posts, subscribe to my blog by scrolling down and entering your email, or sign up for my newsletter.