10 Questions with Andy Siegel
For as long as her can remember, Andy Siegel has been a storyteller. The kind he likes to spin are the type people often label as tall tales. But they’re not: his have always been based in fact. The key to an attention-grabbing story, in his opinion, is, first, to be a good listener. Only then is your audience left wanting more.
10 Questions with Andy Siegel
Mr. Siegel, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. Your debut legal thriller, Suzy’s Case, comes out tomorrow. Tell us a bit more about this work.
With the case of little Suzy Williams, which forms the central plot, I wanted to put a human face on a reality I know so well from my daily working life: the intensity of the experience of personal injury victims and their families. Anyone, in the space of a heartbeat, can— without warning — find himself damaged in devastating ways. None of us expects this, and therefore no one’s ever prepared for it. That said, Suzy’s Case is a novel and I had a great deal of fun writing it, enjoying where my imagination took me. Some of the elements that inform it are my ongoing and very sincere passion for my work, my love of New York City, and my definitely out-there sense of humor.
Tug Wyler is the main character of Suzy’s Case and he’s not very likable. How did you go about creating him in this way?
Like everyone we meet, Tug exhibits a mix of traits that gain him both detractors and admirers. He’s brash and energetic, frequently a little crude, and loves to improvise, to think on his feet, to push buttons. I probably looked in the mirror — only a little, mind you — to come up with such a protagonist. The truth is, he’s meant to be different from all the other lawyer characters you find in fiction, and the fact that he’s such a provocative figure makes him stand out. Sure, he’s kind of a joker and a wild card, an impulsive fellow, but he’s also an expert at what he does. And, overall, a force for good.
How much of the story in Suzy’s Case is based on your personal experience as a malpractice lawyer and your 2007 case of a brain-damaged client?
Every single word in Suzy’s Case is derived from, inspired and influenced by each and every case I’ve handled over the years. Add to that my extremely active imagination and my ongoing life experiences, then factor in the aftereffects of having watched way too much television growing up.
I never wanted to become a writer. It just happened: one day Tug Wyler simply popped into my head. Eventually, Scribner wanted to buy my manuscript, and, puff, they call you a writer.
How did your debut thriller come to see the light of publishing?
Here’s the back story: one afternoon my oldest son broke up a no-hitter. I went to buy some flip-flops. Some man in the store whose son had played in the same game against us acknowledged my kid’s smash. At the same time his wife was calling to him to come over to her for a photo — it turned out she was a novelist signing books. On impulse, I mentioned that I’d actually written a manuscript but didn’t know what next to do with it. He suggested I go to the Mystery Writers of America website, so I did. With the information I got there, I emailed the then-New York Chapter president. He put me in contact with an editor with whom he’d previously worked and who agreed to read my novel. She liked it but — full disclosure — devoted time to cutting out numerous examples of pure immaturity. The next stage came when Scribner, to whom she’d sent it, offered to buy it. Then I had to get a literary agent. That’s the short version, but it hits all the high points.
A word of advice for new writers?
Don’t try to be a “writer,” just be yourself. Yet think about whether or not there’s an audience out there for what you’re writing. Readers are crucial if you want to be published. For me, over and beyond those couple of thoughts, it’s important to have fun doing it.
What is your typical writing day?
I don’t have a typical writing day. I start writing whenever an idea pops into my head or when I want to escape what’s going on around me. At home I have three kids, three dogs, an upstairs cat and a wife. So there’s often a lot going on.
What other books are you working on at the moment?
I’m always kicking themes, plots, characters, endings and beginnings around in my mind. But they all arise from the same platform of characters and circumstances – Henry Benson’s injured criminals – the HICs which provide the pool for the cases Tug Wyler takes on.
What do you like to read and what are you reading now?
I like books from the 1970s such at Fletch by Gregory McDonald or The Hot Rock by Donald Westlake. They’re incredibly clever and compelling, but I also find it interesting to see how the stories play out in the absence of technology – how the characters have to do things the old-fashioned way, using their intuition, logic and smarts, rather than simply pressing a button. I intend to read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest the next chance I get.
What can readers expect to find in Suzy’s Case?
A direct, raw, unfiltered, head-on, compelling, and emotional tale of tragedy and heroics. But that’s just my opinion.