John Grisham has this to say.
"BESTSELLING author John Grisham has turned to non-fiction for the first time, and, surprised by the amount of time and energy it took, he believes it may well be the last.
The Innocent Man is the real-life story of of Ron Williamson and his friend Dennis Fritz, who were charged with the 1982 murder of a cocktail waitress.
Williamson, who was mentally unstable, was convicted and sent to death row in the United States, where he came within five days of being executed for a murder he did not commit. He and Fritz were eventually freed after DNA tests showed there was no link between the men and the crime.
John Grisham signing copies of his first non-fiction book, The Innocent Man, in New York recently.
“This was too much hard work,” Grisham said. ”Non-fiction requires endless research, fact-checking, accuracy – things I’m not know for,” he told an audience at the annual literature festival in Cheltenham, England, recently. “This book probably took five times the effort that a novel takes. I don’t want to do it again.”
Grisham was drawn to the story when he read Williamson’s obituary in the New York Times in 2004. The miscarriage of justice against Williamson, who shouted angrily at witnesses during his trial after he had been denied psychiatric medicine for months, reinforced Grisham’s doubts about the US legal system.
“It didn’t change my opinion of the death penalty because I’ve been opposed to it for a long time,” he said. “It goes back to the issue of a fair trial. If you can’t give people a fair trial, then your system is broken.”
The book is also an attack on what Grisham saw as sloppy police work in the small town of Ada, Oklahoma, and its impact on an innocent man. “He (Williamson) went insane on death row and came within five days of being executed, and when finally he was exonerated he drank himself to death.”
Grisham, one of the world’s most successful writers with global sales of more than 200 million books, recalled his humble beginnings as a lawyer and novelist. The print run on his first book, A Time to Kill, was a modest 5,000, and its lack of success nearly put him off writing for good.
“I bought 1,000 (copies), and I sold the copies from the trunk of my car,” he said. After the failure of A Time to Kill, Grisham decided to have one more try with The Firm, which he made “as blatantly commercial” as he could. The Firm turned into a movie starring Tom Cruise, flew off the shelves and established Grisham as a literary star. He has written 18 novels in total, many of which have been turned into feature films. – Reuters
Anyway, I have always found fiction more difficult to write than non-fiction. Maybe it's because I don't research that much! And I've learnt something else from John Grisham - just because your first book isn't a success, it doesn't mean your second book won't be. (And when you become a success, your first book will sell too.) And in order to sell a lot of books, you have to make your stories as 'blatantly commercial' as possible. I wonder what he meant by that.