You won the 2018 Harper Lee Prize, besting longtime novelists and fellow finalists Scott Turow and Lisa Scottoline, for a novel-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change. What was that like? How did it impact your fiction-writing career?
It was a complete shock to win the Harper Lee Prize. I am a working lawyer who writes books from the back seat of my minivan in the parking garage at work. I’m not a professional, full-time writer like Turow or Scottoline. I don’t have their fan base or publicity muscle. When I got an email from my publisher to tell me that Proof had been short-listed, I was stunned and gratified. But I was quite sure the selection committee would choose a brand-name winner (i.e., not me!).
Winning the prize is one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me. The prize itself is remarkable. Authorized by Harper Lee before she passed away, it is sponsored by the University of Alabama Law School (Lee was a student for a short time) and the ABA Journal to celebrate Atticus Finch’s conception of how a lawyer can make the world a better place. The folks who choose the winner are a fascinating and diverse group of academics, writers, and other thinkers. I’m thrilled they saw something of Atticus’s spirit in Proof. The signed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird is also cool!
As for how it’s affected my fiction-writing career, the answer is that I’m working on a new series now, based on conversations between my agent and an editor at a major publishing house. The Harper Lee Prize should open doors, and I fully intend to do my best to walk through them.