This week we are chatting to Dep Kirkland author of Lawyer Games: After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Tell us something unexpected about yourself!
I’m a former trial lawyer admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court who walked away from it all to move to New York City and study acting. I was tired of doing what my parents thought I’d be good at. It’s not about doing what you’re good at; it’s about doing what you love.
What kind of books do you write?
I don’t write books, though I’ve written one. I write stage plays and screen plays. Writing books is harder than eating a concrete doughnut. Those who do it all the time are super-human, or crazy, or a little of both.
What inspired you to write?
I don’t know. I’ve always written. My ex-and-wonderful wife used to save my letters, not because they were all that romantic, but because they were like small short stories. As far as the narrative writing, in the form of plays and screen plays, I started writing those for a very practical reason: to have something to facilitate my acting career because of the difficulty of starting later in life and trying to explain to casting directors and producers why you’re a “certain age” and don’t have a string of credits. Passing a bar exam and practicing law didn’t seem to count for much. So, I started writing in order to have “vehicles” for myself and my talented friends.
What makes your writing stand out from the crowd?
I’m an extremely well trained actor from study with a number of hard-core teachers, but primarily with a fellow named Fred Kareman in Carnegie Hall in New York City. Fred was one of the students, then actors, then teachers, at The Neighborhood Playhouse in NYC with Sanford Meisner and that instruction is very demanding. It’s based in reality, though that concept is difficult to describe with language. An example: I came to Los Angeles from New York City because a producer read a play of mine. His judgment was that the people in the script were starkly real and the dialogue — which they say is supposed to be difficult to write — was incredible. That was probably because, when writing scenes, I would act them out. If they didn’t feel real, I’d re-write them.
So, to beat a point to death, my writing has a sense of truthfulness to it. The characters are distinct and human. I also have a sense of humor, though I have been counseled that everyone doesn’t always know when I’m joking.
What is the hardest part of writing – for you?
Brevity. But, more seriously, for fiction (which is the sister genre of stage and screen writing), it’s all about story. If I have a situation and a scenario, the rest is easy. At least to me. But story is very difficult. Coming up with a compelling set of circumstances and characters. Without story, you have nothing. When you write, you create a life. And if the life you create is not interesting, the facility with which you describe it is meaningless.
Where do you like to write – what is your routine?
This is different for me because most of what I write is scene-based performance material, for stage or screen. So much of what I write is worked out in my head long before it’s put to paper (or digital characters). I like to say that writing is distinct from “writing it down.” One can take place anywhere while the other takes place at my desk, at my big screen monitor and keyboard.
It’s quite possible that this habit came from the fact that I was required to work when I first moved to New York to study acting. Since I had little time to sit and contemplate, I used to say that I wrote “in the cracks”, meaning the cracks in the day. A subway ride downtown, walking across town to the theatre near Lincoln Center, walking pretty much anywhere: the scene would be playing out in my head and I’d be swirling it around, trying it out and working it out. Then, when I got home, I’d write it down. So, most of the creative work happened with no computer or paper at all.
What do you do when you are not writing – do you have a day job?
I did but now I don’t. Unless my day job is acting, producing, and directing film. That might be a day job for some people but, to me, it’s just what I do.
Do you work with an outline or just write?
I’ve done both. I don’t like writing with an outline but there are a number of things I don’t like to do that are, in fact, good for me. If I just start writing, pretty soon the story will take over, the characters will hijack the whole thing and I’ll be hanging onto the reins yelling “whoa” while nobody pays me the slightest bit of attention. I have found that you’re either going to outline it now or you’re going to have to outline it later, to figure out what you’ve written. I suppose either can work but doing it later is much more painful.
What advice would you have for other writers?
Write. And share it. Do not put off writing for any reason — and there is an inexhaustible supply of excuses if you are in need of one. Write. And, second, do not judge it yourself, because you’re the least qualified person on earth to judge it, other than your cousin Gladys, who secretly resents you anyway.
How important is marketing and social media for you?
It better be important, just as we need to take responsibility for anything that’s truly important to us. It doesn’t mean we have to be a natural at it or necessarily love it. But we better do it. Publisher or no publisher, these days, I think you have to do it yourself or you’re going to be left behind.
It’s ultimately about word-of-mouth, though today the mouth can be the internet. It’s very difficult to get noticed due to the volume of information out there… the information blizzard that can blind us. But it’s essential, critical, non-negotiable. So I do it. I don’t know that I’m all that good at it. And my kids are constantly telling me that the thing I just learned is not cool anymore, so I might need to pick up the pace.
What’s your next step?
Finding and refining the market for this book, Lawyer Games, and continuing to hit the book signing circuit, to build awareness of two different target groups of readers, those interested in the “true” story of the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil phenomenon, and those more interested in what that case, when used as a case study, says about the criminal justice system in the United States. And, I have a film going into production so there is that….
Lawyer Games: After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Dep Kirkland is available here.
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