Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Writing Porch Author Q and A Steve Martini

The Latest Book: Shadow of Power, 400 pp hardcover, William Morrow

About the Author: Best-selling author Steve Martini was born in San Francisco and grew up in the Bay Area and Southern California. An honors graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz, Martini’s first career was in journalism. He worked as a newspaper reporter in Los Angeles and as a correspondent at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, specializing in legal issues, before taking his law degree at the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in 1974. During his law career he worked as a legislative representative for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, the State Bar of California , and served as special counsel to the California Victims of Violent Crimes Program. He has worked as an administrative hearing officer, a supervising hearing officer, an administrative law judge, and for a time served as Deputy Director of the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

In the 1980’s Martini began writing fiction as a hobby but with an eye toward a second career. His first attempt at a novel, THE SIMEON CHAMBER was picked up by an agent and sold within two weeks of its completion. It was published in 1987. COMPELLING EVIDENCE, his second novel introduced the character, attorney Paul Madriani, and was published by Putnam in 1992. A national bestseller, that novel earned Martini a critical and popular following. New York Times bestsellers PRIME WITNESS (1993), UNDUE INFLUENCE (1994), THE JUDGE (1996), and THE ATTORNEY ( 2000) each featured the series character Madriani.

THE LIST (1997), and CRITICAL MASS (1998) were departures from the court room, legal-thriller genre. CRITICAL MASS addressed issues of terrorism and the threat from weapons of mass destruction. These were followed by THE ARRAIGNMENT, DOUBLE TAP, and most recently SHADOW OF POWER, all within the Paul Madriani series and all bestsellers.
To date, two network mini-series have been produced and broadcast based on Martini’s works, UNDUE INFLUENCE on CBS, and THE JUDGE on NBC. Martini makes his home in the Pacific Northwest.

What made you pick this book to write? The Idea for Shadow of Power came as a result of research I had been conducting for another work. I noticed that the original language of slavery that had been crafted by the founding generation remained in the Constitution still visible even though it had been repealed following the Civil War and was dead letter law. I began to think about this over a period of months and years and ultimately the idea for the novel came to me.

What do you love about this book? Perhaps my favorite aspect of this book is its realism set against the political backdrop of a Presidential campaign and a Supreme Court that is badly divided with the high stakes of future nominations to that Court hanging in the balance. It is here that fiction meets reality.

What are you hoping readers find interesting about this book? Without question it would be the trial process. This is true as regards all of my novels in the Paul Madriani series. It is the trial and the legal strategy that propels the story and invariably leads to the twists and turns and ultimate resolution.

How do you make your characters come alive? Through dialogue; you must develop a good ear for the spoken word. Unless your characters speak with authenticity they will not achieve the realism necessary the carry the story. The goal is to bring the reader to the point where he or she is reading your novel with the air of plausibility one my employ when reading the daily newspaper. The difference is that dialogue in the form of direct quotes in newsprint is often dead. In fiction the illusive ability to breath life into these words on the page is the secret to crafting good fiction.

What writers do you like and why? Elmore Leonard for his ability to write the best dialogue in the business; Scott Fitzgerald for his artistic and literary masterpiece The Great Gatsby; Scott Turow for his wonderful characterizations and John Grisham for his good story telling and generosity in recognizing my novel “Compelling Evidence” at a critical stage in my career. Apart from novelists I would be remiss not to mention the new generation of wonderful historians all of whom have given me wondrous hours of reading and enjoyment, from the late Stephen Ambrose to David McCullough and Joseph Ellis.

What advice would you give to writers hoping for success? Continue to hone your craft and to learn early on that the art of good fiction is to be found in revision and rewriting. Develop a good ear for dialogue. If you need direction in this area, some of the best dialogue is to be found in early novels, even some mysteries of the early 20th Century. Also screen plays written by notable screen writers are rich sources of information on how to write good dialogue and how to develop character from strong dialogue.

What projects do you have coming up? I am contracted for one more Madriani novel, after than I have several projects currently in mind and on which I have begun long term research. Beyond that I would not be prepared to disclose this information.

See more about Steve Martini on his website:

The Writing Porch's J. Louise Larson interviews authors for other writers to watch, listen and learn from. To be considered for a Writing Porch Q&A, contact J. Louise Larson at jackielarsonwrites (at)

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