Becoming an author was a natural occurrence for William L. Myers Jr. (’80), but it didn’t happen overnight.
Myers said he always had a dream that he'd write the great American novel.
"Reading has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember, and I've always held authors in awe. What I found, though, was that it took years of trying cases as an attorney to develop the tools I needed to write. And that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who is a trial attorney. That's because all good trial attorneys learn that you have to approach the jury with a compelling story."
Myers began his career as a defense attorney in Philadelphia, but now serves as a trial attorney representing, among others, railroad employees. He owns a law firm in downtown Philadelphia directly across the street from City Hall.
The law has provided a wealth of material for Myers. His second book, "An Engineered Injustice," released in January, deals with a railroad accident. His first book, "A Criminal Defense," deals with the death of a young reporter and the attorney who must defend his friend who is accused of her murder.
"The ideas for the overall theme of my books just seem to come to me. I'm not sure from where. The details, though, have to be worked out as the story progresses," Myers said.
Myers said he completes a loose outline of where he wants the story to end and develops three to four major plot points. He also loosely outlines chapters.
As he starts writing, the characters take on a life of their own – and sometimes it surprises him.
"Sometimes a scoundrel proves himself to be a hero. Sometimes, a hero turns out to have cracked armor," he said.
Often, when characters have a dialogue in one of his books, he'll discover a conflict that he didn't know was there.
"Conflict is really more interesting," Myers said.
Myers is no stranger to conflict, both as an attorney and during his time at Clarion. He was on the debate team and said it prepared him for his path in life in many ways.
"It helped me think on my feet," Myers said.
He said in the courtroom, witnesses – even your own witnesses – will say things that you didn't expect, and you need "to pivot and react."
"I was privileged to have a great coach, Barry McCauliff, who inspired me and made it fun," Myers said of the retired professor and debate coach.
The fun continues as he juggles life as an attorney and as an author.
Myers said Amazon prefers two-book deals; he had one night to come up with a proposal for a second book. Amazon also recommended that he keep his books within the same universe. In other words, have the protagonist of one book become a secondary character in the next book, and vice versa. That way your world has already been established, saving creative time and building a sense of familiarity for the readers.
Myers' books do not need to be read in order. It's only the universe that remains
For his first book, it took him two-and-a-half years from start to finish, but his second book took only four months to complete. Amazon knew what type of story they wanted, and Myers just had to take his experiences in railroad law and craft the story.
"Once I started the second book, it almost felt like it was writing itself," Myers said.
He's now writing his third book, but he hasn't forgotten the advice his editor gave him when writing his first.
"He said to me, Bill, I like your writing, but unless you're Stephen King, nobody will publish a 600-page novel."
Myers shaved out storylines and focused more on the main characters, and "A Criminal
Defense" was completed.
The Amazon reviews for both books are all positive.
His advice for anyone who has a dream?
"Go for it. No matter where you are in your life – in high school, college or middle age. If you are driven to the law, or to writing, do it. I was lucky in that I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a lawyer. But a lot of people don't know what they want to do until later, after they've had the chance to sample different jobs," he said. "As for writing, I didn't have my first book published until I was 58! It's never too late."
Myers and his wife, Lisa Chalmers, live in the suburbs of Philadelphia with their two rescue pit bulls, Phoenix and Pharaoh.