When A Time To Kill was first published I was brimming with the typical enthusiasm of a rookie novelist whose dreams were not even connected to reality. The warning signs of failure were everywhere…but I was wonderfully oblivious to all that. Five thousand hardback copies were printed and we couldn’t give them away. The book, originally, never made it to the paperback stage. The grand ideas of foreign translations and movie rights and so on were dashed within two months of publication.
My plan at the time, if any struggling writer can realistically claim to have a plan, was to try again with another type of book—the legal thriller. Hopefully such a book would find a wider market, thus allowing me to return to Ford County, my own little fictional world where there were, and still are, so many stories to be told. Fortunately, The Firm found an audience, and I was suddenly free to write whatever I wanted.
Through the years—and I hate to use those words because they sound too much like an old man looking back—I have wanted to return to Ford County, to Clanton, to the colorful lives of a people still dealing with a complicated past. I have visited it occasionally, in The Chamber and The Summons, and almost all of The Last Juror took place there, but I have yet to move back permanently and write the thick, layered meandering stories that I carry around with me. And I firmly intend to, one day. Maybe next year.
Meanwhile, I continue to think about Jake Brigance, and Harry Rex Vonner, and Judge Noose, and I often wonder where Carl Lee is and what happened to his daughter, Tonya. Could these characters possibly produce enough drama for another book? I’m not sure, but their neighbors and ancestors certainly can. I’ve had dozens of ideas for Ford County novels, almost all of which peter out for one reason or another, but when one fades away, two more pop up and hold my attention for a year or so.
The good stories stick, but they’re not always long enough to become novels. To give them life, and to make sure I don’t eventually forget them, I have collected seven of my favorites, seven longer stories, which Doubleday will publish next month. The collection is titled simply Ford County: Stories. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them.
— John Grisham