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Most Read Interviews

All TopShelf Interviews


ANTHONY FRANZE is a lawyer in the Appellate and Supreme Court practice of a prominent Washington, D.C. law firm, and a critically acclaimed thriller writer with novels set in the nation’s highest court. Franze has been a commentator on legal and Supreme Court issues for The New Republic, Bloomberg, National Law Journal, and other major media outlets. He is a board member and a Vice President of the International Thriller Writers organization. Franze lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. Learn more at www.anthonyfranzebooks.com


What would you like our readers to know about yourself? This could be a previously prepared bio; however, something customized exclusively for TopShelf Magazine would be greatly appreciated.


I’m a D.C. lawyer and I write thrillers set in the insular world of the U.S. Supreme Court. I’ve had several cases in the Supreme Court, and I try to take readers inside that fascinating community. But don’t worry, the real institution isn’t as dangerous as in my novels.  


Please tell us a little about your new thriller, The Outsider.


The book is about a Supreme Court law clerk, but one, unlike SCOTUS, has ever seen. Grayson Hernandez grew up in a rough part of D.C. and worked his way through a low-ranked law school only to graduate with massive student loans and no law job. The only work he can find is as a messenger, and it happens to be at the Supreme Court. One night after a long shift, he stumbles upon a violent mugging and rescues the victim, not realizing until later that it’s the Chief Justice of the United States. The Chief takes an interest in Gray, and soon he’s the newest law clerk at the Supreme Court, one of the most prestigious law jobs in the country.


Just as Gray begins to adapt to his new life, the FBI approaches him with unsettling news. The Feds thinks there’s a serial killer connected to the Supreme Court. Gray is the only person who didn’t work at One First Street at the time of the first murder; he’s an outsider who they can trust to report any suspicious goings-on inside the building. Ultimately, to help find the killer obsessed with the high court will require not only Gray’s understanding of Supreme Court precedent and history, but, as it turns out, help from old friends he’d left behind.


Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?


In all three of my novels, the bad guy isn’t revealed until the end, so I leave breadcrumb clues along the way that hopefully are just enough to achieve my goal of an unexpected, yet inevitable, ending. But otherwise, I don’t include secrets for only some readers.


Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?


I hope each book stands alone. I’ve had readers start with my third book and then go back and read the earlier novels. 


How does your experience as a lawyer in the Appellate and U.S. Supreme Court influence your writing?


I draw on my experience and understanding of our court system to try to give the books a ring of authenticity. But unlike with my legal briefs, the fun with fiction is that I get to make up the facts. 


What do you enjoy more, being a lawyer or a writer?


Tough question. They both are passions of mine. I can’t imagine giving up one or the other and plan on doing both for as long as possible.  


What is the biggest surprise you experienced after becoming a published author?


The biggest surprise is how supportive thriller writers are of one another. I’m part of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) organization, which welcomed me from Day One. The members are some of the kindest, most supportive, people you’ll ever meet. 


How did you celebrate the publishing of your first novel?


My daughter was hounding us to buy a dog, but we wanted to wait until she was a little older, so I said we’d get one if my book sold. So, when my first novel came out we got Lucy, our smelly Beagle.  


Do you have a favorite conference that you attend? If so, which one?


Easy:  ITW’s “ThrillerFest” conference. It’s like summer camp for thriller writers.  Also, the conference offers classes for aspiring writers. 


Please explain to aspiring authors and booksellers how much work is required, even as a traditionally published author, to maintain your current level of success?


I’d hate to calculate the amount of time because it would likely mean I’ve been working at below minimum wage.  


How much time and money do you, a successful traditionally published author, spend on marketing your books?


See #10.


Considering for a moment, fledgling or struggling independent bookstores, are there any marketing strategies you've seen booksellers use that stand out as particularly successful?


I wish I had the expertise to answer this. I will say that it seems like the independent stores are experiencing a resurgence, which is fantastic.  


What’s the most important thing a bookstore can do for an author to promote sales? Obviously, every book cannot be front and center.


It is a challenge for booksellers because, as you note, not every book can be at the front table. My favorite stores rely on knowledgeable staff who keep up on the latest in thrillers and make recommendations to customers.  


How much work do you personally put into promoting your book signing events? And how long before the event do you start promoting?


Sorry, see #10 again!


Do you have advice for independent bookstores on how they can organize successful events in their stores?


I don’t really have advice, but as an author, I’ve appreciated stores, like D.C.’s Politics & Prose, that treat signings as “events”—including advertising, reader outreach, and staff knowledgeable about me and my work. 


How often do you go on book tours?


Unfortunately, the age of the traditional book tour is over. I typically attend larger book fairs and conferences with a handful of larger solo events.  


How might an independent bookstore or library participate in one of your tours?


My publicist sets up my events, but I also love getting calls or emails from booksellers. My website has contact information for me and my representatives.   


What’s your opinion of the eBook/Kindle revolution?


As someone who wants my work available on as many platforms as possible, I’m all for it.  


How big is your personal library? Who are some of your favorite authors?


We have a huge library. I was a big reader before being a published author, something I think is key to getting published. And my wife is an elementary school reading and writing teacher. I have many favorite authors. When I’m feeling like a great international espionage thriller, there’s Terry Hayes, Barry Lancet, Gayle Lynds, and Daniel Silva. If I want to read a witty tough guy, it’s Lee Child. If I’m in the mood for twisty suspense, Joseph Finder, Lisa Gardner, Gregg Hurwitz, and James Patterson. And if I want psychological drama, Alafair Burke, Gillian Flynn, JT Ellison, and Lisa Unger. For family thrillers, I like Harlan Coben, Linwood Barclay. Legal thrills, there’s Grisham, Dugoni, Fairstein, Grippando, and Turow. I could go on, but you get the idea.  


Do you have any advice for aspiring authors dreaming of making it big?


Yes:  Write.  All the hand-wringing about marketing, social media, having a “brand,” the state of publishing, etc., mean nothing if you don’t sit down and write.