Please welcome Lee Goodman, author of Indefensible, Injustice, and other works.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I suppose it depends on the time of year. In summer I commercial fish for salmon so that perfect day involves a lot of fish, warm weather, gentle wind, maybe some porpoises or a whale passing by, my dog Tumblehome out on deck grooving in the sunshine. The rest of the year a perfect day starts with a morning of writing, usually beginning somewhere between 5:00 and 7:00 am and ending in early afternoon, then some skiing or running or hiking (with Tumblehome). Then dinner with friends or with my kids. Then reading or a good movie.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I have favorites, but I don’t know if I’d call them “signatures.”
Color: I love green, especially a bright lime or chartreuse, like the green of a lime popsicle or the airy green of springtime when leaves are still translucent and the sun shines through making them look lit from within.
Fragrance: Lime of course, plus coffee, plus the lovely coffee smelling scent of puppy-breath, plus the ocean-y scent of steamed clams which I associate with summer and rainy days and windows clouded with condensed steam from the boiling clam broth.
Phrase: I have lots of favorite sayings and quotes and aphorisms (“A ship at harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for”) but I can’t think of a signature phrase.
Meal: Salmon of course. Preferable cooked outside on the beach. Or lobster. Or clams.
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Dr. Paul Farmer who, as profiled in Tracy Kidder’s book Mountains Beyond Mountains, creates a stunning example of perseverance and dedication.
Nelson Mandela, as profiled in the movie Invictus, and William Henley who authored the poem “Invictus,” which poem is a painful and wonderful tribute to the concept of prevailing over relentless privation and adversity: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
The writer Rick Moody who, in a writing class I took from him years ago, taught me what good writing is about. He said, “Character, character, character.”
Do you listen to music when you write?
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
100 percent cocoa with bits of crystalized ginger. Because it’s sweet and bitter and unadulterated and sophisticated. And it has sharp contrasts and no false notes and even after you’ve finished it you find new flavors coming to light and you wish you had more.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I’m interested in DNA and science and in the horrible specter of innocent people getting caught up in the criminal justice system. I’m interested in the conflict between a lawyer’s personal ethics and professional obligations.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Moral ambiguity, moral innocence versus factual guilt, parent-child relationships and family dynamics, developmental disabilities, buried trauma, redemption, heartbreak, the quiet perseverance of flawed and hopeful souls.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Nick Davis wants more than anything to do the right thing, but the idea of “rightness” is evasive for him. As a prosecutor and a white American male, he would like to let the legal system define rightness and wrongness for him because it’s so much easier than making a new decision with every new set of facts. But time and again he is unable to put his own values aside when they conflict with the laws he is sworn to uphold. His character was probably created by growing up in a loving home but with an emotionally distant father whose love Nick still (unconsciously) craves though the father is now many years dead. He has made the easy choices in his life because he hasn’t had the self confidence–or maybe self awareness–to pick the more difficult things that might have better suited him. But while his insecurities have chosen his path for him, his intellect and heart have made it a rough trip. Thus whenever he confronts a moral/ethical dilemma, his soul ends up in conflict with his job.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Nick Davis is part Frank Bascombe from Richard Ford’s Independence Day, part President Harry S. Truman, and part Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes. Here’s why: Frank Bascombe is an any-man kind of guy whose loving nature, along with his tendency for navel-gazing and self-rationalizing, leads to emotional upheavals and occasionally to self-sabotage. Harry Truman was an average Joe who found himself in a position to become much greater than average. And Calvin… well Calvin is just Calvin, right?
If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d invite?
Richard Ford, Alice Munro, Charles Darwin, Ken Kesey, Arthur Conan Doyle, Herman Melville.
What’s next for you?
I have finished a new sequel to Indefensible and Injustice, and am at work on a psychological suspense novel that takes place in Alaska (where I live) and has narrators much different than any I’ve written before. It involves a female prosecutor with no experience in Alaska, and a serial killer, and a wolverine. When I finish with that manuscript I’m hoping to start aiming more towards novels with greater grounding in environmental and social justice matters.
Lee Goodman’s first novel, Indefensible, was released in 2014 by Simon & Schuster. The sequel, Injustice, was released in September 2015. The third novel in this series, Alibi, is currently in production. With an undergraduate degree is in biology, Lee originally wanted to write essays about the natural world, but for years he got distracted by, among other things, collecting sled dogs, commercial fishing, dabbling in fish politics, and ultimately by going to law school. He never intended to write legal mysteries. Having stumbled into this genre, though, he says it’s the best use he’s found for a law degree–way better than actually practicing.
Lee’s work has appeared in Orion Magazine and The Iowa Review (where his short story, “A Girl Like Summer,” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in fiction). Beyond the legal plots of his novels, his writing tends to reflect an interest in in developmental disabilities, mental illness, the rights of criminal defendants, and in the complexity of family dynamics (especially parent-child relationships).
Lee has taught fiction writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage and at Interlochen Academy for the Arts. He holds an MFA from Bennington College and currently lives outside of Anchorage in an off-the-grid cabin. He has two teenaged children, and continues to commercial fish for salmon during the summer.
Visit him at leegoodmanbooks.com.