Grisham spoke for about 30 minutes during the lunch, which was hosted by Kay Enokido, President of The Hay-Adams Management Company. The co-host was Marie Arana, Writer at Large for The Washington Post and a Kluge Distinguished Scholar at the Library of Congress. Highlights of talk included him detailing his writing process, which, he states, includes writing for about four to five hours a day, leading to the completion of a novel in about six months. However, his first non-fiction work The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town took eighteen months.
Grisham spoke at length about the reasons for working on Innocent Man. He first read about the story of Ron Williamson in the New York Times obituary section. He said he knew when he read it that it would be his next book due mainly to the connection he felt with Williamson – them both being from small towns and sharing a love for baseball. Grisham had dreams of making to the major leagues, and Williamson was the first Major League baseball player to be drafted from the state of Oklahoma. For those who haven’t read it, the book revolved around the story of Williamson, who, after striking out in the major leagues returns home and is wrongly framed for murder. DNA tests eventually free him, but the damage has already been done, and Williamson dies soon after from drinking. Working on the book led Grisham to get involved in with the The Innocence Project, which works to free wrongly accused prisoners using DNA evidence.
With a view of the White House behind him, Grisham also spoke fondly of the two White House dinners he has attended. The first was with George H Bush, when he sat to the right of Barbara Bush and the second occasion when fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton invited him to screen Pelican Brief in the White House screening room. “The first dinner, my wife and I wore black tie and dined on gourmet food,” he said. “The second time we wore jeans and had popcorn. And each time, we stayed in the same room at the Hay Adams.”