John Grisham and Stephen King are such good friends that, in an unguarded moment, Grisham calls King "Stevie."
The two superstar authors will appear together at State College of Florida in Bradenton on Jan. 19. The event is titled "Book Ends: An Evening With Two Literary Giants." But anyone hoping for a dry and scholarly discussion about literature and the creative process is likely to be disappointed.
"We go way back, 20 some odd years," Grisham said in a phone interview with the Bradenton Herald. "We've done two or three similar functions and always have a whole lot of fun hanging out and talking about books and movies and writing and stuff like that, so it's always enjoyable."
King appeared last year all by himself, speaking to a packed house at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. When he agreed to return to Bradenton to appear in an on-stage interview with Grisham, he reportedly insisted that the emphasis should be on Grisham, and King would be the interviewer.
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Grisham's not so sure the evening will unfold that way.
"We have no idea," he said with a laugh. "There will be no dress rehearsal, there will be no script. Y'know, we just start talking, and we typically, you know, start off insulting each other and it goes downhill from there. We sacrifice everything for humor. Truth goes out the window and fiction takes over and we have a whole lot of fun."
Despite the insults and tall tales, Grisham said, there's likely to be something of substance that works its way into the conversation.
"He's probably going to ask a lot of questions about the actual writing process, which fascinates both of us and fascinates our readers and lot of people," Grisham said. "I'm sure we'll get into war stories about publishers and publishing and other writers and Hollywood and the good and the bad. There's a lot of fun stuff to talk about."
Grisham's latest book, "Rogue Lawyer," hit bookstores in late October. Grisham said he starts a new book every year on Jan. 1, takes about six months to write it, and then publishes in time for the Christmas season.
"About a third of all books are sold during that time, so it kind of makes sense to take part in that season," he said.
"Rogue Lawyer" started out as a series of sketches, he said. He wasn't sure what form they would eventually take, but he ended up weaving them together into the novel.
"I was a lawyer for only 10 years," he said. "I was in a small town in Mississippi and I always played it safe. I was never one to take the unpopular cases, the unpopular clients. I never would really take a chance. But I always admired sort of the crazier lawyers who would jump into anything and would love to go fight in the courtroom."
"Book Ends," like King's appearance last year, is a benefit for the Manatee Library Foundation, and the money will go to the library literacy programs. A week before the event, ticket sales had already raised more than $200,000 for those programs, foundation president Jane Plitt said.
And at the event, autographed books by both authors will be available for sale, and a double-autographed, limited-edition King book will be sold through a silent auction.
A limited number of tickets are still available to the public for $150. But they'll likely be sold soon.
"We're just about sold out," Plitt said.
Details: 7 p.m. Jan. 19, Neel Auditorium at the State College of Florida, 5840 26th St. W., Bradenton. Tickets: $150. Information: 941-748-5555, manateelibraryfoundation.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.