Melinda M. Snodgrass studied opera at the Conservatory of Vienna, graduated Magna cum Laude from U.N.M. with a degree in history, and went on to Law School. After 3 years as a lawyer she realized she hated lawyers and turned to writing. In 1988 she accepted a job on Star Trek: The Next Generation and began her Hollywood career where she has worked on staff on numerous shows and has written television pilots and feature films. She is currently an executive producer on Wild Cards for Universal Pictures and Peacock. In the prose world she writes for and co-edits the shared world anthology series Wild Cards with George R. R. Martin. She has completed the fifth book in her five book Space Opera series Imperials, is working on a fourth novel in the Carolingian series and a fourth novel for her White Fang Law series. All of her books are being released on-line and in print-on-demand. Presently available — This Case is Gonna Kill Me, Box Office Poison, The High Groun, In Evil Times, The Hidden World and Currency of War. For fun she rides her dressage horse, plays video games and spends a lot of time in the gym. (Or she did before there was a pandemic).
Q. Could you please tell us something about yourself and your life at law school? What extra-curricular and co-curricular activities were you involved in?
I realized after the first semester that while I enjoyed the study of law this was not for me, fortunately or unfortunately I was a very good student so I continued on with my studies, but I kept singing with the Civic Light opera (which really upset the faculty, and taking ballet lessons). I confess I was not all that committed.
Q. As a writer, you have worked with a number of stalwarts such as George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, amongst many others. What was that experience like? What advice would you give aspiring writers to help them grow and really stand out from the rest of the crowd?
I owe George in particular a great debt of gratitude. He had gone out to work in Hollywood, and he called and said if I would write a spec script he would show it to his agent. I did, it was a Star Trek: Next Generation script called The Measure of a Man. The show not only bought the script, but they hired me to work on Star Trek. It launched my Hollywood career. George also gave me the single best piece of advice I ever got. He told me “Never hoard you silver bullet.” Meaning lead with the best thing and the thing you are most passionate about.
Q. Why did you choose to become a writer? What would a typical day in your life look like? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I was working a corporate law firm, and I was deeply unhappy. I went to see Star Wars with my best friend (I’m a huge fan of science fiction), and when Yoda told Luke to “Do or do not. There is no try!” I realized I needed to make a choice. I walked into the office the next day and quit. I then started writing with my friend Victor Milan as my mentor, and I started selling.
My typical day is get up, breakfast, write for several hours, go ride, come back and write some more. I try to work on two different projects at these different times.
My inspiration comes from a theme I may want to explore. For example in my space opera series I wondered what would happen if humans were the evil invading aliens rather than the other way around. I also sometimes see a character in a strange or dangerous situation and then I want to figure out how they got there.
Q. Were there any unexpected skills you took away from law school which now help you as a writer? In hindsight, would you say having a good knowledge of the law has been an asset to you?
My legal training has been a huge asset to me. It taught me discipline and how to meet deadlines, and I have used that degree in so much of my work. The Measure of a Man is a court case based on an infamous Supreme Court decision called Dred Scott v. Sandford. I got my job on a show called Reasonable Doubts because of not only my skills as a writer, but because I had been a lawyer. I have a book series – White Fang Law about a young woman lawyer working in a vampire law firm in Manhattan. I have incorporated legal issues into my space opera as well.
Q. You worked for about 3 years before making your career switch. What were some of the most important aspects you took into consideration before quitting the legal field to enter the writing field? If you were given a chance to make the switch again, would you have done something differently?
If I had gone to work for the ACLU instead of entering a corporate firm I might have stayed with the law. Constitutional law was my passion. But no, I love being a writer. I would never want to do anything else. My major consideration when I quit was that life is very short and uncertain and to work at something you hate is no way to live. You have to follow your heart and your passion.
Q. Every career has its own set of challenges. What were some of the challenges you faced when making an entry into the writing field from being a lawyer?
Precipitous drop in income. Book writers don’t make much money. Hollywood is where the money can be found. Also I suffered from imposter syndrome. Who am I to think I can write? I still suffer from it when I’m about to start a new project. I’m certain this will be the book or screenplay that proves I have no talent.
Q. Most of our readers are law students / law graduates. Many times, they feel trapped within the limited conventional legal careers post law school. What are your thoughts on making your passion your career even after studying law?
Follow your heart. Do what you love. What’s the worst that can happen? You fail and then you go do something else. A life lived in fear is not a life.
Find out more about Melinda M. Snodgrass –
- Website: https://melindasnodgrass.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melinda.m.snodgrass
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mmsnodgrass23/
Disclaimer – All views and opinions expressed in this interview are personal and belong solely to the interviewee(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the LAABh Foundation or the individuals and institutions associated with LAABh Foundation.