August 4th – Dennis Lehane

“Narrative becomes the way you make sense of chaos. That’s how you focus the world. It’s the only reason you should ever try this writing job.”

Dennis Lehane was born on August 4th, 1965 in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. The youngest of five children, both of his parents were Irish immigrants, his father working for Sears & Roebuck as a foreman, and his mother in a school cafeteria. Growing up Lehane had a sense that life was unfair from the struggle he saw his parents endure – that it was hard and you just tried your best. 

After graduation from Boston College High School, he attended Eckerd College in St. Petersburg Florida, where he found his passion for writing, and then attended the graduate creative writing program at Florida International University. 

He published his first novel shortly after graduating from his MFA program, which he admits was a fluke – not having to struggle much with getting published. A Drink Before the War was released in 1994 and won the Shamus award. The novel debuted two of Lehane’s protagonists that repeat throughout his work – Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro – two young cynical detectives from Boston. 

Five of his novels, Gone, Baby, Gone (1998), Mystic River (2001), Shutter Island (2003), Live by Night (2012) and The Drop (2014) have been adapted for movies. Lehane is also a successful writer for TV and film, including The Wire and Boardwalk Empire. 

He is an international bestseller, with his dozen novels have been translated into more than 30 languages. 

Lehane gave this writing advice to students at Writer’s Center Stage in 2014:

“Until you’re successful, don’t get married,” he said. “Don’t suck anybody else into it… unless, you know, it’s something like ‘friends with benefits.’”

Lesson from Lehane:

Don’t try to multi-task – if you want to write – write.

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