Writing a bestselling book - even a score of them - doesn't always change an author's life.

Robin Cook and Eben Alexander still practice medicine, while Scott Turow remains an attorney and political activist.

"I'm busy in all kinds of different ways," says Turow, who will deliver the opening address at the Savannah Book Festival on Feb. 13. "The short answer is that you can do a lot of good and interesting things as a lawyer when you have the liberty of picking your cases, which is pretty much what I have."

Turow always wanted to be a novelist.

"My mom wanted to be a novelist and I took on her ambition," he says.

"I did develop a passion for it. At this age, when I'm writing and feel I'm writing well, it's something I have to tear myself away from. That's the pleasant part.

"Being within the milieu of the law keeps me familiar with the issues, the way lawyers talk, the way lawyers think," Turow says. "I don't steal characters, not because I'm too honest, but because I certainly can't write about my clients."

The author of nine bestselling novels, including "The Burden of Proof," "Presumed Innocent," "Pleading Guilty" and "Personal Injuries," and two non-fiction books, Turow's most recent thriller is "Identical," which came out in October.

A former assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago, Turow prosecuted several high-profile corruption cases, including the tax fraud case of Illinois Attorney General William Scott. Turow also was lead counsel in Operation Greylord, the federal prosecution of Illinois judicial corruption cases.

It was after leaving that job that he became a novelist. Turow is known for setting his books in fictional Kindle County, and many of the same characters appear in more than one of his books.

In "Identical," State Sen. Paul Giannis is a candidate for mayor of Kindle County. His identical twin brother Cass has just been released from prison, 25 years after pleading guilty to the murder of his girlfriend, Dita Kronon.

When ex-FBI agent Evon Miller, who is head of security for the Kronon family business, and private investigator Tim Brodie begin a re-investigation of Dita's death, the story becomes one of murder, sex and betrayal.

"It will still be in the hard cover sales cycle, so it's not a bad idea to come to the festival," Turow says. "And frankly, I've reached the point where I accept any invitation to go south after the first of January."

Not only has Turow been to Savannah previously, he was given a key to the city when he attended a bar association meeting here. He is a veteran of several literary events.

"Either you run around talking about what you've done or stay at home and actually do it," Turow says. "If you don't do enough of the latter, there won't be enough to talk about."

Most often, fans ask Turow what it's like to have his books turned into movies.

"The other most common question usually is, 'How do I get an agent?'" he says.

"I try to answer all of them," Turow says. "About 90 percent of them are people who are saying, 'We read your book and really liked it.' If it weren't for people like that, I wouldn't do this."

At times, Turow is asked to speak with students about his perspective on writing. He's not hesitant to give advice to young writers.

"The first thing I tell them is write," Turow says. "If you actually put your rump in the chair and do the job, you're a writer.

"It's not about hanging around in bars talking about what you're going write, or rubbing elbows with writers, or spouting plans for your 'Great American Novel.' None of those things will make you a writer.

"Actually writing does and I do believe creative writing classes can be helpful," he says. "But writers definitely can be self-taught."

Turow says he had a lot of help, particularly as a senior in college.

"I was lucky enough to have access to famous people, including Raymond Carver," he says. "I got a lot out of that."

Currently at work on a young adult novel, Turow tries to write every day.

"Today, I was up about 7 a.m. and made myself coffee, looked at the newspaper and wrote," he says.

"I'm at the age where I realize I'd better do the things I always said I'd meant to do. For many, many years, I've wanted to write a work of fiction about my grandfather.

"I became a grandfather myself a year and a half ago, and I said, 'I'd better do this,'" Turow says. "While I was finishing 'Identical,' I had already started making notes and sketching the book out."

Ironically, book tours are great ways to write, Turow says.

"I like to write on airplanes," he says. "I make a lot of progress there.

"Now, I'm well on my way through the first draft," Turow says. "I'm having a great time writing it."