Sometimes getting laid off from a job can be a good thing.

Lee Child dealt with it by becoming a bestselling author.

Fans have a chance to meet him Sept. 16 at the Lucas Theatre at an event sponsored by the Savannah Book Festival.

Child, whose real name is Jim Grant, has written 19 novels in the Jack Reacher series. The latest is "Personal," which was released last week.

"I decided to give Reacher a break and some international glamour," Child says. "It starts out in Arkansas, then goes to Paris and London. I wanted to give him a bit of a jet-set life."

Child's first novel, "Killing Floor," won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Each book follows Reacher, a former military police officer, as he crosses the United States to right wrongs.

Although Child is British, he writes in the style of American crime thrillers.

"I wanted to tell the kind of stories with big skies and empty places - lonely, mysterious places with a frontier feel," he says. "You don't get that anymore in Europe.

"Parts of the U.S. are still like that today, with a lot of empty and secret corners. American readers are more adventurous and ravenous than English readers.

"American readers tend to be more generous and advanced and certainly read more," Child says. "I felt everything was pointing toward the same decision."

In 1974, Grant studied law at the University of Sheffield.

"It was never my intention to become a lawyer," he says. "I was interested in so many different things - history, politics, languages, economics - and I realized law is a snapshot of all of that.

"I realized it's like one-stop shopping for me. This degree will cover all bases.

"I always had an interest in entertainment," Child says. "I started working in a theater and later moved to television, which I really enjoyed."

Child became a presentation director at Granada Television, part of the United Kingdom's ITV network. He worked on such notable shows as "Brideshead Revisited," "The Jewel in the Crown," "Prime Suspect" and "Cracker."

"They were very famous, iconic products that were a joy to work on," Child says. "They presumably will never happen again. It was a unique period."

Corporate restructuring resulted in a layoff and Child began writing a novel, which was published in 1997. The following year, he moved to the U.S.

Writing fiction appealed because it maintains the same basic properties as script writing.

"The medium didn't seem important," Child says. "I was giving the audience something that would please them."

Although Child has won numerous awards, that's not important to him.

"After Savannah, I've got to go to Spain to get an award there," he says. "I really am happy about getting the awards, but I'd much rather have readers who say they really enjoy my books."

His pen name "Lee" comes from a family joke and "Child" was chosen for more than one reason.

"Although I'm in a creative endeavour, it's also a business, a job," Child says. "To have a name that is easily heard, understood and repeated is good.

"Child is a regular noun, but it produces warm connotations," he says. "More crucially, it's in the front of the alphabet. When it comes to bookshelves, it's a good spot to be in."

The name of his main character came about less deliberately. Child chose "Jack" as the first name because he wanted a simple name for his character.

"I was out of work and available for errands," he says. "I went to the supermarket with my wife.

"I'm tall, and every time I go into the supermarket, there's always a little old lady who comes up and says, 'Would you reach me that can?' One day, my wife said, 'If this writing thing doesn't pan out, you could always be a reacher in a supermarket.'"

In 2012, Child's novel "One Shot" was adapted into "Jack Reacher," a film starring Tom Cruise. Child himself made a cameo appearance as a police desk sergeant.

"Right from the get-go, the physical resemblance would be wrong, but I felt we could get an acting guy with the chops to do the internals - the menace, the quiet - that Reacher exudes," he says. "I thought Tom Cruise really nailed it."

Child never lacks for ideas.

"Ideas are everywhere," he says. "Every single day, you read newspapers, listen to people, and get five to 10 ideas.

"It's more challenging to choose one," Child says. "Which one do I invest a year in?

"Which will still be interesting next year when the book comes out? It's really much more a question of selecting."

From September through April, Child writes every day that he can.

"You've got to take it seriously," he says. "It's a joy and creative, but it's also a job that you have to take responsibility for. I typically start at lunch time and work until 6 or 7 p.m."

At Child's appearance in Savannah, he plans to talk about more than his latest novel.

"I don't necessarily talk too much about a particular book," he says. "People are more interested in my story, the writer's life.

"I'm looking forward to being there," Child says. "I understand it's a great festival and I'm glad to be part of it."