By Leslie Lindsay
She’s back…Lisa Scottoline is here with her 26th—count ‘em—book and it’s a fabulous tail-spin into the juvenile justice system.
One boy. One lawyer. One day. And one shot at justice.
That’s DAMAGED (which released yesterday from St. Martin’s Press), Lisa Scottoline’s 4th in the Rosato & DiNunzio series featuring go-getter lawyer Mary DuNunzio as the tough-but-fair protagonist.
One a deeper level, DAMAGED is about 10-year old Patrick O’Brien, orphaned by his mother and father and being raised by his elderly (and diabetic) grandfather. Patrick is small for his age, shy, dyslexic, and as a result, suffers from anxiety. When Patrick is accused of attacking a school aide with a pair of scissors, his grandfather approaches Rosato & DiNunzio for legal assistance.
In Scottoline’s trademark fast-fasted and emotional riveting manner, she draws readers right into the eye of the storm, working in legalese and child advocacy issues at a break-neck speed, something I am certain legal thriller readers will love.
Meanwhile, Mary is just weeks away from her wedding to a college professor and this provides a nice backstory/subplot to Patrick’s story, tying in a bit of love and romance, though not enough to take away from the primary plot.
DAMAGED is Lisa Scottoline where she shines best: thrilling us with her fast-paced legal mysteries with a good amount of heart.
I’m honored to welcome New York Times bestselling and Edgar award-winning Lisa Scottoline back to the blog couch for another chat about her newest release. Welcome, Lisa!
Leslie Lindsay: Lisa, it’s truly a treat to have you back so soon! I understand you are writing at least two books a year—one stand-alone and one Rosato & DiNunzio—plus, you’re co-writing with your daughter, Francesca Serritella. That’s a relentless schedule, how do you keep up?
Lisa Scottoline: I feel absolutely delighted with this schedule, I must tell you. I know it’s a lot, but I really think writing benefits from practice and staying on your toes. And in my personal life, I was a single mother and my daughter is grown up and away, so I truly feel as if this is my time, in my life. And I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing, which is telling a variety of stories, suspenseful family dramas and humorous true stories, anything I want to do, I’m doing, and that’s what I’m devoting my time to. I’m so lucky and blessed to have the readers I do and I hope I keep finding more of them. This is actually the best time of my life.
L.L.: Speaking of your daughter, I came across some fabulous clips of you two working together and wanted to highlight your work with Francesca. I’VE GOT SAND IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES (July 12, 2016, St. Martin’s Press) sounds like the perfect beach read—and we still have time before summer’s end—what can you tell us about this one? The title is just hilarious and oh-so-relatable.
Lisa Scottoline: I love writing this humorous series, because my daughter and I get to tell what real life is like between mothers and daughters, and especially in the summertime, when tempers and bathing suits get grittier and grittier. I always think that we’re in the style of the great Erma Bombeck, who told the lighter side of family life, but I think we give it a fresh update and that mother-daughter drama that every family should have. And in summer, it will make you laugh out loud.
L.L.: But really we’re here to talk about another style of writing, a more serious type; DAMAGED is the 4th in the Rosato & DiNunzio legal thriller series. I’m curious about your inspiration for this story. Did the character of Patrick O’Brien sort of present himself to you first, or was there a storyline/plot you wanted to explore?
Lisa Scottoline: Interestingly, the inspiration for DAMAGED came from my best friend, who is a special education lawyer. We’ve been the closest of friends for 30 years, I have watched her dedicate herself to getting the proper programming for children with a wide range of disabilities, and to a certain extent, I really think it’s God’s work. My novels have always been about the intersection between justice and people, and especially in the emotional side, and there is no more emotionality than when you’re dealing with a kid who needs help. And Mary is the perfect character to tell that story, because she is always letting her emotionality lead her lawyering, which is exactly the way I think it should be!
L.L.: There’s so much in DAMAGED that speaks to the heart—there’s Patrick’s dyslexia, his resulting anxiety, the fact that he’s being raised by his grandfather…and then all of the legal ins & outs. Can you talk about the research you did for DAMAGED? Was there anything that surprised you?
Lisa Scottoline: I did so much research for this book, and all it was so surprising, I can’t begin to tell you. But I think most of the point is the research I did for dyslexia, and how much it resonated with me. I spoke with reading specialists, child advocates, and lawyers representing the school district and children, as well as child psychiatrists who specialize in treating the emotional problems, like anxiety, that can go hand-in-hand with dyslexia. It spoke to me directly because I love reading so much, and the very notion that a child could simply not be able to read, no matter how intelligent he or she was, or how hard he or she tried, just really tore my heart out. When you think of it, learning to read is the first thing that you do in school, and if you can’t learn to read as easily as everyone else, or indeed at all, you begin to have core insecurities that you may never catch up on. One reading specialist told me, first you learn to read, and then you read to learn. So really behind this book is the importance of reading, and there is nothing more important, at least to me.
L.L.: I have to talk about Italy for a moment—but specifically Mary DiNunzio’s father, the Tonys, and their Columbus Day celebration. How I LOVED Mr. DiNunzio (does he have a name, by-the-way? I always saw him referred to as ‘Pa,’ and ‘Mary’s father’). His booming voice (and heart) comes right through the pages. I wanted him be *my* father and for Mary’s mom to whip up a batch of gnocchi for me. Was Mary’s family modeled after anyone in particular?
Lisa Scottoline: Thank you so much for saying so, and I think the great beating heart of this family is so much in my own family, so I could write this with my eyes closed, and I love it very much. The unconditional love in the family gives Mary the strength she has to go on, but funnily enough, it holds her back in some ways, and she has to grow beyond them. But I do love writing about her parents and their unique core of friendship, and of course that family is what Mary can offer this little boy, Patrick who has absolutely nobody in the world. And by the way, thank you for saying you don’t mind when the father’s booming voice comes across, in the capital letters. I fought for that early on with another editor, and it makes me laugh every time I read it. And by the way, as a trade secret, it makes it really easy to tell who’s speaking, when you have so many characters in a room excluded!
L.L.: Maybe because I was reading your book, or just because I love pasta, I had a dream that I ordered a delicious dish at an Italian restaurant, but it was missing a key ingredient—garlic. In the dream, they didn’t charge me for it. What are some of your favorite authentic foods?
Lisa Scottoline: HA! A dream of a meal without garlic is a nightmare! I love to eat and I love so many foods it’s not even funny. But the truth is, when I was growing up, we had spaghetti with gravy, (tomato sauce to the rest of you) every single night and the only variety was that sometimes it was rigatoni and sometimes it was cavatelli. On special holidays or Sundays, we had homemade gnocchi! I could eat spaghetti every night, with gravy, clam sauce, oil and garlic, cheese and butter, or even cold out of the refrigerator, which is when it’s best. That is my absolute favorite food of all time. I went on the South Beach diet once and had to cut out carbs and I thought I might die of sadness.
L.L.: By-the-way, your last name rhymes with fettuccine, right?
Lisa Scottoline: TOTALLY! My father told me to tell people that, but I always thought that made me sound like an entrée, but I go with it. I don’t care how people pronounce my name. I just feel so happy, lucky, and blessed that they read me at all.
L.L.: Okay, back to DAMAGED, what do you hope readers take away from the story?
Lisa Scottoline: You know, the story has so much heart, and I don’t want to give much away, but what I really hope they take away is it the importance of family – and not in some sanitized, sitcom, family-values kind of way, but in what family really can give to someone, nurturing them, sustaining them, and giving them a solid basis of pure love, even when it’s difficult and there are problems to sort out, like Mary has in this novel, in abundance!
L.L.: And since we’re both dog-lovers, I have to ask if you have any new goofy dog/animal family stories to share? My basset just celebrated her first birthday and we celebrated in style with red-white-and-blue sweatbands and fancy dog ice cream.
Lisa Scottoline: You are a much better dog mother than I am, but I’m crazy about my five dogs, and sometimes I feel like it’s a party in this house, because they are the center of attention. Lately the big story is that poor Ruby, my little Corgi, has a paralyzed hind end and has to drive around in a cart, and now I have to diaper her, which is no picnic. But I will stick it out with her through the end, because nobody is more loyal than a dog.
L.L.: What’s next for you?
Lisa Scottoline: I’m in the thick of the next novel, a standalone, and I’m really loving it, but I can’t say more because it has a major twist that I don’t want to give away! And I tend to be a big blabbermouth: so I’ll just shut up.
L.L.: What should I have asked but may have forgotten?
Lisa Scottoline: There’s nothing I can think of more, I think you really got to the heart of it, and thank you very very much for your support. It’s always wonderful to speak with you, even this way! Stay well.
For more information, or to connect with Lisa via social media, please see:
Author Bio: Lisa Scottoline is The New York Times bestselling author and Edgar award-winning author of 26 novels, including her latest work, MOST WANTED. She also writes a weekly column with her daughter Francesca Serritella for the Philadelphia Inquirer titled “Chick Wit” which is a witty and fun take on life from a woman’s perspective. These stories, along with many other never-before-published stories, have been collected in a New York Times bestselling series of humorous memoirs including their most recent, Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?, and earlier books, Have a Nice Guilt Trip; Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim; Best Friends, Occasional Enemies; My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space; and Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog, which has been optioned for TV. Lisa reviews popular fiction and non-fiction, and her reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Lisa has served as President of Mystery Writers of America and has taught a course she developed, “Justice and Fiction” at The University of Pennsylvania Law School, her alma mater. Lisa is a regular and much sought after speaker at library and corporate events. Lisa has over 30 million copies of her books in print and is published in over 35 countries. She lives in the Philadelphia area with an array of disobedient pets, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay here:
[Special thanks to J. Karle and J. Sha at St. Martin’s Press. Author image credit: April Narby. Cover and author image courtesy of SMP and used with permission. Child reading image retrieved from and pasta image from, both on 8.17.16, dog image from L.Lindsay’s personal archives.]