Tag Archives: prison

Wednesdays with Writers: Jane Corry talks about her U.S. domestic thriller debut, MY HUSBAND’S WIFE, what happens when ex-wives need a favor of one another, strong women, lies, inside a high-security prison, and some really spot-on writing advice.

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By Leslie Lindsay 

Smart, literary domestic thriller that is utterly and completely addictive, MY HUSBAND’S WIFE (January 31 2017, Viking/Pamela Dorman Books) explores multifaceted and nuanced relationships and you won’t want to put this one down; I know I didn’t. 15871466_360265247672452_6114258333084822345_n

Set in London and Devon, England this is a tale told in two halves: “Fifteen Years Ago” and “Today,” but the narrative is neat, not messy; there is no back and forth between time periods, rather they are very distinct–the first half of the book is the first time period.

When young lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start (all good protagonists have a secret, right?), but then she takes on her very first murder case and meets Joe, a convicted murderer whom Lily is strangely attracted to. Lily’s not the only one with secrets: her next door neighbor, 9-year old Carla from Italy who lives with her single mother; a friendship is forged. Carla has secrets. She knows things.

And then there’s Ed. A fledgling artist who would rather draw and paint than go to work at his marketing job. He’s got secrets, too. An old ex. A wealthy family.

Two lies. Small white ones.But that’s how some lies start. Small. Well meaning. Until they get too big to handle.

~From MY HUSBAND’S WIFE, Viking January 30th 2017

MY HUSBAND’S WIFE is at once a domestic thriller, but so much more. It’s the law, it’s murder, it’s about justice. It’s complex intimacies, motivations, and a relationship study. I found it to be highly addictive, dark, and the writing brilliant. 

I promise, if you enjoy twisty, well-written, upmarket and slightly literary work, you will relish this story. I loved it. 

Join me in welcoming Jane Corry to the blog couch!

Leslie Lindsay: Jane, I am so, so excited to have you here to chat with us about this stunning new book. I devoured MY HUSBAND’S WIFE in two breaths. I feel like I have a ton of questions, but the first is: why this story? Why now?  What ignited your imagination?

Jane Corry: MY HUSBAND’S WIFE was inspired by my three years as a writer in residence of a high-security male prison. It showed me that many criminals look like your intelligent next WP_20170109_12_37_13_Pro_LI (2).jpgdoor neighbor. Some were very calculating and charming just like Joe in my book. I also wanted to include the relationship between first and second wives. I happen to get on very well with my first husband’s wife. The four of us (including my newish husband) have all tried hard to create a good relationship, for the sake of the children and grandchildren. But it did make me wonder what might happen if the second wife needed to ask a big favour from the first. And this found its way into the plot….


L.L.: MY HUSBAND’S WIFE is your first U.S. publication, but you’ve published before. Have you always been a writer, or did this sort of evolve for you?

Jane Corry: I began my career as a journalist after university and wrote for many national magazines and newspapers. I’ve also had several short stories published in women’s magazines. So yes – I’ve always earned my living as a writer. I feel very lucky in that respect. I also run writing courses and helped to found a literary festival in my town. MY HUSBAND’S WIFE reached number Five in the SUNDAY TIMES best-seller list in the UK which was very exciting.

L.L.: There’s a lot going on in MY HUSBAND’S WIFE. Deceit, dependence, lust, justice, infidelity. I truly found it to be a fabulous character study and so true to life. Was there a particular character that ‘came to you’ first? Do you have one you felt a particular affinity for?download-48

Jane Corry: I have a particular affinity with Lily. She starts out in the book as a newly-married twenty-something lawyer whose first job, after her honeymoon, is to defend a murderer on appeal. I identify with her strength in difficult situations and also her frailty. In my kitchen, I have a sign that says ‘A woman is like a teabag. You only know how strong she is when you put her in hot water!” I bought the sign in Lake Placid when I was there with my children after my divorce. I also sympathise with Carla. She learned to be cunning at her mother’s knee. It’s not all her fault! Ed is an artist – and I dabble in watercolours.  My great-great-great-great grandfather was quite a famous painter (his patron was Lord Frederick Leighton).

L.L.: Aside from characters, there’s a good deal of secrets and infidelities in MY HUSBAND’S WIFE. It’s not just love affairs, but deeper things resting in the darkness of our psyches. Can you speak to that, please?

Jane Corry: Some of my friends who’ve read MY HUSBAND’S WIFE have said they’re surprised at how dark it is. They didn’t think I was like that! It surprised me too. I do think we have black elements in ourselves which we’re not aware of. But I also try to be the kind of person who helps other people. I am very involved in all kinds of voluntary causes. To be honest, I think the prison showed me that people could do terrible things without meaning to. Many of my criminal students didn’t mean to break the law. But they crossed the line and ruined other people’s lives. I wanted to show that in  my story.

Carol Memmott, for the Washington Post, called MY HUSBAND’S WIFE “provocative” and “addictive,” and says it “nicely fits into the psychological suspense genre that’s riding a slipstream of popularity, thanks to the success of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.”

L.L.: A decent chunk of the book takes place in prison as Lily prepares her case against Joe Thomas, convicted of killing his girlfriend in a scalding bath incident. You have a unique perspective into the prison system in that you spent your writer-in-residence 400px-prison_crowdedat a high-security jail for men. That creeps me out just thinking about it! Can you tell us a little more about what you learned through that experience and how it made your writing richer?

Jane Corry: I applied for the job after my first marriage broke down. Even though I had maintenance, I still needed the money. To be honest, I really hoped that I wouldn’t get the job because I was terrified when they showed me round during the interview. But when I started, I got hooked.  Men came to my workshops because they were genuinely interested in writing. I learned to forget that they were hardened criminals – it was the only way to cope. Sometimes they would tell me what they had done and I really wished they hadn’t because it made me see them in a different light.  One day, I came in to find a very hushed atmosphere. One man had murdered another. It made me sad and but also confused because both were criminals.

At times, I felt very vulnerable. I didn’t have an officer with me. Instead, I merely had a whistle and a key round my belt. I was never physically attacked although some men made sexual comments and one swore at me. Another kept following me and asking questions about his work. I looked him up and found he had done something really horrible so I made sure I was never alone with him. Many were very kind and friendly so you had to make sure they weren’t ‘grooming’ you. In other words, being very nice so you would lower your guard. I used to get very frightened in case one of them would send a mate round to my house. (It was just me and my then-15 year old son at home).  So I put a pair of my ex-husband’s boots outside the front door.  My children’s Godfather (whom I later married) gave me a personal alarm. Unfortunately this went off by accident in the prison and caused a major security alert. Very embarrassing!

All these experiences, I believe, made my writing richer because I was in a different world with new experiences every day.

L.L.: I understand, too that you run regular writing workshops and speak at literary festivals worldwide, including The Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy. How I love Italy! If you could pare down your advice to aspiring writers in one sentence (or home_blog1-360x198two), what would you say?

Jane Corry: Write about what you feel passionate about. Write every day even if it’s only a few sentences to keep the momentum going. Have a strong main character who is likeable but has flaws. Give him or her a problem – when that’s solved, set another problem. Revise your final manuscript properly and read out loud from the printed page.

L.L.: What’s next for you? Please say you’re writing another domestic thriller!

Jane Corry: My new book is called BLOOD SISTERS. It’s about sisters, best friends, loves, lies and prison.

L.L.: What question should I have asked, but may have forgotten?

Jane Corry: What a great question! You could ask what makes me laugh. Answer: my second husband!

L.L.: Jane, it was a complete pleasure. Thank you so much for stopping by!

Jane Corry: Thank you so much for having me.

For more information, to connect with the author, or purchase the book, please see: 

12376137_519461551560790_1785935929031905019_nABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jane Corry is a writer and journalist and has spent time as the writer in residence of a high-security prison for men—an experience that helped inspire My Husband’s Wife, her debut thriller. Corry runs regular writing workshops and speaks at literary festivals worldwide, including The Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy. Until recently, she was a tutor in creative writing at Oxford University.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, here:

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[Cover and author image retrieved from J. Corry’s FB Author page on  Image of Matera, Italy retrieved from WFF blog page, image of high-security prison retrieved from Wikipedia, and depicts a California, U.S. prison, not U.K., ‘woman in hot water’ retrieved from, and copy of book with winter foliage from L. Lindsay’s personal archives, all on 1.19.17]

Write On, Wednesday: Eric Lotke Author of MAKING MANNA talks about how moods affect scenes, writing from different POVs, the justice system, & how he doesn’t have literary favorites (exactly)

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By Leslie Lindsay

Here’s a story that will have you alternatively feeling hopeful and disgusted, wrought with inner angst, and pulling at your skin to help escape the torturous injustice of the penal system.  You’ll fall in the love with the searing honesty, the glittering prose, and the characters themselves. They might remind you a bit of someone you know…maybe even  yourself.MakingManna1600CVR

MAKING MANNA (2015, Brandyland Books) reads like it could be a memoir, but it’s fiction. But like all good fiction, it’s tied together with a few strands of the truth. Click here to read an excerpt.

Today, I am honored to have Eric Lotke chat about his book, MAKING MANNA. Highly recommended you read the last third in a bakery, or at least have some freshly baked bread nearby.

Leslie Lindsay: I am always fascinated by what brings a writer to the page. There has to be something that is intriguing to you, keeping you awake at night to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about, writing, and well…the whole process of getting a book into the world. What inspired you to write MAKING MANNA?

Eric Lotke: Trigger warning. This story has a really bad beginning. Twenty years ago I was working on a death penalty case. The young man on death row was the product of an incestuous rape. I wrote those words in his social history — “product of an incestuous rape.” The phrase was so distasteful that I horrified even myself. The case came and went but those words stuck with me.

Years later, I wanted to write something hopeful and uplifting. The world is a mess. I wanted to say something nice.

So I went back to that kid. I started there but gave him a different ending. I took the worst beginning I could imagine and turned it into something positive.

 L.L.: We all have a process to this madness we call ‘writing.’ What was your particular process in terms of outlining, plot and character in MAKING MANNA?

Eric Lotke: I had a beginning in mind, from that death penalty case. And I had an end in mind. But I wasn’t sure how to get there.

I found that I could always and only see a few chapters in advance. So I would tell the story that far, then taking that as the baseline, outline what happens next – with the endpoint in mind. The characters and internal details developed as they went.

making-yeast-breadL.L.: I like to write in my cozy little office with classical music playing and a puppy curled near my feet. But I’ve also been known to have marathon writing sessions at my local Starbucks. Where is your favorite place to write?

Eric Lotke: I am opportunistic in time and space. I work full time and I have two kids. I drive them to practices, lessons and activities – and have an hour or two to write while I wait. When I was lucky, I’d have a whole half-day at home on a weekend. It mattered that I wasn’t on deadline. If I needed time to figure something out or went a month without a free minute, that was okay. I always keep a notebook handy. My creativity is better than my memory.

L.L.: Writing can be such an exhilarating–and yet exhausting–process. What was your favorite part about writing the book?

Eric Lotke: This was really interesting. When I wrote a scene that was happy and light, I was in a better mood at bedtime. When I wrote a scene that was dark or dreary, I wasn’t as joyful in real life. Putting myself into the mood to create the scene expanded beyond the page.

I suppose it went the other way, too. One weekend I had a lot of time to write and I was looking forward writing the scene that came next. I expected it to be happy and triumphant. As it turned out, I was a little blue that weekend. Maybe I had a cold, something was wrong at work or the kids were annoying. Whatever. I don’t recall. But I remember being a little down as I started … and it is quite clear that this fundamentally happy scene has a melancholy undertow. I always wonder if that undertow was inherent in the material and it would have been there anyway, or if it reflects my temper over the weekend.

In any case, I quite like the complexity and I never sought to iron it out.

L.L.: As writers we have so many choices…that’s part of why I find the process liberating–and yet rife with angst. How did you decide to write from the perspective of Libby rather than her son, Angel?

Eric Lotke: The book begins from Libby’ point of view. Angel is a baby. Yes, he’s occasionally cute, but he’s more of a prop than a character. Mostly he’s a logistical problem that needs diapers and daycare. Starting in Part Two the story moves to Angel’s point of view, and it ages with him from kindergarten to high school. In the end the two points of view come together. Now they’re equals.

One smart reader described it as a “coming of age” story of both the mother and son at the same time. I think that’s exactly right. Libby was so young when he was born! She has so much to figure out, and so does he. I think changing the point of view helps bring that development to life.

L.L.: Libby comes from a tough background but manages to work hard and support her family. How accurate do you think her life is compared to a real-life girl in her situation? What research did you do to keep the novel grounded?

All of her problems are real. She has a bad boss and not enough money, and she’s (justifiably) afraid of the police. She solves her problems in ways that are always credible and based on real world experience. I readily admit, however, that her success is unlikely.  Does one in five people like her succeed? One in twenty? A hundred? I want to show the hopeful possibility – while also making it clear that life is hard and the odds are against her.

Good luck makes a difference, too. Libby meets Sheila at the outset, and her health stays good. She gives the good luck back, though, doing favors for others. I think it’s honest to show that luck makes a difference. That’s not a novelist’s trick.

L.L.: Sheila and her husband have a bad experience with the prison system. Does this aspect of the plot come from your experience as a lawyer?

Eric Lotke: Absolutely. That’s the heart of the story. Typical fiction shows us courtroom dramas with cutting cross examinations and explosive closing arguments. My personal experience brings you people with really bad lawyers who accept really bad plea bargains. Justice on TV is about crime labs and DNA exonerations. The real justice system is about kids who miss their parents in prison, and cops who book you so they can bill overtime on your court date.

“Eric Lotke is a beautiful writer and he has written a beautiful book. Making Manna is a wonderful story of family, redemption, and love that takes the reader from the prison to the school yard in a touching human way that we rarely experience.”
— Heather Ann Thompson, author of Whose Detroit?

L.L.: How else did your career influence the book?

Eric Lotke: Can you tell that I once earned my living as a chef? More importantly, my life as a parent influenced the book. It would have been a different book if I weren’t a dad.

L.L.: Libby talks about one day getting her GED and maybe even going to college. What would be her major in college?

Eric Lotke: Heavens! I don’t know. I’d have to put her in college, have her meet some people, take some classes and live some college experiences … then she’d be in a position to decide.

During the story, a supporting character decides to go to college. As an author I was struggling to decide what college she should go to. So instead of thinking, I worked it out as a story.

First, I knew she was on a tight budget and could only afford a small number of application fees. Second, the logic of her situation defined her choices, for example, her state school. Third, her profile as a candidate determined which schools would admit her and under what terms. In the end she made a choice that followed naturally from the options available.

The point is that instead of deciding where she should go to school from a big fat Barron’s book, I just followed the situation to its conclusion. It feels real because it is.

L.L.: What do you hope readers will take away from Making Manna?

Eric Lotke: First, I want readers to have a good time. Escapism is okay. You deserve a break today. You bought my book: I owe you a good time.

But I also want readers to reflect on the understory and worry about the injustice, especially in the justice system. The obvious problem is bad cops and excessive prison terms. The subtler problem is that people who need protection don’t get it, and people who’ve been hurt don’t get help. That’s a different failing of our justice system. I explore those failings and show a different way out.

L.L.: In some of my “homework,” I read other reviews of MAKING MANNA. Many comments indicated that they’d like to know what happened to the characters. Do you plan to write a sequel?

Eric Lotke: I hadn’t planned to, but people have asked and now I’m tempted. A plot is starting to take shape. I have another book in mind, too. It depends, of course, on how this book is received.

L.L.: Okay…and now for some of the ‘easier’ questions. Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?Ideal Bookshelf 651: Coming of Age

Eric Lotke: I don’t really have favorites. My tastes are diverse and changing. I enjoy biographies by Doris Kearns Goodwin and political science by Jacob Hacker.

The best novel I read lately was The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich. It’s copyright 2002 but the setting is America post WWI and the characters are timeless. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward was a highlight of 2015 and I expect it to last a while. It’s the memoir of an African American woman in low-income America. All of the men important in her life disappear over a couple of years — shot, drugged, suicide or jailed. But somehow the police who happily patrol the neighborhood every night with searchlights can’t manage even to arrest the drunk white driver who kills her brother.

I’ve also been delighted to re-read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. The first time was on my daughter’s recommendation. The second time was voluntary after seeing the movie.

 L.L.: What book are you reading now?

Eric Lotke: I just started Viral by Emily Mitchell. It’s a collection of short stories and I’ve only read a few so I don’t have an opinion yet. But it came highly recommended and the first story is terrific. It’s about a small business where the staff are measured, marked, ranked and made miserable because they aren’t smiling enough.

L.L.: Eric, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us about MAKING MANNA. Truly a pleasure.

Eric Lotke: Thank you!

Lotke headshot.JPGBio: Eric Lotke is an author, activist and scholar. His early work like The Real War on Crime  was groundbreaking on criminal justice policy. His original research on “Prisoners of the Census”  has led to new law in four states so far. His lawsuit over the exploitative price of phone calls from prison led to new rules by the FCC. Lotke’s new novel,Making Manna, is an uplifting tale of triumph over economic and criminal injustice.

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[Special thanks to PRbytheBook. Bread dough image retrieved from on 2.26.16. Coming of Age” books retrieved from on 2.26.16]