By Leslie Lindsay
This gal has got a lot of shelf space. I know because I was just in my local bookstore and saw for myself just how prolific she’s been. Writing since 1994, and she hasn’t stopped since. What’s more, she’s incredibly energetic and quite the um…storyteller. I know because I saw her speak in St. Louis when her book, DON’T GO (2013) came out. And then there’s her fierce love for pets, all things Italian, and her cozy farmhouse.
Any idea who I’m talking about?
If you guessed New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award winning author Lisa Scottoline then you’d be spot-on.
In her newest book, Scottoline delivers a gripping brew of domestic suspense exploring hot-button issues of infertility and criminal law in her brand-new domestic thriller MOST WANTED (just released yesterday, April 12th!).
Christine Nilsson, a reading teacher and her husband, Marcus desperately want to become parents. After years of trying to conceive, the couple discover Marcus is infertile. Working with a highly skilled and respected fertility specialist, Christine conceives with the help of a donor. Months pass and Christine is glowing; she’s pregnant.
But a chance glimpse of a news report on television results in a shocking revelation. It appears as if her donor has been arrested for the death—murders!—of three women. Could the biological father of her baby be a serial killer? And what implications does that have for her marriage and the child she is carrying? What might you do?
Today, I am incredibly honored to welcome Ms. Scottoline to the blog couch to talk with us about her searing new novel.
Leslie Lindsay: Lisa, thanks so much for popping by. Years ago, I wrote this line, “Christine wanted a baby so badly, she got two within seven months.” I have no idea where I’m going with that, but it’s haunted me all these years. What wedged itself under your skin that inspired MOST WANTED?
Lisa Scottoline: Leslie, It is an honor to be speaking with you today and I appreciate your time. That is a terrific first sentence, and it makes me want to read more! I hope you write that book one day soon!
The inspiration for MOST WANTED came from one of the most emotionally true moments of my entire life, the birth of my amazing daughter, Francesca. I was thinking about how much my daughter Francesca means to me, and as a single mom with only one child, her, we are really close. We’re even co-authors! And even as she’s gotten older, she’s still the best part of my life and the thought came to me – what if I couldn’t have had a child? What if I hadn’t been able to conceive? And then I thought, what if I had used a sperm donor to have a child – and then what if my donor turned out to be a suspected serial killer? It was as wild a “what-if” as I could imagine, but also one that would involve a lot of moral, ethical, and emotional complexity, so I got busy writing and MOST WANTED was born.
L.L.: You do a lovely job of researching the law where things like this are concerned and I’m just in awe with the breadth of knowledge. Can you talk a bit about your research for MOST WANTED?
Lisa Scottoline: You are too kind! Thanks you so much for mentioning it, because I take the research very seriously. It is important to me that the details are correct because I want everything to read authentic and real. My research always starts with books, and I ordered and read a bunch of books about fertility. Once I feel like I have a grasp on the topic, I turn to the experts in the field to fill in the blanks, for the proper lingo, and hands-on personal accounts. For MOST WANTED, I spoke to a top reproductive endocrinologist, visited a fertility clinic, and, as always, worked with law enforcement and lawyers. I always thank my experts in my acknowledgements because they are so vital to the book and to the community.
L.L.: I saw you speak at St. Louis County Libraries in 2013 when DON’T GO (2013) was hitting the shelves. Hugely animated, your big personality lit up the room. The one bit of wisdom you shared that keeps me going as a writer was this, “Boom—there’s a story!” It seems stories are everywhere and it’s up to us—the writers—to harness that energy and potential. Can you tell us what your story development process is like?
Lisa Scottoline: I have written twenty-some novels, and I have done this the same way every time, which is that I have absolutely no outline. I start only with an idea and then I sit down and start writing, and along the way, try to figure out what the character would do next. This is the kamikaze school of writing, but it’s the only thing that suits my personality, because I simply cannot imagine sitting down and writing the whole outline of a novel first. For me, that would mean that actually writing the novel was filling in the blanks. But everyone has a way of writing that works best, and for me, it’s kamikaze. While this method creates some anxiety because I don’t always know what I’m writing next, it allows the story to develop naturally, with twists and turns even I don’t see coming. I’m experiencing the book in the same way the reader will when it is read.
L.L.: Do you have any special writing rituals or routines? For example, I say to my 7 month basset hound, “C’mon, let’s go work,” and she follows me to my desk. Of course, she naps while I do my thing. I can only imagine something similar happens around your office. Please, we’d love to know!
Lisa Scottoline: Basset hounds are adorable! I have a noisy group of King Charles Cavaliers and a bossy Corgi, who are never far from
me, usually snoring, while I’m writing. I have a pretty set routine when it comes to writing. I start in the morning after breakfast and I write all day until I meet my word count which is 2500 words a day. Whether that takes me a few hours or late into the night, I work until I reach my goal. Then the next day, before I start again, I reread what I had written the day before and then I begin writing for the day. Two years ago, I got a treadmill desk, and I love it. The dogs prefer when I write sitting down!
L.L.: I understand you write a humor column called “Chick Wit” in the Philadelphia Inquirer with your daughter, Francesca (fabulous name, by the way). Can you share a bit about that union and process?
Lisa Scottoline: You are right, Francesca and I write the column together, but we also collect the stories, along with additional new essays, in our New York Times bestselling non-fiction series of humor books. Our most recent book is DOES THIS BEACH MAKE ME LOOK FAT? and coming July 12, 2016 is I’VE GOT SAND IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES. Francesca is the title genius! Francesca lives in New York City, so we write our pieces independently, and don’t see each other’s until they are in the book. Francesca doesn’t need me as an editor, but rather, as a mom, and that is just the way I like it, too! It is so much fun to read what each other has written, and sometimes the correlations are fascinating. For instance, Francesca had written about her obsession with reading the wedding announcements in the paper, at the same time I wrote about my obsession with reading the obituaries! One of the greatest things about the books is that woman of all ages and all walks of life can relate to them.
L.L.: What advice would you give to writers (okay, me) who are feeling discouraged with breaking in?
Lisa Scottoline: For those trying to write, my advice is, as Nike says, Just Do It! Allow yourself a really lousy first draft, and just get the story down on paper. You can then edit to your heart’s content, but putting the words on paper is the first, and hardest part.
As for getting published, know from the start that it is a difficult, but not impossible, process, which takes a bit of a thick skin and a lot of perseverance to get through. But don’t give up, and always keep on writing. I wrote a screenplay that was never published before I turned to novels. I got a lot of rejection from agents while shopping my first novel, and my favorite is from a big New York agent who wrote in the rejection letter, “We don’t have time for a new client, and even if we did, we wouldn’t take you.” I kept going and the rest is history, but I still remember who wrote that letter.
L.L.: I’m constantly inspired by good reading…it makes me want to be a better writer. What are you reading now? Does it influence your work?
Lisa Scottoline: Since I am writing three books a year, much of my time is spent reading research books, but that said, I’m always reading something! I love all kinds of books, both fiction and non-fiction, and every book I read, whether good or not, influences my work in some way.
L.L.: What is inspiring you nowadays?
Lisa Scottoline: I am always inspired by strong women, similar to the strong women in my life, such as Francesca, my mother, Mary, and my best friend, Franca. In fact, Franca’s incredible work as an advocate for children with learning disabilities was part of the inspiration behind my next Rosato & Associates novel, DAMAGED, due out on August 16, 2016.
L.L.: Is there anything I’ve forgotten to ask, but should have?
Lisa Scottoline: Your interview was terrific! The only thing else I would like to say is how grateful I am to all those who read me. I feel very lucky spending my life doing something I love, and that is all possible because of you, Leslie, and all of my other amazing readers! So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart!
L.L.: Lisa, it was a pleasure! Thank you for chatting with us today and all the best with MOST WANTED!
Lisa Scottoline: Leslie, thank you so much for your wonderful and insightful questions! I wish you the very best with your writing!
For more information, please see:
Lisa Scottoline’s website
Author Bio: Lisa Scottoline is a 20 time New York Times best-selling and an Edgar award-winning author with over 20 novels (in 20 years) under her belt, including her latest novel MOST WANTED (St. Martin’s Press, April 12, 2016). Her stories have been translated into 25 different languages and her wildly popular, weekly non-fiction column, “Chick Wit,” co-written with her daughter, Francesca Serritella, appears in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Lisa’s books have solidly landed on all the major bestseller lists including The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. Her book LOOK AGAIN was named “One of the Best Novels of the Year” by The Washington Post and as part of World Book Night 2013. It has also been optioned for a film adaptation. Lisa has over 30 million copies of her books in print and is published in over 35 countries.
Lisa, a Philadelphia native, graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, earned a B.A. in English in just three years and received a Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School cum laude. Lisa worked as a trial attorney until the birth of her daughter, Francesca Serritella. She left the firm to raise Francesca and began a part-time career writing legal fiction. Francesca is now an honors graduate of Harvard, author and columnist. Lisa, as a single parent, considers her greatest achievement raising Francesca and now they co-write the “Chick Wit” column for The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Through her writing, Lisa’s contributions have been recognized by organizations throughout the country. Lisa is the recipient of the Fun Fearless Fiction Award by Cosmopolitan Magazine, was named a PW Innovator by Publisher’s Weekly and was honored with AudioFile’s Earphones Award.
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 for which she one an award for Best Adjunct Professor as voted on by the students.
Lisa believes in writing what you know and puts so much of herself into her books. As evidenced in the bond of sisterhood among her characters, family is profoundly important to Scottoline, she has stated, “I come from a very loving, close-knit Italian family.” Lisa says she need not look past her own family, “The Flying Scottolines” for inspiration. In her nonfiction books and columns, Lisa reflects in an honest and humorous way what it is like to be a middle-aged woman maneuvering through life and her relationships with her family (Daughter Francesca, Brother Frank, and her hilarious, opinionated, octogenarian, Italian, Mother Mary), men, and food.
Lisa is an incredibly generous person, (she opens her home to a fully inclusive book club party every year), an engaging and entertaining speaker, a die-hard Eagles fan and a good cook. Her iPod has everything from U2 to Sinatra to 50 Cent, she is proud to be a Philadelphian and American and nothing makes her happier than spending time with her daughter. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her array of disobedient pets, loves the coziness of her farmhouse and wouldn’t have her life any other way.
[Special thanks to J. Karle at SMP/Macmillan. Cover and author image courtesy of author. Anderson’s Bookshop/Naperville retrieved from website 4.11.16. Drawing of writer at desk with dog from the archives of K. Lindsay]