Tuesday , April 23 2024
A prosecutor writes a novel about an attorney's trials and tribulations when a domestic violence case turns fatal

An Interview With Allison Leota, Author of the Novel Law of Attraction

This is the first novel by a federal prosecutor who works in Washington D.C. I was sent the book, unsolicited, but I thought I’d give her a shot and help promote a new author. This is the result.

The book has a few plot twists, some of which I saw coming and some which I did not. The main character, Anna, has a relationship with a defense attorney which becomes a big problem when they find themselves on opposite sides of the same case.

What sparked you to write this book? What other novelist-writing lawyers do you like?

I started writing Law of Attraction because of my job. I’m a federal sex-crimes prosecutor, so I see the very worst things people can do to each other. But I also see some inspiring things – moments of dignity, courage, and healing. It’s not a job you leave at the office. Writing helps me process the highs and lows that are part of the work.

In terms of other lawyers-turned-writers, Scott Turow is the master. He’s brilliant on so many levels. Linda Fairstein is a personal hero because she headed the Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan DA’s office for over twenty years, and her novels have that ring of truth. Robert Dugoni is great. And Lisa Scottoline always knocks out fun and funny girl-lawyer-heroine stories.

Was it always planned for this book to come out during Domestic Violence Awareness Month?

No, but it was great timing. Law of Attraction is a romantic thriller that deals with domestic violence. I tried to answer the question that’s always asked about DV victims: “Why didn’t she just leave him?” My heroine is a beautiful young DV prosecutor named Anna Curtis, who suffered a violent childhood herself. She takes her job personally. And she’s devastated when a DV victim lies under oath to protect her abusive lover. The man goes free; the victim turns up dead; and Anna is heartsick and determined to bring the killer to justice. Standing in her way is her own boyfriend, a public defender representing the accused. As Anna’s personal and professional lives collide, she struggles to understand why she and so many women are attracted to men who hurt them.

What do you think legal shows on TV including Law & Order: SVU get right and wrong?

One of my favorite topics! I’ve been blogging about this at www.allisonleotta.com. Here are a few notable mistakes: Rapists rarely lurk in bushes. You are far more likely to be killed or raped by someone you know than by a stranger. Cops hardly ever get usable fingerprints from guns. Human DNA does not coat the earth’s surface. And most crime victims are not beautiful young heiresses who secretly work as strippers.

Did you decide to set the story around Valentine’s Day to remind people of the amount of domestic violence that time of year?

Yes, in part. Prosecuting domestic violence, I came to hate Valentine’s Day – but not for the usual reasons. Valentine’s Day is the worst time of year for domestic violence. But Law of Attraction is a love story in addition to a murder mystery. So Valentine’s Day in D.C. Superior Court provided the perfect opening scene, with the paradox of people hurting each other on the day they’re supposed to be celebrating love.

What do you think of the portrayal of Washington D.C. by George Pelecanos and of Baltimore by Laura Lippman?

George Pelecanos and Laura Lippman are to debut crime writers what Michael Jordan is to NCAA basketball players. We all worship them and hope that, if we practice enough, we’ll be as good as them one day. They don’t just write powerfully and truthfully about their hometowns – they write powerfully and truthfully about people. Every time I read one of their novels, I walk away with a new insight into human nature. I strove for their level of authenticity in Law of Attraction.

Are some plot points in the book based on your own real cases?

Sure. Being a sex-crimes prosecutor provides such incredible material, I had to use it. I wove some of the most interesting details from my real-life cases into my fictional story. In fact, I had to tone down reality a few times. Some things that really happen in D.C. Superior Court are so astonishing, they would seem implausible if written as fiction. A few times, my husband would read my drafts and say, “Oh come on, that wouldn’t really happen.” And I’d say, “Actually, it happened on Tuesday.”

What’s it like to get praise for your book from Alan Dershowitz  and book reviewing publications? Does a prosecutor want praise from a defense attorney?

It was great to get praise from Alan Dershowitz! He’s the foremost criminal lawyer in America, so his opinion meant a lot to me. And yes, prosecutor-writers want praise from defense attorneys. They have an important perspective. I was gratified that Prof. Dershowitz thought Law of Attraction was a compelling and realistic portrayal of the criminal justice system. When I read his review, I did a little happy dance around the room.

So far, getting reviews from book-reviewing publications has been good. Law of Attraction has gotten some really nice reviews. But the most important thing to me is that readers seem to enjoy the book. I hope it’s a fun read.

Are you planning on writing a second novel?

Yes. I wrote Law of Attraction as a stand-alone novel, but Toucstone/Simon & Schuster is interested in a sequel. I’m very happy to share some more adventures with Anna!

In “real life” could you see relationships occurring between defense attorneys and prosecutors?

Yes, but it would be complicated. Even if they weren’t on opposite sides of a case, they might have wildly differing viewpoints. But stranger things have happened, right? Cops date inmates. Vegetarians date hamburger lovers. Sharks date Jets (although that doesn’t turn out well). Seeing how people love each other despite their differences is the interesting part.

What question were you hoping I’d ask that I didn’t? Here’s your chance to ask and answer it

Thanks for that opportunity, but you covered it! Great and unique questions. I’ve read your interviews and reviews before and have always enjoyed them. It’s a thrill to be interviewed by you. I really appreciate your taking a look at my book!

About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been working in mental health for the last ten years. He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.

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