Allison Leotta has upped her game. When I interviewed her here for Law of Attraction she was already quite good. Leotta, a former federal sex crimes prosecutor, has been writing a series about Anna Curtis, a federal sex crimes prosecutor.
But in her new book the author has some great twists, both plot twists and, more interestingly, changing her formula. This time around Anna is in the unprecedented position of being the defense counsel, trying to protect her sister from murder charges. Making things moe frustrating for Annie, but more entertaining for us, is that Anna's sister is not answering questions about what she was doing the night a popular local coach was killed.
And with that let's go to the interview we did by email.
How did this story idea develop?
My protagonist is a sex-crimes prosecutor named Anna Curtis, who moved from her sad little town in Michigan to Washington DC to follow her dream job. My first three books dealt with different DC cases and romantic developments in Anna’s life. But she was solving everyone else’s problems. In A GOOD KILLING, I really wanted her to go home and face the issues in her own family. That’s always harder, isn’t it? Anna’s family mostly consists of her little sister, Jody.
In A GOOD KILLING, Jody is charged with murdering the local football coach, a hometown hero. There’s nothing in the world much more personal than a murder charge. As the story developed, it also seemed like an entertaining way to talk about a lot of pressing real-life issues: public corruption, the abuse of trust by community leaders, and how strong, resilient women band together to make a difference.
How did you choose what topic to write about? Or does the topic choose you?
I knew that something very significant had happened to Jody when she was a kid. That something was why Anna made it out of their rusting town and into law school, while Jody never left Michigan, and ended up working on the GM assembly line. Once I figured out that backstory, the whole book flowed from there. Writing from Jody’s point of view was some of the easiest, most enjoyable writing I’ve ever done.
Why do you like to write?
It’s cheaper than therapy.
Parts of the book involves Detroit - did you do research on the city? Did you live there when attending Michigan State University?
I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, and was fascinated by the city – its glorious ruins, the promise it once held, and the amazing people who are working to rebuild it today. In another life, I’m living in one of those old lumber-baron mansions and running an urban farm in the backyard. When I went to Michigan State, I lived in the Spartan dorms and off-campus housing. (Go Green.)
Is it possible to say how this book was inspired by the Jerry Sandusky case without providing any spoilers?
"A Good Killing" was inspired by the real-life Jerry Sandusky case, and the notion that the scariest monsters aren't the ones with fangs and claws -- the ones we know to run away from -- but the ones who look like our most trusted friends and neighbors -- the ones we let in our front doors.
I'm pleased you have a character who lost a limb in the war. Can you talk about the research you did talking to a double-amputee Army veteran named Jonathan Mullen.
Living in DC, you see a lot of amputees – they come here to recover at Walter Reed and other military hospitals. It’s common, as I’m running in my local park, to see amputees jogging or walking the same path. It always makes me think about their sacrifices, courage and grit, and imagine what it’s like to come home and try to make a life again after such incredible trauma.My babysitter is an incredible young woman named Gemma D’eustachio. (She just became a firefighter.) She was dating Johnathon Mullen, a double-amputee who came to DC to recover. I asked if they would mind sitting down and talking to me about their relationship. They were willing and generous. I have two little boys, ages 5 and 7, who initially stared at Johnathon’s prosthetics and asked him how he got his “robot legs.” He was super cool about answering, explaining and teaching them how to talk about it. By the end, my boys wanted their own robot legs. John lost his legs while he was serving in the Army in Afghanistan and stepped on an IED. Since he came home, he’s learned to walk on two prosthetic limbs, wooed Gemma, and reinvented himself as a photographer. He is, in short, a total hero. I could think of no better real couple to inspire the fictional relationship in this book, between Anna and her Army vet friend and amputee, Cooper Bolden. Many of the women who’ve read advance copies of A GOOD KILLING tell me they now have a massive crush on Cooper. I love that. It’s the highest compliment they can pay my character.
What do you think about being called "the female John Grisham"? Would you prefer he be called the male Allison Leotta?I
I’m honored, because I love Grisham’s books. The man knows how to tell a story. But he’s so successful that everyone wants to be him. There’s The Gay John Grisham. The Canadian John Grisham. The Female John Grisham. He’s the standard by which every other legal thriller writer is measured. When he’s called the Male Allison Leotta, I’ll know I’ve truly made it.
For readers new to you would you ask them to start with this book or your first one?
Start with A GOOD KILLING. It stands alone, and is my favorite book yet. If you like it, then please go back and read the first three!
What are you working on next?
I’m working on the fifth Anna Curtis book, which will deal with the issue of sex assaults on college campuses.
Lastly I like that you reality check TV crime dramas. What made you decide to do that?
I’ve always loved the TV crime dramas, but when they get things wrong, they drive me crazy. Blogging turned out to be far more satisfying than throwing popcorn at the TV.
Have you ever or would you ever serve as a defense attorney?I haven’t ever served as a defense attorney … but if one of my sisters were ever charged with murder, I would defend her, God help us both.