Most authors admit that they need to work in silence in order to get into the creative process. For them, writing is serious work that requires the utmost peace and concentration. Of course, most authors are not writing the kind of whiz-bang, sharp, wild, and witty works that Lisa Scottoline is producing. Scottoline's unusual working methods and desire for all things pop culture have helped her to create some of the most unapologetically entertaining and compulsively page-turning novels in contemporary popular fiction.
Scottoline's initial impetus to become a novelist was not quite as joyful as her novels might suggest. She had recently given up her position as a litigator at a Philadelphia law firm to raise her newborn daughter at the same time as she was breaking up with her husband. While the birth of her daughter was an undoubtedly happy moment for Scottoline, she was also thrust into relative isolation in the wake of her separation and the end of her job. To keep herself busy (when not tending to her daughter, that is), she decided to write a novel, the provocative story of an ambitious young lawyer whose hectic life becomes even more manic when she learns she is being stalked. Three years after beginning the novel, Scottoline sold Everywhere That Mary Went to HarperCollins a mere week after taking a part-time job as a clerk for an appellate judge -- her first job since beginning the book. While her transition from lawyer to novelist may seem abrupt to some, Scottoline asserts that it was law school that gave her the necessary tools to spin a compelling yarn. In a 2005 interview with Barnes & Noble.com, Scottoline asserted that the job of a lawyer is surprisingly similar to that of a good writer: "Take the facts that matter, throw out the ones that don't, order them in such a way in which a point of view is created so that by the time someone is finished listening to your argument or reading your book they see things completely in that point of view."
Scottoline's sure-handed way with an intriguing narrative has led to a string of bestselling thrillers and a popular series revolving around the women of Rosato & Associates, an all-female law firm in Philadelphia -- the author's own beloved hometown. Jam-packed with humor, mystery, eroticism, and smarts, her novels are published worldwide and have been translated into twenty-five different languages.
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Lisa Scottoline is definitely no TV snob. She feels no shame when revealing her love of everything from Court TV to Oprah to The Apprentice to I Love Lucy.
One of the reasons that Scottoline is such a fabulous writer may have something to do with having a particularly fabulous teacher. While studying English at the University of Pennsylvania she was instructed by National Book Award Winner Philip Roth.
Don't try this at home! Scottoline completed her first novel, Everywhere That Mary Went, while she and her newborn daughter lived solely on $35,000 worth of credit from five Visa cards, which she'd completely maxed out by the time she completed the book three years later.
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In the summer of 2005, Scottoline let us know about her favorite books, authors, and interests.
What was the book that most influenced your life?
The Firm, by John Grisham. It's a truly page-turning book about lawyers, which ain't easy, and it changed my life on a very literal level. I'd always been a huge fan of the legal thriller, from the time of Erle Stanley Gardner. But John Grisham broke new ground in The Firm, because for the first time, a lawyer was the star of the novel, but he wasn't shown in a courtroom drama -- he was an underdog. Admittedly, a good-looking, wealthy, BMW-driving underdog, but an underdog just the same. And Grisham opened my eyes to the possibility that lawyers could have rich interior lives (at the time, I was a lawyer without a rich interior life), and from him I learned that these lives could make for first-rate suspense fiction, which led me to think that maybe I could try my hand at writing, as well. So I owe Grisham, not only as a fan and a lawyer, but as a writer. And I hope that anyone out there who has a secret longing to write a book will give it a try. Everyone has a book in them. Even lawyers.
What are some of your favorite books?
I like terrific writing, but I also like a terrific story. My favorite books have both, and they're by contemporary, commercial American writers. You don't have to be dead to write a classic, and you don't have to be literary to be smart. Here are the books that make awesome look easy:
Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth -- A timeless coming-of-age story; exuberant, daring, and sharply clever.
Shogun by James Clavell -- One of the few period stories I ever adored, and the first book I read slowly to make it last.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo -- A great family saga with tomato sauce. For once, I can relate.
The Hot Zone by Richard Preston -- A nonfiction book about the Ebola virus that reads like a thriller.
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt -- The only example I know of a book that can mix horror and humor and leave you weak.
Plainsong by Kent Haruf -- Amazingly spare prose, and superb dialogue.
The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille -- Great characterization, sly dialogue, and married people in love.
A Soldier in the Great War by Mark Helprin -- A wonderful story and a literary read without pretense.
Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow -- A great courtroom drama wrapped up in a family story, my weakness.
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver -- Perfect-pitch characterization, a love story that rings true, and one of the best titles of all time.
Who are your favorite writers?
My favorite writers. First of all, Barbara Kingsolver, Mark Helprin, Scott Turow, Philip Roth.... Add to that Nelson DeMille, because his writing is so honest, his research authentic, and his humor so very sly; and Janet Evanovich, because everybody needs a speedy, fun crime novel. Elmore Leonard for his low-life punks with heart. Also in this class are Robert Parker (of the Spenser series) for much the same reason; and, since many of these citizens are latter-day Damon Runyans, we should pay homage to Damon Runyan for his wonderful and original voice.
I also love James Patterson for his breathless pace and P.G. Wodehouse for his sharp humor, character, and dialogue. I adore James Hall, who writes superb crime novels set in South Florida, and the late William Coughlin, who has a voice in his legal novels that reminds me wonderfully of Robert Travers's seminal work, Anatomy of a Murder. And I can't wait for the next book from John Searles, whose finely crafted first novel, Boy Still Missing, managed to be a mystery story, a family story, and a love story all rolled up into one. Now that's a feat.
What else should we know?
I am an open book, literally. I don't mind if people know way too much about me. In fact, if they read me, they already do. I love spaghetti with bumpy meatballs. I collect overweight golden retrievers and books I can't put down. My favorite families are the Sopranos, the Osbournes, and my own. I am completely star-struck, and Jennifer Aniston matters to me. TV is always on in my office, but not a radio or music. I love my job, and I love books. I read anything, including cereal boxes. I care deeply about what people think of my books, and I memorize my reviews. I love to hear from my readers. I am the only fully-clothed person to write a book on a webcam, at www.scottoline.com. Truth to tell, I may be the only fully-clothed person to do anything on a webcam. To unwind, I make out with my golden retrievers. But not on the webcam. There are limits.
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|Lisa Scottoline Home
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|In Our Other Stores|
Signed, First Editions by Lisa Scottoline|
|Everywhere That Mary Went, 1993|
|Final Appeal, 1994|
|Running from the Law, 1995|
|Legal Tender, 1996|
|Rough Justice, 1997|
|Mistaken Identity, 1998|
|Moment of Truth, 1999|
|The Vendetta Defense, 2001|
|Courting Trouble, 2002|
|Dead Ringer, 2003|
|Killer Smile, 2004|
|Devil's Corner, 2005|
|Dirty Blonde, 2006|
|Daddy's Girl, 2007|