By Dawn Ius
Of the many ingredients that go into writing a great thriller, there is one that New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline believes is the key to her success—keeping things fresh.
Which might seem a tad ironic, since in her twenty-third novel, BETRAYED, Scottoline returns to the characters that first launched her career, the women of her popular Rosato & Associates series.
“I’m thrilled to be writing about these characters again—they feel like old friends,” she says. “It’s great to examine the way their personalities change over time and the way their life events change them. I love to write books that mirror the life of everyday people, on many different levels.”
Relating to readers is important to Scottoline, who makes herself accessible for feedback. She reads her reviews, albeit with the thick hide all authors must develop, and pays attention. Though she admits, no one could compete with her worst critic—herself.
“I’m always thinking of my readers, every page, every word,” she says. “I love love love books that move fast, have high stakes, and are told with an eye towards the listener or the reader. In other words, the pacing never lets up. I’d die before I would bore a reader.”
In BETRAYED, the second high-stakes, fast (and certainly not boring) thriller in the Rosato & Associates spin-off series, Rosato & DiNunzio, Scottoline turns the spotlight on one of her less-featured lawyers, Judy Carrier.
“She’s somebody that doesn’t get as much face time as she should as a main character, so I felt that was overdue,” she says.
More importantly, however, Scottoline felt no other character could tell this story. In her twenty-five years as a successful novelist, Scottoline has learned that character, plot, and voice are the same thing—which, when boiled down, really means that “when I think of the plot, the character chooses the plot.”
Beneath the top-line thriller story underpinning BETRAYED is the tension between friends when one is more successful than the other, like when Mary becomes partner and Judy doesn’t. In addition, Mary is moving on with her personal life and Judy isn’t.
“I think these struggles are common to all of us at different periods in our lives,” she says. “The thriller has to succeed as a richly emotional story as well. I hope BETRAYED does.”
Clearly, Scottoline’s stories resonate with her fans. Her books routinely hit the bestseller lists, and many of her titles have racked up an impressive number of awards and commendations. Her stories have become known for having strong, independent, funny, smart heroines like the star of BETRAYED, Judy Carrier—and one of Scottoline’s favorite characters from childhood: Nancy Drew.
While Nancy’s thrilling adventures may have sparked the collective imaginations of dozens of aspiring and seasoned writers, for Scottoline, the allure of the books had more to do with the character herself—and that emblematic blue roadster.
“Nancy Drew was an independent girl, driving around, having adventures on her own, being bold and brave and smart. That spoke to me as a young girl, and still does.”
Scottoline’s affection for Nancy Drew is often a topic in the many speeches she delivers as part of her packed schedule of signings, conferences, and events. When she’s not on the road meeting readers, Scottoline enjoys spending time riding ponies, playing with dogs and cats and chickens, and of course, writing.
In addition to penning one Rosato & DiNunzio series a year, Scottoline will launch a stand-alone thriller every April, and a humorous essay collection, co-written with her daughter, Francesca Serritella, every summer.
“Our upcoming one is called Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?” she says. “We have been doing this for six years and I must tell you that it has absolutely improved my novel writing. Writing is a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. I feel that I’m just coming into my prime as a writer. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant, but I think I am finally shedding those insecurities of my earlier years.”
It’s those insecurities that keep many aspiring writers from taking the plunge today, Scottoline believes, adding that she doesn’t buy into the notion that breaking into the industry is harder now than when she started her career.
“In the olden days, there were only legacy publishers, but now there are so many different ways to be published, including publishing yourself,” she says. “It’s absolutely liberating and empowering to be living in these times as a writer. My advice would be to go for it! Don’t defeat yourself or get in your own way. Just let it rip and keep going.”
Lisa Scottoline is a New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award–winning author of twenty-two novels. She has 30 million copies of her books in print in the United States, and she has been published in thirty-five countries. She has served as the president of Mystery Writers of America, and her thrillers have been optioned for television and film. She also writes a weekly humor column with her daughter, Francesca Serritella, for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and those critically acclaimed stories have been adapted into a series of memoirs, the first of which is entitled, Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog. She lives in the Philadelphia area with an array of disobedient pets.
To learn more about Lisa, please visit her website.