By Karen Harper
COME HOME is an emotional thriller about Jill Farrow, a typical suburban mom who has finally gotten her life back on track after a divorce. She has a beautiful teenage daughter and is about to remarry when Abby, her former stepdaughter, appears on her doorstep and asks her to help solve a murder – of her ex-husband! Beyond the twists and turns, and the surprise ending, COME HOME asks the question, do you ever stop being a mother? Can you have an ex-child?
Lisa Scottoline recently sat down for an interview with TheBigThrill:
Please tell us something about your new release COME HOME.
COME HOME is an emotional thriller in which a woman is asked to help solve the murder of her ex-husband. In doing so, she must decide if she is willing to sacrifice her future for her past. COME HOME explores the boundaries of motherhood and love, and the challenge of blending families in the context of a fast-paced thriller.
Your wide-ranging website mentions that you teach a course at your alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania , on ‘Justice and Fiction.’ Can you give us an idea of your main thrust in this course? How “legally correct” is your fiction?
The course is really about themes of justice in fiction, and I think that any thriller will inevitably serve up the question of the morality of crime and punishment. I don’t consider my novels legal thrillers, and never did, but I do absolutely stand by the legal and criminal facts contained in every book. I make sure I get all those details right because I think that people get their ideas about justice and law from fiction.
Praise for your earlier bestsellers have included comments that you write what you know and put your self into your books. Is COME HOME autobiographical in any sense, especially since the reviews stress that a family saga is central to the novel?
I think I write emotional thrillers, and so, to make them realistic, I write what I know, in that I draw on the emotions I have experienced in my life. Viewed this way, COME HOME isn’t autobiographical, but in writing it I drew on my emotions as a mother, a stepmother, and a parent.
David Baldacci says of COME HOME, “…the pace is relentless…” Can you give other authors and readers a sense of how you handle pacing? Is it something that comes naturally to you or do you agonize over producing page-turning fiction? Can you give us some tips you use to ratchet up the pacing?
I would be happy to give you some tips, because I work hard on pacing in my novels and I think pacing is more important than people understand. The simple tip for pacing is that great thrillers aren’t written, they are rewritten. Pacing happens in the edit of your novel and the question I ask myself with every sentence is what is the purpose of this sentence. If the sentence isn’t furthering the plot, informing character, or entertaining the reader, I delete it. I guarantee if you do that in your redraft, your novel will be perfectly paced. It’s not rocket science.
Library Journal gives COME HOME a starred review and says, “This thrilling testament to a mother’s relentless love may well be Scottoline’s best novel to date.” Do you feel it is your best work so far, or is the most recent one always the closest to your heart? Or do you love all your ‘children’ equally?
I actually do believe my most recent novel is my best for the simple reason that I believe writers improve over time and with practice. It’s really important for new writers to demystify writing or being published. It’s just like Malcolm Gladwell says in Outliers…experts are made after 10,000 hours of practice. I’ve had an entire year of writing everyday to improve my skills and COME HOME represents all of that hard work.
In your “spare time”—right(!)—you pursue a variety of writing of other kinds: a Chic Wit column with your daughter, Francesca Serritella, for the PHILADELPHIA ENQUIRER; reviewing pop fiction and non-fiction; and writing such humorous pieces as MY THIRD HUSBAND WILL BE A DOG. Is it difficult to segue from one form and style of writing to the other? Do you have a ‘favorite child’—besides Francesca, of course?
It isn’t difficult to segue from these different types because I think the walls between genres are an illusion anyway. Good writing is good writing, and the truest thing is an authentic voice, which I hope I bring to anything I write, regardless of form.
Your writing is being snapped up by “ Hollywood ” right and left. MY THIRD HUSBAND… has been optioned, and Fox Studios will do nine Rosato and Associates books. Are you worried about your work being changed or being out-of-your-hands? Do you envision particular lead actors for Rosato books?
I’m excited to be noticed by Hollywood but my first love is books and I love being a thriller writer. I never get caught up or invested in what Hollywood might do, but I’m aware that many books are optioned but don’t always make it to the screen. So, I just keep my head down and keep writing because the truest and best form of the books are the books themselves. I feel lucky to have this job and feel grateful for my readers.
Can you tell us what you’re working on next or do you like to keep work in progress to yourself?
It’s my only secret.
COME HOME is also available as an audio book from Macmillan Audio. Click here to preview a sample.
Lisa is an award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of 18 novels. She also writes a column for the Philadelphia Inquirer titled, “Chick Wit” which she writes with her daughter, Francesca Serritella. The columns have been collected in several books including WHY MY THIRD HUSBAND WILL BE A DOG and BEST FRIENDS, OCCASIONAL ENEMIES. She has over 30 million books in print and is published in over 35 countries. She has served as president of Mystery Writers of America, and has taught “Justice and Fiction,” at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She lives in the Philadelphia area with an array of adorable but disobedient pets.
To learn more about Lisa, please visit her website.