The Big Thrill’s Behavioral Analysis Unit: Lisa Scottoline

By Eric P. Bishop

Bestselling author Lisa Scottoline epitomizes the words “successful writer.”

With 30 million copies of her novels published in more than 35 countries, Scottoline is a force to be reckoned with in (and out of) literary circles. Winner of the Edgar Award in 1995 from the Mystery Writers of America, her stories resonate with fans and critics alike. However, as Scottoline herself says, all her writing accomplishments pale compared to her greatest achievement—raising a daughter as a single mom.

Scottoline’s latest novel—WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BENNETTS—launched at the end of March and unravels the chilling tale of a family forced to choose between law…and justice. The book marks Scottoline’s highly-anticipated return to the thriller realm after last year’s epic love story told against the backdrop of WWII in Rome, Eternal.

Dive in below as The Big Thrill has the privilege of throwing Scottoline 20 questions that prompt her trademark witty, punchy, and wisecracking laugh-out-loud responses.

Scottoline with her horse Tim. “Only one of us is a natural blonde,” says Scottoline. Photo credit Jeff Wojtaszek

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Any day I wake up. Truly, I am grateful to be alive. I am happy to be alive, and all happiness is perfect.

What is your greatest fear?

That they stop making elastic waistbands.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

That I’m so dependent on elastic waistbands.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Bigotry.

What would your superpower be?

I gave birth. That’s superpower enough.

What is your favorite way to waste time?

I never waste time, I spend it in ways others might not approve of. Now ask me if I care.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

Crusader for all that is good and right.

What is your most embarrassing moment?

The answer above.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I can ride a horse. Not well, but I stay on top, most of the time. Wow!

What’s your favorite place in the world?

My house.

Scottoline (right) with her daughter, Francesca Serritella, in Provence

What do you most value in your friends?

Who they are as people.

Who are your favorite writers?

I love so many writers I can’t list them all. I find something good in every book I read, whether nonfiction or fiction. That may be a diplomatic answer, but it is the absolute truth. People who want to write should read all the time. I had five years of struggle, rejection, and being broke while I was trying to become a writer, and even back then, I said to myself, if you are not writing your own book, you need to be reading someone else’s. And now, miraculously, I get to do both.

If you were to die and come back as a character in a novel, who would you be?

I honestly think I do this every day of my life—not the dying part but living the lives of my characters. It’s really the most amazing and most fun part of this job, and I feel lucky and blessed to be able to do it, every day. I’m currently living the lives of four characters, and they’re all crusaders in their own minds. Even the bad guys.

Lisa Scottoline
Photo credit: Jeff Wojtaszek

Who are your real-life heroes?

My real-life hero is my mother, Mary Scottoline. She was the youngest of 19 children in an immigrant Italian family, and she fought every day to be able to live the life she wanted. She succeeded in every way that matters.

What is your most unappealing habit?

I think all my habits are adorable. I’m sure that’s why I’m divorced twice.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

The best piece of writing advice I ever got came from a shoe company. It is, Just Do It. I got it from Nike, and I’m not even kidding. I really believe that writing is behavioral, so you need to sit in the chair and try to tell yourself the story. Don’t judge yourself for what you’re writing, just let it come. Get it down first, then get it good in second draft. Let yourself take yourself seriously and protect the time you need to write. Think of your wish to write like a candle and imagine all those Victorian houses, where they walk around with candles at night and have to shield the flame with a cupped hand. Your writing is the candle. Protect it without question, guilt, or apology.

What’s your favorite drink?

Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, large, extra cream, extra sugar. That is the magical elixir. I should dedicate every single one of my books to Dunkin’ Donuts.

Plotter or pantser?

Pantser, totally. People ask me if I know how it ends, and I don’t even know how it middles. I have written more than 30 novels that way, and it works for me. But everyone gets to find what works for them. Just know that every way is valid, and experiment with what works for you.

Scottoline with her favorite novelist, daughter Francesca Serritella, at one of their local indie bookstores, Towne Book Center

What is your favorite word?

Pizza.

Which living author do you most admire?

I admire all authors, dead or alive, because this is the best job in the world, but it’s harder than it looks, whether you’re published or unpublished. We all sit down in front of a blank page and spin something out of nothing, and it has to be good enough to grab somebody’s attention and hold it, an impossible task in a world that demands much and changes every day. I give credit to anybody who will take on the challenge of a blank page. Go, us!

What is your motto?

I just thought of it, thanks to your question. It’s “Go, us!”

I’m all for cheering, at every opportunity.

Eric P. Bishop
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