April 23, 2019

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This Best-Selling Author Lives With 4 Dogs, 17 Chickens, 3 Horses, a Pony and a Cat

This Best-Selling Author Lives With 4 Dogs, 17 Chickens, 3 Horses, a Pony and a Cat
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Lisa Scottoline

She has four Cavalier King Charles spaniels, a cranky cat, 17 elderly chickens (“everything on my farm is geriatric, including me”), three horses and a 33-year-old pony, but Lisa Scottoline still manages to write three books a year: one series novel, one stand-alone thriller and one nonfiction collection with her daughter, Francesca Serritella. “How I find the time has everything to do with the glories of middle age,” she explains. “I was a single mother for most of my life, and now that my daughter has grown up, I’m my only daily responsibility, at least in the human being department. So I can devote myself to doing what I love, which is writing books for a living.”

Her latest novel, “After Anna” — which enters the hardcover fiction list at No. 2 — is part legal thriller, part domestic drama, a combination that particularly appeals to Scottoline, a former attorney. “I love writing about family because it matters the most to me and probably to everyone,” she says. “Nothing can bring you more joy, or drive you crazier, than your family. Or your role in your family. For example, what is a good mother? That’s a question that ‘After Anna’ deals with directly. There’s no mother, including me, who doesn’t put her head on the pillow at night and worry that she’s somehow gotten it wrong.”

Scottoline does an enormous amount of research for her novels — she’s “taken boxing lessons, visited a convent, driven up the front steps of the art museum in Philadelphia just to make sure it could be done, stood on the roof of her car in a parking garage to figure out a real-life escape route for one of her characters, and visited junkyards,” as she says on her website. All that research, though, takes place while she’s writing, since she does not plot her books in advance. “I admire writers who outline,” she says, “but for me it would feel like Mad-Libs.” She stands at her treadmill desk every day — “I will buy anything it takes to keep the blood moving to my brain” — and starts typing.

“I plan absolutely nothing,” she says. “It’s not my nature. I write a book in an organic way, asking myself after each chapter what the characters would do next. I never know what the story is until I tell it to myself. Not only don’t I know how it ends, I don’t know how it middles! So I’m nervous the whole entire time, and the only cure is carbohydrates.” Her anxiety, she says, is what fuels her plots. “If I’m on the edge of my seat, how can the reader not be? And the surprise ending always comes as a surprise to me!”



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