As a fiction writer, I find it difficult to crack open a book without an agenda. Stepping into a story, especially a series, becomes a study of the author’s voyage through creation, craft, and character development.
I recently plowed through a legal mystery series by Lisa Scottoline. The premise’s combination of an all-women law firm, sparkly humor, and a tangle of moral dilemmas rang all my chimes—in spades.
Each of the three main characters comes to the firm of Rosato & Associates with their own set of unique baggage. Every book of the series solves a case in a “chickalicious” way. I cared about these three women, with all their character flaws and passion for the law. They’re chased, get shot at, and break their heels in their willingness to put their lives on the line for truth. A hook of the highest order.
While I burned to speed through the series, I took my time to study their construction—first lines and last lines of chapters, pacing, and how the plots unfold—to understand how Lisa Scottoline tethered me to a journey. The first book in the series, Everywhere That Mary Went, was a bit rough in the craft department. Those colorful dialogue tags and adverbs were a “no-no” distraction, along with shifting points of view. Can’t get away with that these days. But I kept going. Lisa Scottoline made me laugh out loud with her clever turns of phrase. I’m glad she didn’t go back at fix the crafty bumps, because they showed that she is human, like the rest of us writers.
The magic of character development unfolded. Lisa Scottoline learned more about her characters, as we readers did with her. By Rough Justice I was all in. This is why readers love a series. One book can’t show us what multiple books can with the same cast. It takes time, more than a mere three-hundred pages, to get deep inside a character’s head. Authors and their fans want to linger in there and hangout. Today’s required pacing of a standalone book doesn’t allow for such luxury.
By the tenth book, Lady Killer, I’d learned plenty about the law, but I also enjoyed the author’s growth in her craft. That was fun. Lisa Scottoline took her real-life experience as a former trial attorney to express herself through prose, to say what she couldn’t in a courtroom. The law isn’t so black and white. As far as I’m concerned, Ms. Scottoline had found her ultimate calling.
Authors go through pangs of self-doubt. I certainly do. Am I doing it “write”? Am I a legend only in my own mind? Writing a book is harder than most readers think. As I moved through the series, I could easily identify where Ms. Scottoline fretted over artistic choices, and also where she sat back like a Cheshire cat and flung the littered poo. Those moments were golden for me.
Lisa Scottoline became my soul sister over the two months that I read her books—and she doesn’t even know me. I procrastinated to read the last one so the series wouldn't end. That’s what being a reader who writes is all about. Or is it the other way around? Depends on the day.
Here is Lisa Scottoline’s website if you want to learn more about her work: scottoline.com
The Rosato & Associates series: Everywhere That Mary Went, Legal Tender, Rough Justice, Mistaken Identity, Moment of Truth, The Vendetta Defense, Courting Trouble, Dead Ringer, Killer Smile, Lady Killer, and Think Twice.
Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Oregon with her husband of thirty-seven years and bossy cat. She writes for baby boomers. Her novels are filled with heart, humor, and mystery. Courtney has studied craft and storytelling at the Attic Institute and has completed the Hawthorne Fellows Program for writing and publishing. Active in the writing community, Courtney is a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and is a member of Willamette Writers, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, She Writes, and Sisters in Crime. The Executrix received the Library Journal Self-E recommendation seal.
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Colorful characters come alive in Courtney's latest trilogy about the Dushane sisters. Beginning with The Executrix, three middle-age sisters find a manuscript for a murder mystery in their mother's safe after her death. Mom’s book gives them a whole new view of their mother and their future. Is it fiction . . . or truth?
Get out the popcorn as the Dushane Sisters Trilogy comes to scrumptious conclusion with Indigo Legacy. Due out in early 2017. Stay tuned!