Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Interview with debut thriller author Liz Lazarus

I’m chatting with Liz Lazarus today about her debut suspense thriller Free of Malice.
During her virtual book tour, Liz will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!
Bio:
Liz Lazarus is the author of Free of Malice, a psychological, legal thriller loosely based on her personal experience and a series of ‘what if’ questions that trace the after effects of a foiled attack; a woman healing, and grappling with the legal system to acknowledge her right to self-defense.
She was born in Valdosta, Georgia, graduated from Georgia Tech with an engineering degree and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern with an MBA in their executive master’s program. She spent most of her career at General Electric’s Healthcare division and is currently a Managing Director at a strategic planning consulting firm in addition to being an author.

Free of Malice is her debut novel, set in Atlanta, and supplemented by extensive research with both therapists and criminal defense attorneys. She currently lives in Brookhaven, GA, with her fiancé, Richard, and their very spoiled orange tabby, Buckwheat.

Welcome, Liz. Please share a little bit about your debut novel.
Laura Holland awakes in the middle of the night to see a stranger standing in her bedroom doorway. She manages to defend herself from the would-be rapist, though he threatens to return as he retreats. Traumatized with recurring nightmares, Laura seeks therapy and is exposed to a unique treatment called EMDR. She also seeks self-protection—buying a gun against the wishes of her husband. When Laura learns she could have gone to prison had she shot her fleeing assailant, she decides to write a hypothetical legal case using the details of that night. She enlists the help of a criminal defense lawyer, Thomas Bennett, who proves to be well versed in the justice system but has an uncanny resemblance to her attacker. As the two work together to develop the story, Laura's discomfort escalates, particularly when Thomas seems to know more about that night than he should. Reality and fiction soon merge as her real life drama begins to mirror the fiction she’s trying to create.


What inspired you to write this book?
Like the main character, I was attacked by a stranger in my home in the middle of the night. In order to heal, I started to write about how I was feeling and what had changed in my life. At the time, I didn't know about EMDR therapy to heal from trauma, so used writing as a catharsis. Also like the main character, all I had for self-defense was a can of Mace. After the attack, I said to my brother-in-law, if I had owned a gun, I would have shot the guy as he left. My brother-in-law informed me that I was fortunate that I didn't - as the shooting might not have been a clear case of self-defense. That idea sparked my interest in learning about the criminal justice system and inspired me to write the hypothetical case portrayed in the book. The ending, which I won't spoil, was prompted by a question from my mother. Once you've finished the book, you can write to me at liz@lizlazarus.com and I'll tell you more about that.


Excerpt from Free of Malice by Liz Lazarus:
Run. Run faster. As much as I strained my legs to move, they were immobile, like I was waist deep in quicksand.
Why can’t I move?
I tried to scream for help but my mouth was full, like it was stuffed with cotton—no sound would escape.
I felt something clutching my shoulder. No, it was someone. He was pushing me forward and then yanking me back. I tried to jerk away but he had a tight grip, like a vice.
I have to break free.
The tugging got harder, more forceful. He was calling my name— over and over. He knew my name.
“Laura, Laura.”
I jolted awake—my husband’s hand still on my shoulder.
“Honey, wake up. You’re having another bad dream.”
Slowly, I turned over in bed and looked at him—his dark brown eyes were fixated on me. I could see them clearly as the light from the bathroom brightened our bedroom.
For a month now, we had slept with this light on.
I could see the small wrinkle on his forehead. I loved that wrin­kle though wished he didn’t have good reason to be so concerned. I was enduring the nightmares, but he had to deal with my tossing and mumbling in terror.
I remember when we first met—ten years ago in chemistry lab at Georgia Tech. He had walked up to me with those warm eyes and a charming, confident smile and asked, “Want to be partners?”
Two years later he took me to Stone Mountain Park, rented a small rowboat and, in the moonlight, he pulled out a diamond ring and asked me again, “Want to be partners?”
Life had seemed just about perfect.
Until now.
We looked at each other for a moment. Then he propped himself up on his elbow and said softly, “Laura, I feel so helpless. I know it’s only been a month, but...”
He hesitated.
“What?” I asked.
“It’s just as bad as that first night. After it happened. Look, I want to make you feel safe again, but I don’t know how.”
He rubbed his eyes and looked away. I waited, staring at him.
What isn’t he saying?
“I know you don’t want to see a therapist, but seeing someone doesn’t mean you’re crazy. Therapists don’t treat just crazy people. They help people who have been through traumas and you have. Hell, no one even has to know.”
He paused for a second.
“Don’t be mad at me, but yesterday I made an appointment for you. I was going to talk to you about it in the morning if you had another bad dream. I found a woman who is downtown by my office. She’s been practicing for about twenty years, got her doctorate from Emory and comes with really good patient reviews.”
He looked for my reaction and continued. “I made the appointment for you at 4:00 so we can go to dinner afterward. You know what you always say. You’ll try anything once, right?”
“I told you I don’t want to see a psychiatrist,” I pushed back. “I just need more time. I’ll bounce back. You know I almost came in the house on my own today. Besides, if I see a psychiatrist, on every job application I complete in the future, I’ll have to check the ‘Yes’ box when they ask if I’ve had mental health treatment.”
“Jesus. No you don’t. You’re too innocent sometimes.”
He gently tapped me on the nose.
“You can check the box ‘No.’ Besides, if that’s the only thing stop­ping you, I think you should give it a try. Her name is Barbara Cole. I’ll take you to Houston’s afterward,” he added.
I ignored the bribe. “But what can she do that you can’t? All she’ll do is listen and you do that for me already. Psychiatrists are for people who don’t have friends or husbands to talk to.”
Chris shook his head.
“Please? Do it for me.”
The tone in his voice was different—more helpless than normal. Chris had been so understanding, so comforting this past month, espe­cially considering I had been waking him every night. How could I refuse his request?
I sighed. “Okay,” I relented. “I’ll go.”
“One visit. That’s all I’m asking. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go back. She’s a psychologist, by the way, not a psychiatrist. She does therapy, not drugs.”
He glanced at the clock. It was 3:30 a.m.
Chris grabbed Konk, my stuffed animal gorilla that I won at the state fair by outshooting him at the basketball game. He had sworn the scum running the game couldn’t take his eyes off my butt and let me win.
“Here’s Konk,” he said. “I’m going to finish my presentation since I’m up. I’ll just be in the office. Want the door open?”
“Yes,” I said as I wrapped my arms tightly around Konk.
“Hey, we’ll celebrate your first therapy visit and my signed contract, I hope, this evening.”
“You mean you hope my first visit?” I said with a playful smile.
He gave me a look—he was in no mood for jokes.
“Fine. Fine. I’ll go,” I assured.
“If you’re asleep when I leave, just come by my office after the appointment and we’ll head to dinner. Try to get some sleep. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”


What exciting story are you working on next?
I was pleasantly surprised that readers were asking for book #2 – what a huge compliment. I have an idea and outline of my next story that will incorporate some of my signature elements:
-       Sympathetic protagonist
-       Criminal justice system
-       A new science or technology, like EMDR
-       A twist at the end

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I first considered myself a writer the day I received my paperback Advance Reader Copy in the mail. That said, I was the editor of my high school paper and went to the GA Governor’s Honors program in Communications, so I’ve always had a passion for writing.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I’m a managing director at a consulting firm full-time, so I took a leave of absence from work for about 3 months to finish Free of Malice. I’ve been able to maintain my work schedule while in the promotion phase because most things book-related don’t feel like work to me – they’re fun, like answering your questions for the blog today.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t write in order. For Free of Malice, I used a huge wall calendar to outline the six months in which the book took place from June to December. I would list the events that occurred on the calendar which helped me sequence the story and also allowed me to circle back to clues I had dropped in earlier chapters. I had the great fortune to work with a certified EMDR therapist (Karen McCarty) and a criminal defense lawyer (Alison Frutoz) to be sure those portions of the book were accurate.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I thought I would be a teacher, though consulting does have elements of teaching every day. One of the best compliments I received was that my book was educational while entertaining. It has a lot of information about therapy, gun ownership and the criminal defense system, but wrapped into a suspenseful thriller. I wrote it to be a fun beach read…and maybe a movie!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
My book has a theme song written and sung by Thomas Barnette. Thomas and I met our first day at Georgia Tech and have been close friends ever since. I co-produced his debut CD and the song, "Let Me Breathe," is featured in Free of Malice. As you may have guessed from the book trailer on my website, the character of Thomas Bennett is loosely based on my friend.

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9 comments:

Nikolina said...

Good luck with the book tour, Liz!

Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Edgar Gerik said...

Enjoy the interview

clojo9372 said...

thank you for the excerpt and interview and good luck with the tour! :)

Becky Richardson said...

What are you working on at the minute?

Liz Lazarus said...

Thanks for the well wishes and support! At this very minute, I'm doing some consulting work, but my next novel is brewing in my head. I plan to spend more time on it once this project closes. It will be another suspense novel with a sympathetic female lead, a criminal case, education in a particular type of science I'm learning about and a "killer" ending! Cheers, Liz

Rita said...

I liked the excerpt, thank you.

Liz Lazarus said...

Glad you like the excerpt - I use a lot of dialogue, so it's a fast read. Liz

Sharon Marchisello said...

I've read this book, and it's a great story!