It is my honor to welcome Laura Caldwell to Colloquium today! Laura is an attorney and best-selling author whose latest book, Claim of Innocence, is sure to be as successful as her prior efforts. It is already garnering fantastic reviews — and for good reason. It is a smart, fast-paced, and thoroughly entertaining murder mystery that will keep readers guessing until the very end!
Izzy McNeil had a rough year. She was named as a “person of interest” during the investigation into a colleague’s murder. Her fiancee, Sam, disappeared two months before their wedding. And her father, presumed dead many years ago, turned up alive in Chicago.
But Izzy is delighted to get back to work as a trial attorney when her best friend, Maggie Bristol, asks her to serve as co-counsel in defending Valerie Solara. Izzy is a civil litigator, unfamiliar with the manner in which criminal defense law is practiced, but she is eager to assist her friend. She just can’t help wondering whether their client actually murdered her best friend, Amanda Miller, by poisoning her food because Valerie was attracted to Amanda’s husband, Zavy.
In addition to trying her first criminal case, Izzy has to deal with her conflicted feelings for Sam, as well as her younger boyfriend, Theo, and decide if she wants to forge a relationship with her father.
The Author’s Most Feared Email
For me, it’s one of the tougher parts of the publishing game — the time, usually a month or two before the publishing date — when I receive a forwarded email from my editor, with a vague subject line, usually something like “FW: Kirkus Review.”
Or maybe it’s not Kirkus. Maybe it’s Publisher’s Weekly or Library Journal, but it’s the first review of the book.
I can feel my finger itching toward the mouse, excited. But some cautionary voice says, Get ready. Just in case.
The range of emotions upon receiving and finally opening this bland appearing email can range from abject sobbing to happy-dancing around the computer.
Some are zen about it. “Reviews are the one thing I have no control over,” says thriller author, Jamie Freveletti, whose been tapped to continue Robert Ludlum’s Covert One series. “Since they usually start to flow in about a month before launch there is truly nothing an author can do.”
Some authors say they’ve gotten used to it. “I’m always resigned when I get those e-mails,” says Stacey Ballis, author of Good Enough to Eat and The Spinster Sisters. “I try to remember that once the book is published, it doesn’t belong to me anymore. All I can do is try to write stories that speak to me and hope they speak to others. I always want the reviews to be great. I’m thrilled when they are. But when they aren’t, I just hope that they’re smart and indicate where perceived failures lie.”
Is she really so open about bad reviews? Absolutely, she tells me. “I never mind a well written criticism.” But she also notes that “at the end of the day, it is e-mails from regular readers that both exhilarate and sting the most. A letter from a fan telling me they were moved, that makes my whole day. And the note scolding me for wasting their $15 . . . that is the one that really hurts.”
Jeffrey Koterba, author of the memoir Inklings, agrees that it’s the email he receives from readers, particularly about his syndicated political cartoons that are most important to him. “Unfortunately, I read every one.”
Author Michael Harvey tells me he recalls something he heard Paul Newman say about reviews — the good ones give you a fat head, while the bad ones make you not want to leave your room for a month.
“I guess I’m from that school,” Harvey says. “I try not to read any of them. My wife reads them and will let me know if I need to look at one.”
Is that the answer to the dreaded email, the shudder-producing words, “FW: Review?” Should authors find a trusted friend — sister? mom? agent? officer manager? — and ask them to screen for you?
For this book, I think I’ll try a suggestion from Jamie Freveletti, who, essentially, suggests going black-comedy with it. “Every author worth their salt has gotten a mixed review at one time or another,” she says. “One of the best ways I’ve seen of dealing with bad reviews is Brad Meltzer’s very, very funny video. It made me laugh and made me want to buy every one of his books.”
Laura Caldwell was a partner in a Chicago law firm, specializing in medical malpractice defense and entertainment law. In 2001, she joined the Loyola University Chicago School of Law faculty and has taught Advanced Litigation Writing and International Criminal Law, as well as other courses. She is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence.
Laura began her writing career in women’s fiction and soon turned to mystery/thriller. Her first book, Burning the Map, was voted as one of the best books of the year by Barnes and Noble. Booklist described her as “one of the most talented and inventive . . . writers around” following the publication of The Year of Living Famously and The Night I got Lucky. The 2009 release of her trilogy received both critical acclaim and nominations for prestigious industry awards.
It was while researching her sixth novel, The Rome Affair, that Laura learned about Jovan Mosley, a young man charged with murder who remained in a Cook County holding cell for nearly six years with no trial date set. After hearing about his case, she joined a renowned criminal defense attorney to defend him, ultimately proving his innocence and inspiring her first nonfiction book, Long Way Home: A Young Man Lost in the System and the Two Women Who Found Him. Inspired by Mosley’s case and the challenges he faced rejoining society, she founded Loyola’s Life After Innocence project that assists wrongfully convicted individuals or other innocent persons affected by the criminal justice system re-enter society and reclaim their lives.
Laura is also a freelance magazine writer and has been published in Chicago Magazine, Woman’s Own, The Young Lawyer, Lake Magazine, Australia Woman’s Weekly, Shore Magazine, and others. Her work has been published in more than twenty-two countries and translated into over thirteen languages.
Be sure to visit Colloquium tomorrow to read my review of Claim of Innocence and enter to win your own copy, generously provided by the author!