The stories unfold in a collision of normal family struggles and serious, devastating crimes.

With 30 novels and eight nonfiction books completed, Lisa Scottoline has told stories of all kinds. Her tales have revolved around a tough-talking yet compassionate lawyer, a suburban high school baseball team and a judge living a secret life.

She’s focused on a mother forced to make incredibly painful choices, and a father who returns from service in Afghanistan when the death of his young wife leaves him as a single father.

But despite the different characters, situations and details, at the center of all of her books is a core element, one that provides the foundation to build entire worlds.

Story continues below gallery

“It has to come from some emotional thing in my life. I think of it as an emotional truth. That is what powers a novel,” she said. “These are fast-moving stories, and they have to ring emotionally true. The characters have to be real.”

Scottoline released her 31st novel, “After Anna,” on April 10. She mined her own experiences to create a thriller about a family reunited after many years, only to be torn apart by murder.

For fans of Scottoline’s work, the novel is a unique approach to the storytelling skills she’s displayed throughout her career.

“You hope that people read you and get used to reading you, but you never want to bore them,” she said. “I always try to think, keep it moving, keep it fast. You want to deliver every time. So you have to change and re-invent all the time.”

As part of the roll-out for the new book, Scottoline will speak at Franklin College today at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, though people are asked to register at pageafterpage.org/authors.

In advance of the event, Scottoline took time to open up about her writing process, her background and the stories she tells.

What led you to be a writer in the first place?

“It was my first divorce. I had been a trial lawyer and was just about to have a baby. We were both lawyers, and I thought everything was going well. Evidently, it wasn’t. I got divorced right around the time my daughter was born. I didn’t want to go back to being a trial lawyer while being a mother. I was a total book-a-holic. I’m a reader. And I had been an English major in college, so I thought I could give this a try.”

What inspired your style of writing?

“I read a lot of crime thrillers and legal dramas, and I noticed that none of the protagonists were women. I thought that was kind of weird, I’m a female lawyer, I know what it’s like, why can’t we play too?”

How did “After Anna” come together?

Before my second divorce, I became a stepmother to three daughters, and a primary custodian of them. They moved in. Then after the divorce, they moved out. That’s a weird experience. You loved these kids, you were their mother. That little bit of a longing feeling, I could write about that, because I know about that.

In “After Anna,” you had this woman who was declared unfit as a result of postpartum psychosis. She loses custody, and always wishes that kid was back in her life. I know that feeling. So there’s this character in “After Anna,” and the daughter comes looking for her mother. The mother is overjoyed to have her daughter back in her life, and she thinks it’s going to be this huge blessing, until it turns out to be something quite different.

What made this story different than ones you’ve done in the past?

I tried to experiment with the story and tell it a different way. I tend to be a linear thinker. But when I started to see this book in my mind, I thought something different. Part of this is the mother’s story. But part of it is the stepfather’s story. It’s really the story of a marriage, too. You have to tell both stories at the same time. Right away, he’s accused of murder. But if you tell it in the conventional trial way, the prosecution goes first, and then the defense. So you won’t get his story until the end of the book. As a writer, that doesn’t have a good shape to it. I’d rather have his story being told in court at the same time her story is proceeding at home.

So how did you tackle that problem?

I thought I could tell the story in different ways. Some of the story comes through trial transcript. Some of it comes in through a protective order transcript. I’d never done anything like that before. You change things up when the story demands it.

Do you have a preference, writing fiction and nonfiction?

No. What I’ve learned is, that distinction is almost an illusion. I learn through my own trial and error. When I started writing nonfiction, I always admired Erma Bombeck. I didn’t have the nuclear family that she wrote about. I’m a single mom with a daughter. You feel like an odd duck. But then I realized, there are a lot of odd ducks out there. There are all kinds of different families, so why don’t you write about them from your view.

What is it like meeting fans and going around the country to talk to people?

In truth, there’s not a lot of break in between writing. I do two novels a year, and a nonfiction book in the summertime. I love people. You just talk to them and get to know them. It’s wonderful to know what they like about your books, as well as what they don’t like. When you’ve written a fair amount, people will tell you they liked this book, but didn’t like this book. So I learn. It’s a dialog, very much.

If you go

Lisa Scottoline

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Branigin Room in the Neapolitan Student Center, Franklin College

Cost: Free and open to the public, though people are asked to register

How to register: pageafterpage.org/authors

Authors at JCPL

What: A free series of speaking events and appearances by best-selling authors.

Cost: All events are free and open to the public. Registration is required by going to pageafterpage.org/authors.

Upcoming schedule

Edward Kelsey Moore

When: 3 p.m. April 21

Where: Johnson County Public Library White River branch, 1664 Library Blvd., Greenwood

Details: The first 100 library cardholders to register receive a signed copy of Moore’s latest novel, “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat.”

Victoria Aveyard

When: 1 p.m. May 19

Where: Clark Pleasant Middle School, 1354 E. Worthsville Road, Greenwood

Details: The first 100 library cardholders to register receive a copy of Aveyard’s new novel, “War Storm,” and a chance to meet the author to have it signed.

Dorothea Benton Frank

When: 7 p.m. June 8

Where: Garment Factory Events, 101 E. Wayne St., Franklin

Details: The first 100 library cardholders to register receive a signed copy of her new book, “By Invitation Only.”

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.