Lisa Scottoline On What Happens After Anna

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Scottoline's newest suspense weaves a web of deception, with one woman caught in the middle. After Anna tells two different accounts: Maggie's life before the murder of her step daughter Anna, and her husband Noah's life after he's put on trial for her death. Their intertwining lives and stories makes it difficult for Maggie to get a handle on reality, and after the trial, decides to begin searching for the truth that the police couldn't find on their own. 
 
Our reviewer says that "Scottoline has perhaps outdone herself," so we needed to touch base with Lisa and her writing process! 
 
RT: The chronology of After Anna is definitely unique. What spurred you to work with a narrative that jumps around before and after the trial?
 
Lisa Scottoline: The chronology of this novel is very unique, in that it is told in shifting view points between the husband Noah and the wife Maggie, and I did that because I wanted to emphasize that they both have a different set of facts and a different take on those facts, as in any relationship, or marriage. (Not that I’m an expert, I’m divorced twice, but I remember it well! LOL)  And not only that, but Noah’s story is told in reverse order, and though that sounds complicated, I think it wasn’t, in reality. I did it for an excellent reason, which is that because his story is essentially told during a murder trial, in a regular trial, the defense goes last, after the prosecution. If I had written the novel that way, it would’ve put the meaty, juicy part of the novel, namely what really happened in the murder, at the back of the book, and I didn’t want the reader to wait. I like to get to the story fast, so I knew if I could do it this way, it would be so much more effective, and I hope it paid off. It was a risk!
 
With that being said, how did you keep it all organized? Did you have a conspiracy theory wall with a timeline of the plot?
 
It was really hard to organize, frankly. I’m a very linear thinker, and I had to really keep track of where I was in both timelines, but it was really cool to see how they matched up in events.  What I wanted to happen really did work out, in that the reader gets a view of the storyline in a lot of different ways. Facts come in through the memory and flashbacks of the husband and wife, through trial testimony in the murder trial, and even through trial testimony in a protection from abuse hearing. I told myself there are lots of different ways to tell a story, I think I used them all on this book! I like that because I think readers are so smart and I like to keep their brains occupied as well as entertain them.
 
And no, I didn’t have a “conspiracy theory wall” with a timeline, but I did have an actual calendar that I used, which worked just as well, even if it wasn’t so Carrie Mattison.
 
Postpartum psychosis is a little known disorder that is prominently featured in After Anna. How did you come across this disorder, and what made you decide to use it for this book? 
 
I have been so interested in postpartum psychosis and I didn’t know much about it, but I really wanted to learn something about it. Because I’m like everybody else, I was very moved by all these stories about mothers who kill their children and then themselves, which is so heartbreaking. And I wanted to understand who could do that because I’m a single mother and have been most of my  life, and I have a daughter, and we are so close that it’s just so hard to understand what can make a mother do that. I started to learn more about the syndrome, which is truly an illness, needs more attention, and drives these women to kill something they love the most. And as you see in the novel, Maggie has a lot of guilt about the postpartum psychosis she went through, and what it cost her as a mother. I feel sympathy for her, and I also wanted to raise issues of mental illness because I think if we take away the stigma from them, people will seek treatment and all of us will be healthier and happier.
 
You have a lot of mystery, thrillers and humorous non-fiction under your belt. After I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool, what’s it like switching back to a thriller like After Anna
 
You’re right, and I love the variety because it’s not only the spice of life, it’s a spice of writing and reading! And when you write dark murders, you need to lighten up sometime, and especially if you’re me! I really love to laugh and I love to make people laugh, and of course I love writing with my daughter because in these books, she gives the idea of what it’s like to be a woman with all the challenges that everybody has, but we look at the bright side!  And we make you laugh in the summetime, because that’s what summer is for!
 
From pediatric allergies, to apraxia to postpartum psychosis, there must have been a lot of research! What’s the most interesting thing you learned?
 
Thank you for saying so, because I really did do a lot of research for this and all of it was incredibly fascinating. Postpartum psychosis was its own heartbreak, and so was apraxia, which is a childhood disorder that relates to speech, and that touched me too, because I love to talk and I love to listen, and I can’t imagine how hard it can be to be a kid who can’t always express themselves — and then to see those kids get bullied
 
In addition, although I’m a lawyer, I also had to do legal research for this book about sexual misconduct, or alleged sexual misconduct, and I’m so interested in that now that the #metoo movement is so prevalent in the news.  So I guess there’s no one subject that interests me, but they all sure did!
 
Maggie has suffered through so much and has worked so hard to recover, only to be presented with even more challenges after she thought her life was coming together. What keeps Maggie going?
 
That’s very kind of you to say about Maggie, and I really like her as a character and I think what keeps her going is what keeps all of us women going. If I may speak personally, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs of my life, and I think women have a strength in them that they don’t always recognize in themselves. I think we’re practical and we always find a way to survive and get through, even if the times look impossibly difficult. Ask any mother anytime her child is sick, or even seriously ill, and you will see a woman being strong for somebody else, and moving mountains. Bottom line, I think it's our practicality, our will to survive, and our drive to make sure that everyone around us is taken care of — occasionally, even ourselves!
 
What can Scottoline fans look forward to next?
 
Next step for me is one of those funny books that I write with my daughter Francesca Serritella, and the title is I See Life Through Rosé-Colored Glasses. It's so much fun to read on the beach or wherever you want to chill, relax, and escape from the stress of life!  It’s short, funny essays in the style of Erma Bombeck and Nora Ephron, and taken together, they form the story of life as a woman.  My daughter writes about living in New York City and all that involves, including dating online, while I write about my suburban life as a gardener and wrangler of too many disobedient pets. And of course, we write about our relationship together, which is changing and growing as a mother and daughter, except for the times we fight, which is when hilarity really ensues!
 
We can't wait to see more from Lisa — mysteries and humor alike! Be sure to pre-order your copy of After Anna from one of these retailers: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Indiebound
 
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