"Sharing an insider look into the intricate dynamics of the criminal justice system blended with the powerful draw of intense and realistic characters, Leotta has created more than your typical thriller. This is an author to keep your eye on."
— Suspense Magazine
“With this riveting debut legal thriller, Leotta joins the big leagues with pros like Lisa Scottoline and Linda Fairstein.”
**Library Journal starred review
JRW: Today it is our pleasure to welcome Allison Leotta whose debut novel, “Law of Attraction,” is just out. Its protagonist, Anna Curtis, does just what Allison does in real life: she's a federal attorney in DC specializing in prosecuting sex crimes and domestic violence.
**Imagine Allison's photo here. You can see it by clicking here, but Blogger will not allow JRW to upload Allison's photo. Or her bookcover. Or any other photos. We'll keep trying.
Allison, your book is so compelling, and so timely (October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month). And you really tackle, head on, that tendency to “blame the victim”--usually a woman--for these crimes.
Do you think that attitude is changing?
ALLISON: America is slowly getting over the blame-the-victim attitude in rape cases. Nowadays, you don’t hear many folks saying, “She had it coming – just look what she was wearing!” People generally understand that “date rape” is rape, and a woman who goes back to a man’s apartment does not automatically consent to have sex with him. And many artificial barriers to bringing rape prosecutions are now gone.
JRW: Like what?
ALLISON: Not long ago, many states had rules barring rape prosecutions if the only witness was the victim (which prevented most prosecutions – rape isn’t a crime that happens in crowded restaurants). Only a few years ago, a man couldn’t be prosecuted for raping his own wife. It took women’s advocates years of tireless work to make this happen, but there has been a seismic shift in American attitudes toward rape.
But this shift hasn’t happened in domestic violence cases. In cases where a woman is repeatedly beaten by her husband or boyfriend, people still ask the question: “Why didn’t she just leave him?”
JRW: In “Laws of Attraction,” that’s just the question you ask, but you add some intriguing twists, and you make it personal.
ALLISON: The heroine of my book is a beautiful young prosecutor named Anna Curtis, who suffered a violent childhood herself. She takes her job personally. And she’s devastated when a domestic-violence victim lies under oath to protect her abusive lover. The lover goes free, the victim turns up dead, and Anna is heartsick and determined to bring the killer to justice. Standing in her way is her own boyfriend, a public defender representing the accused. As Anna’s personal and professional lives collide, she struggles to understand why she and so many women are attracted to men who hurt them.
JRW: What were your thoughts about that? What have you learned in your years handling cases like this?
ALLISON: I think people try to recreate the families they grew up in. Girls who see their mothers being abused are much more likely to be abused themselves. Boys who see the same thing are much more likely to grow up to be abusers. In prosecuting domestic violence, we can't just focus on the single incident involved in the case -- we have to help the victim break out of this whole violent pattern. In my office, we have counselors to help the victims with this. In "Law of Attraction," Anna struggles to figure out how to deal with her own warped romantic compass.
JRW: It must be difficult, in your lawyer-life, to see what happens behind closed doors.
ALLISON: It's definitely not a job you leave at the office. I think about my cases all the time, whatever I'm doing.
JRW: So how do you keep your equilibrium?
ALLISON: By writing, actually! It's an incredibly positive way to process all of the heartbreak, evil and tragedy I see -- and to focus on the moments of courage, love and healing that are also part of the job.
JRW: The book has some wonderful humor and lightness in it, not to mention great settings.
ALLISON: Thank you! There is some good old-fashioned fun: a wine-soaked summer romance, inter-office flirtations among Washington’s Ivy-League lawyers, and, of course, plenty of mystery and courtroom drama.
One woman told me she forgot she was on the Stairmaster because she was so engrossed in the book that she climbed 100 flights more than usual.
JRW: High praise indeed!
Allison will be here all day. Please share your thoughts on why that question can be so hard to answer: “Why doesn’t she just leave him?”
(All of the views expressed here are Allison's alone, and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Justice.)
Allison Leotta is an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., where she specializes in prosecuting sex crimes and domestic violence. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Michigan State University. “Law of Attraction” is her first novel. Library Journal gave “Law of Attraction” a starred review and said, “With this riveting debut legal thriller, Leotta joins the big leagues with pros like Lisa Scottoline and Linda Fairstein.” Alan Dershowitz said, “I loved this novel. It is realistic, gritty, and filled with twists and turns. This is a great read for anyone who loves legal thrillers, cares about domestic violence or wonders how lawyers can live with themselves.” Allison is blogging about the TV show Law & Order: SVU – what it gets right and wrong, from her perspective as a real sex-crimes prosecutor. Check out: www.allisonleotta.com.