An Interview with Lisa Scottoline

Where did the idea for Keep Quiet come from?

The idea for this novel was a classic what-if, which occurred to me as I was driving down a street similar to the one in the book, which is near my house. Every time I round the curve of this particular street, which has a dangerous blind curve, I think, what if somebody was here and I hit them? What if my kid were driving and my kid hit them? What would I do? What should I do? What I love about this novel is that it concerns a decision that a parent could make at any time, which raises a predicament that they never would have anticipated.

There is a big theme of choices throughout the book, why did you feel it was important to choose to take on such an moral topic of right & wrong?

I love to write about choices, because I feel that every day life contains so many of them, which turned out to be no-win. This novel’s a perfect example of that, because Jake has to make an emergency decision and he is damned if he doing damned if he doesn’t.  The choice he makes can be looked at in so many ways, from a moral, legal, or ethical point of view, and that’s what makes this book and so many of my standalones perfect for book clubs, because those are the choices and topics that engender the most discussion and there are no right answers.

Which character do you relate to the most in this book? Why?

I relate to all of the characters, and I think every novelist has to be able to channel each of the characters to make their position believable. That is particularly true in this novel, because Jake’s position is diametrically opposed to his wife’s position. The son has a different perspective, as well. This novel is really the anatomy of a decision and its aftereffects, in addition to being a family story and a crime thriller.

Were there aspects of the story that were inspired by real news stories or personal stories?

Except for the experience above, no. I never base any of my novels on news stories were actual facts, because I think that is so derivative, and like to be original.

Do you have any special rituals or traditions when you begin writing a new novel?

I have tons of rituals most of which unfortunately concern food, which is why am on a perpetual diet areas I’m always nibbling on something while I write, when there is something supposedly good for me like pistachios and almonds, where the stuff I really love, like M&Ms.  I must have Dunkin’ Donuts coffee every day, extra large, and I keep the TV on all day in my office, so I have a steady stream of Hoda & Kathy Lee, the View, the Chew, Dr. Oz, Queen Latifah, and my favorite of all time, Dr. Phil.

As far as writing rituals per se, I write 2000 words a day, and I think this is really important to stick to. I like it because it gives me a goal every day, but the best thing about it is that also gives me a limit. When I hit 2000 words I get to stop working, ride a pony, or walk the dogs. Writers, like everybody else, need a way to turn work off and for some reason, I need help to give myself permission to do that, so the word count really works. I am writing two novels in year, and the 3rd book every year, which is a memoir I write with my daughter Francesa Serritella, and I have to be very disciplined to keep up that pace. But it’s important to say that I don’t regard this as a bad thing, or onerous in the least. On the contrary, I’m living my life’s dream. I’ve been writing whatever stories both fictional and nonfiction, I want to tell for the past 20 some years, and all of them are bestsellers. How lucky am I?

What advice do you have for other writers?

I have a lot of advice for writers, like any blowhard, and much of it is on my website in little videos that I made. But the bottom line is that they should just do it. I stole that from Nike and it’s really true. I find that there is a behavioral way to finish a novel and that begins with routine, a word count, and a set time that you work. Even if you still work a day job, as I did for several years when I was 1st published, a new writer needs to set time aside each day to write, even if it’s only 15 min.

But my real advice is softer and gentler, and it has to do with not getting in your way own way. I would tell new writers to just give it a shot and not doubt themselves, particularly women.  There are no right answers in writing, as in life, and you really just have to give it a go and keep going, and not stop until you finish the novel and they publish it. Take time to nurture yourself and your dreams. I believe they really can come true, because that is the story of my life.