Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Claim of Innocence

By KJ Howe

Please welcome talented MIRA author Laura Caldwell to the Lair.

I asked Laura to answer a few questions about her background and book. Laura, thanks so much for joining us today!

Describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer

In Claim of Innocence, Izzy and her best friend, Maggie, defend a woman charged with poisoning her own best friend.

What inspired you to write CLAIM OF INNOCENCE?

I'm admit I'm sort of marrying my real life with my fictional life in Claim of Innocence. My character, Izzy McNeil, is a redheaded Chicagoan who worked as a civil lawyer most of her career but has fallen into the world of criminal defense. That comes pretty close to my life. I used to be a civil lawyer, defending doctors who were sued. I never thought I'd be working with exonerees. I feel incredibly fortunate.

Where do you do most of your writing?

In one of two places: If I’m in Chicago, I write in what the real estate agent grandly called ‘the penthouse room.’ Basically it’s a sunny room off the roof deck. It’s filled with red and white furniture (keeps me awake), a curvy book shelf laden with reference books and a street sign bolted to the wall that reads, STOP HERE ON RED.

The other place I love to write is in Long Beach, Indiana, a place of hidden beauty. In the summer, I sit on the deck and am surrounded by a sea of green from all the trees. In the winter, you can find me in front of the fire.

Which part of CLAIM OF INNOCENCE was the most enjoyable to write?

I love writing about 26th and Cal, which is the home of Chicago criminal courts and many of its jails. Everyone who has ever been there will tell you that it has the craziest energy—part thrilling, part desperate, part seen-it-all, part wildly optimistic. I like appearing there as a lawyer and I like writing about it too.

What inspired you to write your first book?

When I first started writing after law school, I wrote a story called Burning the Map about a girlfriends’ trip to Italy and Greece that changes their lives. I had taken a trip to Italy and Greece similar to the one that the character followed, but mine, albeit ludicrously fun, was not life changing. It was a blast to write that book.

And now, a little bit about Laura:

Laura Caldwell is a former civil trial attorney, now Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Director of Life After Innocence, published author of several novels and 1 nonfiction book.

Before beginning her writing career, Laura was a partner in a Chicago law firm, specializing in medical malpractice defense and entertainment law. In 2001 she joined Loyola University Chicago School of Law and has taught Advanced Litigation Writing and International Criminal Law among others.

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 the year by Barnes and Noble.com. Booklist declared “Caldwell is one of the most talented and inventive…writers around,” after the release of The Year of Living Famously and The Night I got Lucky. The release of her trilogy in 2009 received critical acclaim and nominations for prestigious industry awards.

While researching her sixth novel, The Rome Affair, Caldwell was led to the criminal case of Jovan Mosley, a young man charged with murder, sitting in a Cook County holding cell for nearly six years with no trial date. After hearing about his case, Caldwell 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 (Free Press, Simon & Schuster).

She is published in over 22 countries and translated into more than 13 languages. Laura is also a freelance magazine writer and has been publi shed in Chicago Magazine, Woman's Own, The Young Lawyer, Lake Magazine, Australia Woman's Weekly, Shore Magazine and others.

Inspired by Mosley’s case and his challenges of rejoining society, Caldwell founded Loyola’s Life After Innocence that assists wrongfully convicted individuals or other innocent persons affected by the criminal justice system in order to help them re-enter society and reclaim their lives.

So, Laura, your writing space sounds fabulous - both in Chicago and Indiana!

Readers, what's your favorite place to curl up with a great book, like Laura's Claim of Innocence?

Also, statistics show that women are more likely to use a "hands off" method of killing, like poison rather than a "hands on" weapon like a knife or gun.

Laura, have you found this to be true in your practice of law?

Readers, which do you believe? That women will use poison first? Or do you think you'd be more direct? Grins.


barb said...

is he coming today ...it is quite a nice day today

barb said...

Hi Laura
your books sound very interesting and you seem to lead an interesting life..... I have a sunny spot in the garden where I sit and read although once summer comes it can be too warm then I have to sit inside in the air con..
I don't think I could use any method to kill someone... I am too good LOL

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

LOL Barb! If you are too good, WHY does the chook wanna hang out at your place so much?!?! I'm very suspicious. ;-)

Welcome to the Lair, Laura! Wow, you are one busy lady. Thanks KJ for bringing Laura in to guest with us.

I definitely think women are sneakier than men and that's why they use less blatant methods (like poison) to kill someone. Not that I have any first hand knowledge...

(whistles innocently)

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Barb, looks like he's coming downunder. Hope he sees more sun with you than he would if he visited the Sunshine Coast today.

Laura and Kim, what an interesting interview. And wow to that story about Jovan. Good luck with the new book!

marybelle said...

I can see myself with a gun in hand. It would have a pearl handle & be small & shiny. It bodes ill that I can picture it so clearly.

barb said...

AC he has to come to someone good every now and again to bring him back into line LOL I bribe him with tim tams

Anna we have had sun all day... started off very misty but then the sun broke through.... that is not to say it will be like it tomorrow... I think you have had more rain up there than we have down here

Helen said...

Well done Barbara I will have to come down for a cuppa LOL and yes AC Barbara will straighten him out.

What a great interview Ladies and the book sounds really good and well done on proving Jovan's innocence YAY.

As for me I love my recliner in the family room for reading a good book very sunny and warm in winter and then in summer the AC is on keeping me cool LOL.

As for killing someone if they made me that mad I would probably just lay my hands on anything to kill them with LOL not plot a murder with poison LOL.

Have Fun

KJ Howe said...

Congrats, Barb!!! Have fun with the GR today!

KJ Howe said...

Barb, a garden nook sounds absolutely lovely!!! And thank goodness we have good people like you in the world. Interesting fact...almost 90% of murderers are men. Women definitely are the gentler sex.

KJ Howe said...

AC, love it, women definitely are the subtler sex, slipping in a little arsenic with that tea!

KJ Howe said...

Hey Anna,

I hope you are soaking up that sun downunder. Pouring rain in Canada today, so I wish I were there!!!

KJ Howe said...

Marybelle, I love pretty guns!!! I'm just wondering who you would be aiming at...

KJ Howe said...

Barb, the GR could use a little discipline. Nothing like a good home to straighten that boy out.

KJ Howe said...

Helen, a recliner sounds heavenly, with a cup of coffee nearby. Aaaah. I like your hands-on approach to dealing with a difficult person!!! :)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey Barb!! You got the rooster!!! :>

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Barb, your garden spot sounds lovely! And had to LOL about the "too good" comment. :>

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

AC said: LOL Barb! If you are too good, WHY does the chook wanna hang out at your place so much?!?! I'm very suspicious. ;-)

Grins. My thoughts too, AC...

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

AC said: Not that I have any first hand knowledge...
(whistles innocently)

Heeheehee. Not even that whistle is innocent, AC. SNORK!!!

Maria said...

My favorite place to curl up with a good book is my bed...even just laying on top of the covers during teh day with a book makes me happy.

I'd like to think that I am the direct type but I'll admit that I would probably use poison or maybe trip them down a huge flight of stairs and hope gravity does the rest for me:)

Susan Sey said...

Good morning, KJ & Laura!

I have a big leather chair in my living room with a matching ottoman that's right in front of the bow window. Until I get the window seat of my dreams, that's where I love to curl up to read.

And if I ever get my motivation back--darn you, summer vacation!--I'll probably do a lot of my writing at my favorite coffee shop. I can't write in the house. It's too messy. Somebody ought to clean this place.

What I'd love to know, Laura, is when you find the TIME to write. You sound so busy! What's your secret?

jo robertson said...

Wow, what a great interview! Thanks for visiting the Lair today, Laura, and thanks for hosting her, KJ.

Your life sounds incredibly busy, Laura. How do you manage your work with Life After Innocence and your writing and teaching? Outside of LAI do you practice any other law?

I'm curious about what a day in your life would look like. Can you share?

jo robertson said...

And for the question. They say that poison is a woman's weapon, don't they. Seems less "messy" somehow, but there are plenty of women who give in to their rages, I think.

Laura Caldwell said...

Great discussions! I think Barb is winning on the best-place-to-read-a-book contest.

In terms of schedule, I struggle with it, but when I'm top of it, I get up, write 1000 words 5 days a week BEFORE any emails, Facebook or phone calls. Then I can move onto PR, Life After Innocence business, etc. Gosh, that sounds so easy when I type it like that. It does not feel easy. : )

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Laura it does sound simple, but somehow simple is never easy. Grins.

Thanks for joining us today and welcome to the Bandit Lair!

KJ Howe said...

Hi Jeanne, I'm interested to know about your take on the poison issue...after all, disposing of bodies is your speciality. :)

KJ Howe said...

Maria, love the gravity comment. Yes, why not let physics do the heavy lifting??? :)

KJ Howe said...

Hi Susan, great question for Laura...when I saw her bio, I was so impressed that I figured she doesn't sleep!!! :)

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Jeanne said, "Heeheehee. Not even that whistle is innocent, AC. SNORK!!!"

SHEESH! You all just know me TOO WELL!

I'm with Helen, I like to curl up in my recliner to read. Of course, my dogs are always wanting to curl up with me, and once they are up, they DEMAND pets. Can you tell who the bosses are around my place?!?! ;-)


KJ Howe said...

Hi Jo, as the stressors women are under increase, I think we'll see more crimes committed by women. We're seeing that in fiction as well--there are more women villains now than ever.

KJ Howe said...

Laura, fantastic to have you as a guest today! Are you planning on coming to ThrillerFest this coming July? We'd sure love to have you there!

KJ Howe said...

AC, your secret is out... :)

Laura Caldwell said...

Yes to ThrillerFest next July. And interesting comments about women and crimes. I am particularly interested in the Amanda Knox case in Italy. The evidence in that trial would never have been admitted here in the US. I don't usually go on record with these things (we only get involved after someone has been deemed innocent) but I'm really pulling for her appeal to be successful.

Nancy said...

Barb, congrats on the bird!

Laura, welcome, and congratulations on your latest release! It sounds great.

I read in the big easy chair in the living room that used to belong to my aunt and uncle, or in the bedroom. I also read in the car (an ability the dh envies) on long trips.

I suspect women prefer methods like poison because they aren't as gory, but that's a pure guess on my part. Also, as Christine points out, anything face to face and involving a potential contest of strength puts a woman at a disadvantage.

catslady said...

My favorite place to read is at night in bed with cats purring around me but otherwise very quiet (unless husband starts snoring arghh). I don't think I could shoot anyone or use anything that would be bloody - but poison...lol.

Na said...

I can't wait to read Claim of Innocence. I came across it on another book site and the blurb caught my attention.

My perfect place to read, and where I do all my reading is my bed. I know some people can read anywhere but I need my bed to be able to really get into a story. It's comfortable and least distracting :)

Louisa Cornell said...

He's no dummy, Barb! Sunshine, great company and Tim Tams in Oz !! I'd snap that up in a minute!

Great interview KJ and Laura. Amazing life, Laura and kudos on Life After Innocence. I so admire people who really make a difference in the world!

Well, you all know about my access to an alligator farm, so my method of murder wouldn't have to be particularly sneaky or neat. Gators would eat all of the evidence down to the last shoelace! Not that I have ANY personal experience of that!

I think it would depend on the WHY of the murder. An act of passion or in self defense, I can definitely see me grabbing my medieval battle axe or Creek Indian spear and making a big mess.

However, women who plot murder as escape or an act of revenge after suffering in silence for a long time would probably give much thought to poisoning or some other slow method of murder.

KJ Howe said...

Great news that you're coming to TFest! I'm the Executive Director this coming year. Looking forward to meeting you in person!

KJ Howe said...

Isn't Doug Preston involved in the Knox case? I understand how these situations fire up emotions.

KJ Howe said...

Nancy, you are very lucky that you can read in the car. Great use of time, as long as you aren't driving. :)

KJ Howe said...

Catslady, great to have company while reading. Sounds ideal until the snoring starts. :)

KJ Howe said...

Na, Laura's book is excellent. You'll be guaranteed a great read.

KJ Howe said...

Louisa, your gator incinerator should keep everyone behaving! Hilarious!

Louisa Cornell said...

VBEG !! I have to agree with you, KJ !!

And my favorite place to read?

Piled up in bed on a rainy Sunday afternoon with the dogs and cats snoring away. A little Ralph Vaughan Williams playing in the background. I have my fur kids trained to cuddle up with Mom is reading, but NOT to interfere. They're happy to crash on the quilt on the big bed with Mom.

Pat Cochran said...

Women use poisons, I read somewhere,
so as not to leave a disfigured body!
This was in regards to themselves, not
someone they are disposing of! In the
heat of the moment, when she is doing
away with someone, it can be a gun, a baseball bat or an automobile!

Belated birthday greetings to Ms. Anna
Campbell from another August 24th
celebrant! Hope you had a great day!!!

Pat Cochran said...

My favorite reading spot is the corner
of my big comfy couch,surrounded by big
cushions and pillows. Close to hand: a
big supply of books from my TBR stack,
snacks, and beverages (Iced tea and Diet