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Bookend: Prosecutor-Turned-Novelist Works to Keep Pages Turning

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Allison Leotta is a former assistant U.S. attorney who now spends her time writing legal thrillers.
Allison Leotta is a former assistant U.S. attorney who now spends her time writing legal thrillers.

In this month’s Bookend, Jonathan Wilson sits down with former D.C. Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison Leotta, now the author of the legal thrillers “Law of Attraction” and “Discretion.”

On how legal writing differs from writing fiction: “With legal writing, you have to stick to the facts. And in legal writing, precedents are key — it only matters if someone else has said it before. But with creative writing it’s exactly the opposite. You don’t want to say anything that somebody else has said before, because if you do, you’re not doing your job right… You need to use a different part of your brain. It was a liberating experience for me as a prosecutor to go from one to the other.”

On changing careers: “I think it was actually because the job was so exciting, and so interesting. I was a sex crimes prosecutor, and everybody in my life wanted to hear about it, but nobody wanted to say they wanted to hear about it. It wasn’t courageous — the thing it took was it just took discipline — every morning, wake up at 5, write for two hours and get up and go.”

On how similar she is to her protagonist, Anna Curtis: “She has the same reactions to the crimes, to the cases, the victims — but she’s way more interesting than I am. She’s younger, she has this really interesting love life, this complicated love life. I’m a mom — I have toys all over the place, I’ve got Cheerios under my table. An exciting night for me usually involves picking up Matchbox cars. It’s kind of fun to live vicariously through Anna.”

On weaving D.C. realistically through a fictional world: “I tried to keep the crimes realistic. I tried to just keep the real details of what I saw in court… In terms of D.C., I think it’s just a fascinating city to live in… it’s a city of contrasts, a city of people from all over, and people who’ve lived here their whole lives, all kind of living together. The thing that’s interesting about the U.S. Attorney’s office is D.C. is it’s where it all intersects, where it all comes together.”

On having critics categorize her books as “beach reads”: “I think it is a beach read. I used to think that a book that was easy to read would be easy to write. So you read John Grisham and the pages fly by, and you think that must be super easy — it’s reading candy. But now that I’m doing it myself, I see how much time it takes — polishing and condensing to get down to that core idea. So when people say it’s a great beach read, I like that. It means I’m doing my job right, it means I’m hitting my stride in the genre.”

[Music: "Frost Bit" by Mello Music Group from Odd Seasons / "Wild Thing" by Armando Peraza from Wild Thing]

Listen to author Allison Leotta read an except from her book "Discretion."

Author Allison Leotta talks about what she's been reading lately.

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