Influenced by Real Life
In Claim of Innocence, Izzy McNeil and her best friend, Maggie, defend a woman charged with poisoning her own best friend. I admit I’m sort of marrying my real life with my fictional life in this book. Izzy is a redheaded Chicagoan who worked as a civil lawyer most of her career but has fallen into the world of criminal defense. Although Izzy isn’t me, that comes pretty close to my life.
I used to be a civil lawyer, defending doctors who were sued. While I was writing The Rome Affair for MIRA, I called another attorney with a research question. From that conversation, I fell into a murder trial, having never done criminal work before. (That’s the easiest way to put it. The longer version is documented in my non-fiction work, Long Way Home: The Story of a Young Man Lost in the System and the Two Women Who Found Him (editor’s note: This is an awesome read!). My experience working on that murder trial with an amazing woman who is now a good friend, led me to start Life After Innocence at Loyola University Chicago School of Law with some of my law students. I never thought I’d be working with exonerees (people who were wrongfully convicted and later shown to be innocent, such as in DNA cases). They are amazing people with emotional tenacity the likes of which I’ve never seen. Because of that, there’s an innocence theme that winds its ways in way more than one scenario in Claim of Innocence. And because there’s nothing quite like the power of a best girlfriend, it was great fun to write the interactions between Maggie and Izzy during this mystery, especially because Maggie has her own mystery happening as well.