by: Liz Lazarus
Release Date: February 18, 2016
Publisher: Mitchell Cole Publishing LLC
Laura Holland awakes in the middle of the night to see a stranger standing in her bedroom doorway. She manages to defend herself from the would-be rapist, though he threatens to return as he retreats. Traumatized with recurring nightmares, Laura seeks therapy and is exposed to a unique treatment called EMDR. She also seeks self-protection— buying a gun against the wishes of her husband. When Laura learns she could have gone to prison had she shot her fleeing assailant, she decides to write a hypothetical legal case using the details of that night. She enlists the help of criminal defense lawyer, Thomas Bennett, who proves to be well versed in the justice system but has an uncanny resemblance to her attacker. As the two work together to develop the story, Laura's discomfort escalates particularly when Thomas seems to know more about that night than he should. Reality and fiction soon merge as her real life drama begins to mirror the fiction she's trying to create.
Run. Run faster. As much as I strained my legs to move, they were immobile, like I was waist deep in quicksand.
Why can’t I move?
I tried to scream for help but my mouth was full, like it was stuffed with cotton—no sound would escape.
I felt something clutching my shoulder. No, it was someone. He was pushing me forward and then yanking me back. I tried to jerk away but he had a tight grip, like a vice.
I have to break free.
The tugging got harder, more forceful. He was calling my name— over and over. He knew my name.
I jolted awake—my husband’s hand still on my shoulder.
“Honey, wake up. You’re having another bad dream.”
Slowly, I turned over in bed and looked at him—his dark brown eyes were fixated on me. I could see them clearly as the light from the bathroom brightened our bedroom.
For a month now, we had slept with this light on.
I could see the small wrinkle on his forehead. I loved that wrinkle though wished he didn’t have good reason to be so concerned. I was enduring the nightmares, but he had to deal with my tossing and mumbling in terror.
I remember when we first met—ten years ago in chemistry lab at Georgia Tech. He had walked up to me with those warm eyes and a charming, confident smile and asked, “Want to be partners?”
Two years later he took me to Stone Mountain Park, rented a small rowboat and, in the moonlight, he pulled out a diamond ring and asked me again, “Want to be partners?”
Life had seemed just about perfect.
Hi Liz. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me about Free of Malice.
My pleasure – thank you for hosting me and my novel!
Free of Malice was inspired by events which happened to you. From my understanding not all of the events are fact. How long did it take you to decide to write the book?
I postponed writing this book for many years to pursue other opportunities—I moved to Paris, got my MBA from Northwestern and got my pilot's license. But, this book kept nagging me to write it so I finally relented. It was a calling.
As you noted, part of the book was not fiction - the attack. That really happened to me in college and writing about it helped me to heal. I journaled about the events of that night and the changes to my life afterward. Putting it on paper was my therapy. In the book, Laura sees a psychologist and undergoes EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) for her PTSD, but I never went to therapy so the EMDR sessions were all fiction.
Not long after the attack, I said to my brother-in-law, a volunteer deputy, that I wished I had shot the guy as he was leaving. He countered that I was fortunate that I didn't as shooting a fleeing criminal may not have been deemed self-defense which started my research and became one of the themes of the book.
Later, my mother asked me an odd question that stopped me in my tracks. It gave me the idea for the ending, which I won’t spoil, but feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org when you’re done and I’ll tell you more about that.
How much of you is actually in Laura?
Like Laura, I went to Georgia Tech for an engineering degree, though I graduated. Laura transferred to the University of Georgia for a journalism degree. Also like Laura, I live in Atlanta, have an older sister and lost my dad to a heart attack. I suppose all writers have portions of ourselves in the characters we portray, which makes us vulnerable but was the only way I knew to tell the story and be authentic.
Your book has been extremely well received. Was that something you worried about?
I joke that you can’t tell if your baby is ugly so I really had no idea if my book was good. Friends told me it was but they are “friends.” It was only when we shared advance copies with strangers and the positive reviews started coming in that I realized that Free of Malice could “hold it’s own.” By the time we published, I had been through several rounds of editing, which not only made the book better, but acclimated me to harsh feedback, which was good for me and prepared me for any tough critiques from readers. Luckily, there haven’t been that many!
From reading some of the reviews, readers want more of Laura. Do you plan on writing a follow up?
I was pleasantly surprised that readers were asking for book #2 – what a huge compliment. I have an idea and outline of my next story that will incorporate some of my signature elements:
Criminal justice system
A new science or technology, like EMDR
A twist at the end
Liz, thank you so much for your time.
My pleasure! And be sure to check out my website (www.freeofmalice.com) where you can see a 1 minute trailer and hear the book’s theme song, “Let Me Breathe.”
Speaking of trailers, have a look at the Free of Malice trailer now.
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Liz Lazarus is the author of Free of Malice, a psychological, legal thriller loosely based on her personal experience and a series of ‘what if’ questions that trace the after effects of a foiled attack; a woman healing, and grappling with the legal system to acknowledge her right to self-defense.
She was born in Valdosta, Georgia, graduated from Georgia Tech with an engineering degree and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern with an MBA in their executive master’s program. She spent most of her career at General Electric’s Healthcare division and is currently a Managing Director at a strategic planning consulting firm in addition to being an author.
Free of Malice is her debut novel, set in Atlanta, and supplemented by extensive research with both therapists and criminal defense attorneys. She currently lives in Brookhaven, GA, with her fiancé, Richard, and their very spoiled orange tabby, Buckwheat.
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