Lisa Scottoline is the first to admit she doesn't always know what makes men tick."I'm divorced twice," the bestselling author says, "which tells you that I'm hardly an authority."In each of her first 19 novels, beginning with Everywhere That Mary Went in 1994, Scottoline's protagonist is female. In fact, 11 of the books are legal thrillers set in an estrogen-rich, all-woman law firm. But the streak ends at 20.Don't Go, out Tuesday, is about an Army doctor in war-torn Afghanistan whose already topsy-turvy life is turned inside out when his wife dies back home in the suburbs.When Mike Scanlon returns Stateside, he discovers that he's a stranger to his baby girl, that his medical practice has been downsized in his absence and that his wife was keeping a devastating secret.Scottoline sees Don't Go as an exploration of what it takes to be a father, what it takes to be a man."I wanted to challenge myself as a writer," she says. "I wanted to see if I could sustain a male point of view for the length of a novel. And I think I've done it."Still, it's going to take the next 20 years for me to figure out all the ways that men and women are different."We chatted with Scottoline last week about the new book and about her career.One of the highlights of the book is your depiction of a combat surgeon's life on the front line. What kind of research was required to make these passages ring true?I did more research with this novel than on any book I've written. I obtained documents from the Department of Justice. I read everything I could get my hands on. I talked to people who served. And then I found an Army surgeon who was in Afghanistan. So I got it straight from the horse's mouth.I felt I had an obligation to get it right, even when it comes to this doctor's specialty area. He's a podiatrist, which doesn't sound like the sexiest medical discipline. But in a world where blast injuries to the extremities are the signature wounds of the war, a foot doctor is your most valuable player in the OR.Are the majority of your readers female?My readership used to be mostly men. But that changed when the book clubs found me. Book clubs tend to be mostly women. So I think now my readership is mostly female. Still, it doesn't make me write any differently. I've never written for a specific set of reproductive organs.Your books have sold more than 30 million copies in 35 countries. When you were writing your first novel, did you allow yourself to dream this big?I started writing because I had just gotten a divorce and my daughter was only 3 months old. I had been a lawyer, but I had to find another way to make a living. My wish was to stay home, raise my daughter and find a way to support myself and her. So I turned to writing.My first book was never published. It was roundly rejected. But a lot of agents said, "You have talent. Why don't you keep at it?" Then I finally attracted an agent who was a cookbook agent. Imagine! She was the one who finally got me into print.I like that I paid my dues to get this career. Everything that's earned comes much sweeter.It's been a few years since your latest Rosato & Associates novel. Will you revisit that series?There's a new Rosato & Associates book coming out in October. After doing a lot of stand-alones, I found that I missed writing about those characters. But at this point, I live alone and I have the time, so I'm going to write two novels a year. I'm working pretty hard, but I'm happy to do it. Because besides my daughter, my writing is the most important thing in my life.What do you most hope readers take away from Don't Go? That's really the essential question, isn't it? I hope readers will be absorbed. I hope they will turn pages. That's my primary goal.But my secret goal: A lot of my books, to a certain extent, are like pep talks. A character faces adversity, deals with the problem and comes through to the other side.My hope is that readers can extrapolate from that and that my books can serve as the encouragement they need.
By Lisa Scottoline
St. Martin's Press, $27.99
Scottoline will be at Barnes & Noble (7700 W. Northwest Highway in Dallas; 214-739-1124) at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, to meet readers and sign copies.