Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Free of Malice by Liz Lazarus - Book Tour and Giveaway

About the Book

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.


“I told you I don’t want to see a psychiatrist,” I pushed back. “I just need more time. I’ll bounce back. You know I almost came in the house on my own today. Besides, if I see a psychiatrist, on every job application I complete in the future, I’ll have to check the ‘Yes’ box when they ask if I’ve had mental health treatment.” 

“Jesus. No you don’t. You’re too innocent sometimes.” 

He gently tapped me on the nose. 

“You can check the box ‘No.’ Besides, if that’s the only thing stopping you, I think you should give it a try. Her name is Barbara Cole. I’ll take you to Houston’s afterward,” he added. 

I ignored the bribe. “But what can she do that you can’t? All she’ll do is listen and you do that for me already. Psychiatrists are for people who don’t have friends or husbands to talk to.” 

Chris shook his head. 

“Please? Do it for me.” 

The tone in his voice was different—more helpless than normal. Chris had been so understanding, so comforting this past month, especially considering I had been waking him every night. How could I refuse his request? 

I sighed. “Okay,” I relented. “I’ll go.” 

“One visit. That’s all I’m asking. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go back. She’s a psychologist, by the way, not a psychiatrist. She does therapy, not drugs.”

He glanced at the clock. It was 3:30 a.m. 

Chris grabbed Konk, my stuffed animal gorilla that I won at the state fair by outshooting him at the basketball game. He had sworn the scum running the game couldn’t take his eyes off my butt and let me win. 

“Here’s Konk,” he said. “I’m going to finish my presentation since I’m up. I’ll just be in the office. Want the door open?” 

“Yes,” I said as I wrapped my arms tightly around Konk. 

“Hey, we’ll celebrate your first therapy visit and my signed contract, I hope, this evening.” 

“You mean you hope my first visit?” I said with a playful smile. 

He gave me a look—he was in no mood for jokes. 

“Fine. Fine. I’ll go,” I assured. 

“If you’re asleep when I leave, just come by my office after the appointment and we’ll head to dinner. Try to get some sleep. I love you.” 

“I love you, too.”


What inspired you to write this book?

Like the main character, I was attacked by a stranger in my home in the middle of the night. In order to heal, I started to write about how I was feeling and what had changed in my life. At the time, I didn't know about EMDR therapy to heal from trauma, so used writing as a catharsis. Also like the main character, all I had for self-defense was a can of Mace. After the attack, I said to my brother-in-law, if I had owned a gun, I would have shot the guy as he left. My brother-in-law informed me that I was fortunate that I didn't - as the shooting might not have been a clear case of self-defense. That idea sparked my interest in learning about the criminal justice system and inspired me to write the hypothetical case portrayed in the book. The ending, which I won't spoil, was prompted by a question from my mother. Once you've finished the book, you can write to me at liz@lizlazarus.com and I'll tell you more about that.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

I have a few favorite scenes. Without giving too much away, I like when Chris and Laura go on their anniversary trip to Ellijay, Georgia. I also like with Laura and Vicki do some sleuthing. Some people have said the “sleuthing” scene seemed too bold for Laura, but I’d like to think that I made her so single-minded and determined that she threw caution and reason to the wind.

Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.

There’s a funny story about the man’s profile on my book cover. Years ago when I was at work, one of my colleagues decided to be silly and Xeroxed his face. (Let’s be glad he chose the face – could have been worse!) The picture came out so blurred and creepy that you couldn’t tell who he was. I actually saved that piece of paper and years later showed it to my graphics designer, Tracy Glenn, to use as the inspiration for the profile on the book.

Some people thought the profile shot was of Thomas, as in Thomas Barnette, my college friend and favorite singer who created the book’s theme song, Let Me Breathe. They do look similar, and yes his CD cover is a profile shot, but that was some unexpected serendipity. I actually hadn’t considered that we both used profile shots until I put the two side by side, and how interesting that they face each other! Now, if you ask Thomas, he may still swear it’s him.


As you can see, the Advance Reader Copy of FREE OF MALICE had only the profile, and the rest of the cover was black. My thinking was that in the age of so many “busy” covers, wouldn’t a plain one stand out? But then, after receiving advice from several people (Candy Brakewood, Lynn Epstein, and Esther Levine at Book Atlanta to name a few), I decided to add more color.

The bullseye was a natural choice as it was already part of our Website design and has significance in the book for two reasons. First, the Laura character takes shooting lessons at Sandy Springs Gun Club and Range and practices with a target. Secondly, Laura’s attacker had what looked like a bullseye on the back of his shirt—she got a glimpse of it as he ran away.

We offered up two choices of bulls-eye designs via social media and asked for votes. (Thanks to Jill Dible of Jill Dible Design for options A and B.)  Surprisingly, the race was nearly 50/50, but I had a stronger preference for Option A because it “pops”.

One comment I did take to heart from the voting was that the cover doesn’t fully describe the book, and I suppose that would be a challenge for any novel. It’s true, the cover doesn’t portray Laura’s therapy and healing, her trauma and suspicion, the hypothetical legal case or the racial tension. But maybe the eerie profile and the colorful bullseye will be enough to intrigue you to take a peek inside.

What exciting story are you working on next?

My book has a theme song written and sung by Thomas Barnette. Thomas and I met our first day at Georgia Tech and have been close friends ever since. I co-produced his debut CD and the song, "Let Me Breathe," is featured in Free of Malice. As you may have guessed from the book trailer on my website, www.freeofmalice.com, the character of Thomas Bennett is loosely based on my friend.

What is your favorite TV show?

Suits is about a law firm in New York:  “big-time Manhattan corporate lawyer Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) hires the only guy who impresses him—college dropout Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams). The fact that Ross isn't actually a lawyer isn't lost on Specter, who believes his new right-hand man is a legal prodigy with the book smarts of a Harvard law grad and the street smarts of a hustler.” I love really clever shows and Suits does not disappoint. The plot line, characters and acting are superb, and this season is getting really hot as Mike’s secret has unraveled and he has been sent to prison.

Anything else you might want to add?

My book has a theme song written and sung by Thomas Barnette. Thomas and I met our first day at Georgia Tech and have been close friends ever since. I co-produced his debut CD and the song, "Let Me Breathe," is featured in Free of Malice. As you may have guessed from the book trailer on my website, www.freeofmalice.com, the character of Thomas Bennett is loosely based on my friend.



About the Author

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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Liz Lazarus will be awarding $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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