Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Author Interview: Nancy Allen

Author Nancy Allen practiced law for 15 years as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks. She’s tried more than thirty jury cases, including murder and sexual offenses, and is now a law instructor at Missouri State University. Her second book, A Killing at the Creek, makes its debut today in ebook format. We caught up with Nancy to ask her a few questions...

As a former prosecutor, you’ve seen your share of trials and heard about many, many crimes. Why did you pick the crime in A Killing at the Creek? Was this book based on a real case?

I knew my character Elsie was ready for a murder case, so I wanted to give her one. And in recent years, we hear so many reports of juveniles being certified to stand trial as adults for homicides. So I thought it was a timely topic, and intriguing.
And yes--I have the background to write it. I tried murder cases in my years as a prosecutor, and one of those cases had a sixteen-year-old defendant. So I know the ropes. But, let me stress: my teen defendant in A Killing at the Creek is a fictional character. The book is a work of fiction, the trial and the scenes are a product of my imagination.

What motivated you to start writing crime fiction after so many years prosecuting criminals?

I was so young when I became a prosecutor: twenty-five years old. And I was handling major felonies, harrowing sex crimes, murder, crimes of violence. The drama of courtroom work, and the exposure to the victims' pain, kindled a desire to tell stories of criminal law from the prosecutor's perspective. But I needed distance from the work, and the passage of time, to gain perspective.

Were there cases that still haunt you from your time as a prosecutor? What make them so memorable?

The cases that haunt me most are those that involved children. I handled many incest cases, because when I became a prosecutor, I was the only female attorney on staff. And the Missouri Ozarks has the highest rate of sex crimes involving children in the state. That's the story I needed to tell in The Code of the Hills; the tragedy of those crimes and the difficulty of bringing them to court.

What is the best thing that has happened to you as a result of your novels?

Writing a book is a solitary process. The author likes it, thinks it's a worthwhile tale, but there's always a seed of doubt: how will it be received? Will it touch people, make an impact on a reader? The most glorious pleasure is hearing from and talking to people who read the book, who liked it, for whom the characters and story came to life. If they say it kept them up all night, that's the jackpot.

Why did you pick a 15-year-old suspect in this book? 

Hey--I like teenagers! Really, I do. I'm a faculty member at Missouri State University; I have a teenage daughter; I'm surrounded by teens. They're wonderful. But when a person of tender years is accused of a terrible crime, it raises fascinating questions. Did they actually do it? How could they be so cold-blooded at such a young age? Why would they do such a thing? Were they framed? Are they insane? These are some of the areas I was eager to delve into in A Killing at the Creek. 

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