Allison Leotta is the author of the new mystery novel The Last Good Girl, the latest in her Anna Curtis series. Her other books include A Good Killing and Speak of the Devil. A former federal sex-crimes prosecutor, she lives in the Washington, D.C., area.
Q: Why did you decide to focus on the topic of rape on college campuses in your new Anna Curtis mystery?
A: I decided to focus on it because it’s such a big issue now. Colleges are trying to figure out the right solution. It’s important to shine a light on it—there’s an epidemic of young women assaulted in their college years. It’s getting a lot of attention now…
Q: How did you research the book?
A: I had some cases myself [and] as I always do, I talk to friends, agents, prosecutors, police officers, I read articles, talked to college students.
Q: The book includes a variety of statistics about rape on campus—were there any that particularly surprised you?
A: One that surprised me is that boys who joined fraternities were 300 times more likely to rape than boys who don’t. It must be a mindset you acquire.
As a sex crimes prosecutor, I found that men in groups make much worse decisions, whether it’s a street gang or Congress or a fraternity. There can be dangerous group-think.
Not that fraternities are all bad—they have a role to play, doing good, public service, but would I want my daughter to go to a party there?...
Q: Is the fraternity in the book based on a real fraternity, and did you decide to set a large part of the book in a fraternity because of that statistic?
A: No, [it wasn’t based on a real fraternity]—I don’t want to get sued! It was a conglomeration of stories that I had heard from fraternities around the country.
I found out [the statistic] afterward, as I was digging through things. I had heard of so many assaults at fraternities that it seemed like the right place to set it.
Q: How was the book’s title selected?
A: I actually wanted to name the last book The Last Good Girl. It works for either—a young woman taking a stand, this isn’t going to happen any more, rebelling against a patriarchal [authority].
My publisher didn’t want to go with it for the last book, so I suggested it again, and this time we went with it. A few friends asked, Is this autobiographical? It is not!
Q: “Girl” is so popular lately in book titles. Why do you think that is?
A: Now is an interesting time to be a woman. We’re all struggling to find a place in [a changing] world, and our interest in books with the word “girl” in it reflects that.
Q: This is your fifth novel featuring Detective Anna Curtis. Do you feel you’re still learning new things about her?
A: I do. I’m definitely learning more about her. It’s interesting to see her getting older and wiser. She was so green in the first book. She’s taken some hits—I’ve really put her through the wringer! She’s stronger than she thought.
Q: Will you be writing about her again?
A: I’m not currently. I don’t know if I will again. She deserves a little rest!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m exploring some possibilities for nonfiction.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I think in addition to being a book about a serious subject, I also want it to be a fun beach read. I want all my books to be something you can’t put down. I want them to fly. I hope the person will learn something, but also feel they’ve read an interesting, couldn’t-put-it-down book.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. For a previous Q&A with Allison Leotta, please click here.