Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Q&A with Bonnie Kistler


Photo by Nicole McConville



Bonnie Kistler is the author of the new novel Her, Too. Her other books include the novel The Cage. A former trial lawyer, she lives in Florida and North Carolina.


Q: What inspired you to write Her, Too, and how did you create your character Kelly McCann?


A: Like many people, I was riveted by the trials of Harvey Weinstein and other high-profile men convicted of sexual assault.


I was struck by how often these men chose to be represented by female attorneys. Their strategy was obvious: it would be more palatable to the jury if the female victim were cross-examined by another woman, even if she were as aggressive as any male counterpart would have been.


And there may be a subliminal message as well: the defendant couldn’t be the monster the prosecution claims or this woman wouldn’t be able to sit beside him and defend him.


But wholly apart from the reasons for the defendant’s choice, I was fascinated by the choices made by that female lawyer. I wondered about the ethical compromises she may have made to advance her career. And I imagined the slurs she may have suffered––that she was a traitor to her sex, that she was complicit in her client’s crimes.


So I conjured up Kelly McCann as a woman who felt she had to make those compromises, and for whom winning was enough of a reward that she tuned out the slurs and insults. But of course everything changes when she herself becomes the victim of sexual assault.

Q: The writer Jaime Lynn Hendricks said of the book, “A sure standout for anyone involved in the #metoo movement and those begging to be entertained by a heart pounding, diabolical, revenge plot with a shocker of an ending.” What do you think of that description?


A: I think Jaime perfectly captured the duality of this novel. It’s a serious look at an important social issue, but at the same time, it’s a thriller designed to engross and entertain. And I’m very pleased that she thought the ending was a shocker, since Jaime’s a master of the twist you never saw coming!


Q: Without giving anything away, did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: Yes, I always knew the ending, but I didn’t precisely know how I was going to get there. That’s my process with each of my books. I start with the premise––the central conflict––and how it resolves. Then I try to figure out the rest out as I go.


Q: How did your experiences as a trial lawyer factor into the novel?


A: I didn’t practice criminal law, but my own work in corporate litigation made it easy enough to imagine the pressures Kelly was under. I didn’t always have the luxury of representing the “good guys.” I had a law firm to answer to, and billables to worry about, and a family to support.


But like Kelly, I enjoyed winning enough that I could usually convince myself to overlook any moral murkiness in my clients.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: My next novel––working title “Shell Games”––should be out in 2024. It’s a story of gaslighting and mind games and mother-daughter issues set on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Like Her, Too, it’s a thriller that I hope will engross and entertain the reader, but it also deals with an important issue––this time, climate change.


Now I’m starting to germinate some ideas for the next book after that.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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