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Home Arts and Culture  Stepping outside the 'Law' — in the name of literature
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Wednesday, February 2,2011

Stepping outside the 'Law' — in the name of literature

When she wasn't working at 'the best legal job in America,' Allison Leotta was writing a sexy thriller

by Bill Castanier

When Allison Leotta began writing about her work as a sex-crime prosecutor in Washington D.C., she says it was like a “dog going meow.”


She hadn’t set out to write the legal thriller “Law of Attraction,” but that’s what came out.


“I hadn’t read that much in the genre. I read mostly contemporary literary fiction,” she said.


“I think it is my job. You go to work as prosecutor and you never know what is around the corner.”


Leotta, a 1995 graduate of Michigan State University and a 1998 Harvard Law School graduate, has written a fast-paced thriller about Anna Curtis, a young female sex-crime prosecutor in Washington.


Sound familiar? There’s a body, a love triangle and a number of whodunit flip-flops that will keep you guessing.


"Attraction" is reminiscent of the work of Linda Fairstein, who writes about a sex crime prosecutor in Manhattan. Leotta’s character is hipper, younger and has a much more active sex drive.


Curtis confronts what appears to be a typical slam-dunk domestic violence case. The details quickly get muddy, especially since Curtis is sleeping with the defense attorney.


There’s some torrid sex, but that’s about all you can say without giving away critical plot elements and spoiling the dramatic ending.


Although “Attraction” is a debut novel, Leotta said the realistic dialogue in her writing was bolstered by listening to and talking with witnesses.


“It’s heartbreaking what people do to each other," she said. "But there are also moments of great courage and dignity.”


If the depiction of Curtis' workplace seems dead-on, it should. After all, Leotta said, “the setting is where I go to work every day.”


The Birmingham native may have been destined to be a federal prosecutor. Her father was a federal prosecutor in southeast Michigan before recently switching sides to become a defense attorney.


“Growing up, I loved his stories,” Leotta said.


After graduating from Harvard, Leotta said she wanted to “do something good with my law degree. There’s nothing like being a prosecutor — it’s the best legal job in America.”


That may be the case, but Leotta, who has been a federal prosecutor for seven years, acknowledges the job is stressful.


“That’s why I started writing. It is a creative way of dealing with a lot of this. It’s easy to spend your free time thinking about cases, and writing gives you a structured way of processing the information.”


Leotta credits much of her success to her time at MSU, where she majored in international studies in James Madison College. “It was exactly the right place at the right time. At James Madison, there was a sense of community.”


She also found a whole new community awaited her in the publishing world.


“I loved it. I had the time of my life, especially when friends and family show up at book signings. Each time was like a wedding.”


Leotta's husband convinced her to pursue writing. She admits she didn't exactly trumpet her new hobby to her friends and co-workers at first.


“I was a little bit shy about that, and I kept it to myself for a long time,” she said.


She writes each day, while juggling her multiple roles as a mom, a spouse and a lawyer. She said her style is to complete an outline first; in the case of "Attraction," she said, “I knew the ending from the beginning.”


Leotta is well into her second book of a three-book deal. Her next novel is about a scandal that envelops the nation’s capital after the death of a professional escort.


Not everyone was initially enamored by "Attraction." In fact, Leotta said her father was appalled by the abusive father figure: “He was afraid readers would think it was semi-autobiographical."


Leotta makes it clear that is not the case in the book’s dedication.


“He’s my biggest fan now," she said.

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