Saturday, August 4, 2007

Jilliane Hoffman

Ali Karim recently interviewed legal-thriller novelist Jilliane Hoffman for The Rap Sheet.

Part of the interview:

AK: There was a little gap in what had become your usual schedule, before your third novel, , Plea of Insanity, was released this summer. What were you up to?

JH: Plea of Insanity was another nasty plot that had been brewing in my head for years. It was inspired in part by a friend whose brother was diagnosed [as being] paranoid schizophrenic, back when we were in law school. Researching it took many months and included visits to a maximum-security insane asylum and face-to-face interviews with schizophrenics and psychopaths, not to mention devouring a few dozen books on mental illness and debriefing a couple of forensic psychiatrists over cocktails and coffee Then it was time to write, which took me almost two years. It was a labor of love.

AK: Can you tell us more about how that long-ago incident with your friend’s brother inspired this book?

JH: As I said before, Plea of Insanity was inspired by a friend whose brother was diagnosed schizophrenic when we were in law school. Right after we graduated, “Mark” unfortunately stopped taking his meds and, acting under a bizarre delusion, he drowned his infant son and tried to kill himself. He was pled not guilty by reason of insanity by the state and spent many years in a maximum-security forensic hospital. “Tina” and I were very close when this happened and so, as a friend, I watched as she struggled to come to terms with this devastating illness that had seemingly ravaged her family. Like most people, I knew nothing about schizophrenia at the time, but when I began to do some research, I was absolutely terrified. I didn’t know that it affects 1 percent of the world’s population. I didn’t know that there is no known cause and that there is no cure. And I didn’t know that although there is no “schizophrenia gene” that’s been isolated yet, the disease tends to run in families. I couldn’t think of anything more frightening for my friend than having to face the real-life possibility of going insane.

That was the first seed for Plea of Insanity. From there it grew into a courtroom thriller, because you write what you know and I wanted to take the reader on the roller-coaster ride that is an insanity plea. Ultimately, though, what I wanted to accomplish was to write a thriller that would thrill and scare and terrify, but that in the end would also demonstrate compassion towards those who suffer from this devastating illness and their families. Not an easy task.

Tina and Mark were definitely inspirations, but the plot is definitely fiction.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue