Author's Notes Unlawful Contact

This was my third contemporary romantic suspense book — and the one that took me longest to write. The idea for the story had been percolating in my mind for years, the result of a decade of reporting on prison issues. But the beginning, in which Sophie and Marc spend a night together as teenagers, came to me in a rush of inspiration that saw my fingers spitting out thirty pages in a single weekend.

After that writing came to a crawl, partly because of events in my personal life and partly because I know so much about the topic of prisons and women in prison that I fussed over every detail in the book. Darker even than Hard EvidenceUnlawful Contact challenged me as a writer in so many ways — a more complicated plot, more deeply complicated characters, subject matter that could be depressing or controversial if not handled in the right way.

This book was special for me for several reasons. The most important was that it gave me a chance to pour out some of what I had learned as a reporter covering prisons. Among the most wrenching of those stories, is the story of Leah Rhiann Clifton, who was stillborn a month shy of her due date as a result of the neglect and inadequate medical care her mother received at the hands of prison guards. It's a story that still breaks my heart.

This book also gave me a chance to use my own experience in jail, including all that prison slang. No, I've never been arrested, but I did once stay in jail for 24 hours as an inmate just to see what it was like and to report on the overcrowding problem at the jail. It was a scary and eye-opening experience, one that I'll never forget.

Strangely, I kept thinking this book was dull and stupid. I think when you know a lot about something, it's sometimes hard to feel that you're doing the subject justice. I remember at one point e-mailing about half of the story to my agent and telling her that the book sucked and asking for her help in preventing it from becoming a train wreck. I got a call the following Monday in which she told me how much she loved it. I felt almost dizzy. I knew that meant that one of us was crazy, and I was afraid it might be me.

But often that's how writing is for me. I can't stand whatever I'm working on and find it to be far beneath anything else I've ever written. It's like I'm in a fog and I can't see the story until the book is done and the fog begins to clear.

In the end I managed to get over Julian and fall for Marc instead. I'm fickle that way, I guess.

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