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Liz Lazarus and Thomas Barnette. - Free of Malice

My favorite character in “Free of Malice”

I was recently asked who was my favorite character in my book, “Free of Malice.” Some folks thought it would be Laura, the protagonist, but it’s actually the criminal defense attorney, Thomas Bennett.

Do we love him or hate him? Do we trust him or suspect him? And why is he doing pro-bono work for a journalist – what’s in it for him? At one point, Laura says, “he sounded sincere, but there was this little nagging voice inside of me—aren’t most psychopaths also charmers?”

My editor, Jan Risher, may have said it best, “This book is not a traditional whodunit. The author pulled off a tough balance of having me both suspect yet somehow root for the lead male character.”

My best friend from college, Thomas Barnette (not a psychopath, by the way), was my inspiration for the lawyer character. He and I met our first day at Georgia Tech – we were both lost trying to find the civil engineering building – and we’ve been friends ever since. We make an odd pair, I’ll admit – he’s a black, gay, Christian guy and I’m a white, straight, Jewish gal, but we have that kind of connection where I’ll be thinking about him and the phone will ring.

We were so focused on our studies at school that I didn’t really learn about Thomas’ creative side until after we graduated. One day he popped a CD into the player in his car and asked what I thought. The singer reminded me of a cross between Lionel Richie and Seal and I really liked it. When Thomas said it was him, I didn’t believe him at first. He actually had to start singing in the car to convince me.

From that point on we talked a lot about him cutting a full CD. He already had quite a few of the songs, many of which he wrote, but there were also some covers. So, one day I pulled out my computer and started tallying up the work ahead of him to finish the CD – the mixing, mastering, photos, production, etc. and came to a number. The next day, I kid you not, I received a check in the mail for some deferred salary for nearly the exact number. I took it as a divine sign and we were off to producing his debut album.

An author’s viewpoint

In my book, the Thomas character takes Laura to hear him sing at Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta. At that point, you can pull out your QR reader or go to my website, www.freeofmalice.com/music-let-me-breathe.htm, and hear the first song from his album, “Let Me Breathe.” I thought it would be an added treat for the reader to get to hear Thomas’ voice, plus he sang at my launch party and we are doing a few joint events around town to promote the book and the CD.

Who knew when our paths crossed that first day of college that we would have such an enduring friendship and that we’d find a way to blend our creativity and support one another. So, my favorite character – was based on one of my favorite people.

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