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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,, 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.


Theme Song

Thomas Barnette CDOn my first day of college at Georgia Tech, I got lost trying to find the civil engineering building. Thomas Barnette also happened to be lost, so we teamed up and found our way together. We tease that we’ve been lost ever since!

Over those four years, Thomas and I became close friends. I laugh – what do a black, gay, Christian guy and me, a white, straight, Jewish girl have in common? But we are like family. Thomas was nerd at GT. Well, I was too, so I really didn’t see the creative side of him until much later. I remember sitting in his car one day and he played a CD for me. The singer was amazing, I mean knock your socks off amazing. I didn’t believe Thomas when he said that it was him singing. And just as I was driven to write my book, he was equally driven to launch his first album—so being the task master that I am, we did just that.

From the mixing to the mastering to the photo shoot, to even debating the song order, we brought his dream to life. I always had in the back of my mind that I would feature one of his songs in my book and when I heard Let Me Breathe, the first song on his CD, that was it. I love that FOM has a theme song and I love that it was Thomas who made that happen.

Give the song a listen and let me know what you think.