Pretty Little Things

An Interview with Jilliane Hoffman

by Catherine Petruccione

#151, 6 December 2010

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Vanguard Press, NY, 2010. ISBN 9781593156077.

In this fast-moving novel Jilliane Hoffman paints a frighteningly real picture of the vast playground the internet provides for sexual predators and the vulnerable teens and children they target. Thirteen year old Lainey Emerson has gone missing, and FDLE Special Agent Bobby Dees is on the case. Head of the Department's Crimes Against Children Squad in Miami for more than a decade, Dees is haunted by the unsolved disappearance of his own daughter throughout the investigation, leading him alternately through a maze of hope and despair. It's a high-pitched suspense, skillfully written in a totally engrossing (but not gross) style of this difficult subject matter that will have you riveted to the pages of this book from start to finish.

BOOKTHINK: Jilliane, I enjoyed Pretty Little Things so much. I was almost hesitant to read it, because it seems to be the thing to do now - dark novels about sexual predators - and I thought, "No, not this again." But when I started reading it, I could not put it down. It was so realistic, so deftly handled. I can understand why it was realistic, of course, because of your background in law enforcement. It was such a page-turner; it had me going to the end, and totally surprised me.

HOFFMAN: Thank you. I'm happy to hear that. It's hard when you put in a few twists and turns. You're never sure if anyone else sees them as obvious, or if you planted them well.

BOOKTHINK: Your character development was excellent. I loved your main character Special Agent Bobby Dees.

HOFFMAN: A lot of my friends are characters in my books. Bobby Dees is a combination of the names of two of my friends, and now they are fighting over who should play him in the movie!

BOOKTHINK: You've worked as a prosecuting attorney since 1992, is that correct?

HOFFMAN: Yes. I graduated from law school (St. John's Law School) in 1992 and I moved straight down to Miami and worked in the Miami State Attorney's Office as a prosecutor for five years.

BOOKTHINK: You are from New York State originally, right?

HOFFMAN: Yes, I was born and raised on Long Island. The rest of my family is still up there, so I make several trips a year to Long Island. I got a job offer in my third year - it was actually a recession then, too - and jobs were scarce. I had been offered the Miami job, and I was also offered the Queens D.A.'s Office. My mother was hoping I'd take Queens, but I took Miami. The offer came complete with a brochure of people jet-skiing, yachting, and boating and I said, "Oh, okay, this sounds good!" I didn't even take the New York Bar. I moved down in August of 1992. Hurricane Andrew tried to get us to leave real quick, but we stayed. I was down here five years with the State Attorney's Office, and then I left to go to the Department of Law Enforcement, where I was their Chief Legal Counsel in Miami for another five years.

BOOKTHINK: And you've had big success with your four books.

HOFFMAN: I've been very fortunate. They've gotten a great reception, particularly overseas, and that's been amazing too. I'm very well known and liked in Germany. I've hit the number one on their best seller list a couple of times, even knocked J. K. Rowling off on my last book. I think it's really funny ... I'm not sure why. Maybe because of my last being Hoffman, which is a German name. I went over there for a book tour and I spoke to them in my broken German (they all understand English, of course) and I said that my relatives are from Bielefeld. They were so excited, calling out "Ya, ya, Bielefeld!" and the crowds started to gather. I guess that's a good place. I better go visit it next.

BOOKTHINK: You've been called one of the best legal thriller writers in the country.

HOFFMAN: Yes, author Nelson DeMille said that, and it was very kind of him to say, and very humbling.

BOOKTHINK: It's exciting because there is a lot of competition out there. So tell me, are you still a practicing attorney. Do you have time for that?

HOFFMAN: I quit my job to write my first novel, Retribution. I was working for the Department of Law Enforcement at the time. I had the idea for Retribution while I was a Prosecutor, working on a serial rape case. It was a nasty case, the defendant was only 17 years old and he had already raped seven women. Two of the girls were quite young ,and they came from a poor neighborhood - very tragic. I was in the middle of prosecuting the case, the victim was testifying and it was very emotional. The defendant just sat there stone-faced; he couldn't be bothered. Everybody was crying, the jurors were crying, and the crowd was upset. All I kept thinking was, "What if this victim had an opportunity to prosecute her offender; what would she do if she was me?" From that idea I started to develop this plot for Retribution, and over the course of my time as a prosecutor and then as a legal advisor with the police, it developed arms and legs, subplots and characters, and it really just sort of exploded in my mind. I had tried writing it when I got home from work, but law enforcement is never 9 to 5; search warrants get executed at 2 in the morning, not 2 in the afternoon, and my kids were very little. It was very difficult to try to be a novelist and work full time. So my husband said, "Why don't you quit your job and try your hand at this?" It was a very difficult decision because I really loved working in law enforcement. You don't get paid much as a government attorney, but it wasn't about the money. Being a prosecutor is one of the few jobs where you can go into work and come out of it that night knowing that you did something good, and sometimes you can change the course of history if you put somebody really bad behind bars; you don't know what you have prevented potentially in the future. It left you feeling good about yourself, and what you might have prevented. I left in 2001. It took me about a year to write my first book. Now I'm fortunate enough to be able to stay home and write.


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