Author Q & A

Guest Blog: Liz Lazarus

Liz and I at the Don’t You Cry Book Event ATL

An Unexpected Sisterhood

Free of Malice did not start as a novel – it began as my journal, my way of healing from the trauma of being attacked my senior year of college. You see, though my book is fiction, the attack was real. A man did break into my house in the middle of the night and try to rape me. I was lucky. I managed to fight back and he eventually gave up and fled. Sadly, we never caught him. Because I wasn’t raped, I expected to “just get over it.” I think other people expected that, too. It never occurred to me or my family that I should see a therapist. So, I turned to the only release I knew—writing.

I wrote about the actual attack, how he kicked open my door in the middle of the night and was on top of me before I could comprehend what was happening, how he bit me when I tried to gouge out his eyes and how he tried to cover my mouth to muffle my screams. But, most importantly, I wrote about the after-affects, of how a strong, confident girl became a shadow of herself. I was afraid to go in the house alone. I checked every closet and cabinet to be sure no one was hiding there. I couldn’t sleep in the dark so I had to keep the lights on all night. Because he had a knife, I couldn’t leave knives out in the open.

When I decided the write my novel and the hypothetical legal case that would unfold had I shot and killed my attacker, I already had a great deal of material. All of the notes I needed for my protagonist’s reaction to her attack were already in my journal. What has surprised me was the reaction by other survivors. I’ve had few tell me that reading my story was cathartic. Fellow author, Jenny Lynn Anderson who wrote Room 939: 15 Minutes of Horror, 20 Years of Healing, commented, “Free of Malice will help anyone who works with sexual assault survivors better understand victimization and its long-lasting aftermath. For the survivor, it’s a must read. It validated I was not “paranoid” after I was sexually assaulted. Rather, I was reacting normally to an unfathomable act of violence.” Soon after, another reader came forward and told me that she had woken up with a man in her bedroom when she was 17 and still living at home. She screamed, waking her family dog who started barking and the intruder fled. “I will always remember that moment of pure terror when I woke and saw him and even now I sleep with a light on in the hall when my husband is away. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be raped under such circumstances or fight off an attacker as you did but your book really made me feel an inkling of what it would be like.” Another reader wrote to me telling me that she was attacked when she was 16, an attempted kidnapping at knife point, during the day, as she was walking near her home. “I know that fear. I often wonder what else he went on to do to young girls or if he’s still out there. I think it’s made me more aware over my lifetime of my surroundings.” A popular blogger read and reviewed the book. It was only after she read it that she shared that she had been raped. In her review, she wrote, “I needed to take a walk after I read this book. Some things hit too close to home and entirely too close for comfort. I had to sort through my feelings for a bit, after which I realized: I’m very glad Ms. Lazarus wrote this book. Free of Malice is one of the most detailed, accurate, unique, and liberating books I’ve read in a good minute.”

At first, I felt guilty. My intent was not to put her or anyone else through the trauma a second time. But, she assured me that she felt empowered after reading my book. Had she put it down, her attacker would have won. By reading it, she proved that he couldn’t take that experience away from her. She’s a strong girl as you can imagine. Then, I received a real shocker—one of my good friends told me about being raped when she was just starting her first job after college. She had shown a keen interest in reading my book when I told her about it, but I thought she was just being supportive. Little did I know that she had lived through a much worse ordeal. I’m grateful that she felt comfortable telling me about her experience and our friendship has only grown stronger.

In summary, though I didn’t foresee the reaction to my book from survivors, it has been an unexpected gift. I want to assure any survivor reading this post that it may not seem possible right now, but you can recover. You’ll potentially be even stronger. And from the letters I’ve received I hope you know that there is a huge sisterhood out there to support you, and I’m first in line.

All my love,




Lazarus Photo Hi Res JPG

Liz Lazarus is the author of Free of Malice, a psychological, legal thriller loosely based on her personal experience and a series of ‘what if’ questions that trace the after effects of a foiled attack; a woman healing, and grappling with the legal system to acknowledge her right to self-defense.

She was born in Valdosta, Georgia, graduated from Georgia Tech with an engineering degree and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern with an MBA in their executive master’s program. She spent most of her career at General Electric’s Healthcare division and is currently a Managing Director at a strategic planning consulting firm in addition to being an author.

Free of Malice is her debut novel, set in Atlanta, and supplemented by extensive research with both therapists and criminal defense attorneys. She currently lives in Brookhaven, GA, with her fiancé, Richard, and their very spoiled orange tabby, Buckwheat.

Goodreads: of-malice
Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble


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