Linda Fairstein at home. (Photo Credit: Katherine Marks)
If you don't think Linda Fairstein has a sentimental side, you just don't know Linda Fairstein.
"Please don't confuse the tough spine I need for my courtroom work with my very romantic side," she says. "I love happy endings, and people who know me well appreciate my warmth and my very robust sense of humor."
If you didn't suspect Fairstein of being a softie, it's likely because it seems at odds with her career history. Before launching her best-selling Alexandra Cooper thriller series, Fairstein was a New York City prosecutor, involved in such infamous cases as that of Robert Chambers, the "Preppie Killer." For 26 years she lead the Manhattan district attorney's sex crimes unit. It is a job Fairstein describes as "terrifically exciting and challenging - a chance to be innovative about helping survivors triumph in the most difficult criminal cases." It also, however, meant immersion in the sordid side of life. Yet, for Fairstein, "The 'up' side of what my work was far outweighed any darkness. I miss that job every day."
Six years before leaving the D.A.'s office, Fairstein's first book, Final Jeopardy, was released. Her two careers have run concurrently ever since. Today, Fairstein provides pro bono legal services. "Cases usually come to me through my nonprofit work with Safe Horizon or the Joyful Heart Foundation, or referrals from lawyers who know my work. If I can be helpful in a particular situation, I am happy to work on it."
In an August 2015 interview, Huffington Post described Fairstein as America's "foremost legal expert on sexual assault and domestic violence." She modestly plays down that characterization, and asks her publisher to do the same. "Yes, I was one of the earliest professionals in this field," she agrees. "There aren't many lawyers who have made it a specialty, nor who have the passion for advocacy that I do."
Still, Fairstein believes that legal standards must continue to evolve to ensure victims are treated justly. "We inherited our rape laws from the British, with 17th century provisions requiring things like corroboration of a victim's testimony - which was absurd. Many of us spent a lot of time changing these laws in the 70s and 80s, a very healthy thing." Even so, Fairstein believes we can do more. "There are current issues which need much more examination before permanent changes are made, and include how sexual assault cases are handled on college campuses - both investigatory and adjudicatory."
Fairstein's seventeenth Alexandra Cooper book, Devil's Bridge, was released on August 11, 2015. Fans of the series will find this one a bit unusual in that it is written not from prosecutor Alex's perspective, but rather from Detective Mike Chapman's. "I've been dying to get inside Mike's mind since I created him 16 books ago. At one time, I thought I might do a standalone with Mike as the narrator. But then this format occurred to me. Start the book with Coop, as usual. And then have something happen to her, that ratchets up the suspense for Mike, and for the reader. It took me a week or so to get comfortable with Mike in the driver's seat, but I have known him for a very long time... and it was a delight to channel him into Devil's Bridge."
Fairstein feels fortunate to have started writing in the 1990s when the business of publishing was "more stable." Though it seems to be a growing fad, she has never considered self-publishing. "My Alex Cooper series is with Dutton, a wonderful imprint with a strong history." While the industry has changed dramatically over the course of her publishing career, she still advises writers to "attempt to work through an established publisher before taking the self-published route."
As with all of her books, there is a big nod toward New York history in Devil's Bridge. In the book, the George Washington Bridge - the most-traveled vehicular bridge in the world - figures prominently. For Fairstein, it is important to make readers aware of things they may not know in addition to entertaining them. Like many writers, "I love doing research," she says. She typically starts with books and newspapers, then moves on to libraries because "... I simply love libraries and all the good things that live in them." She, of course, visits any historical sites used in the narrative, and does a great deal of "snooping around" on the internet - knowing that the information is only as good as the site she's sourcing. "If it's the National Archives, I'm safe and happy, but there are a lot of amateur postings in cyberspace that can't be trusted."
Fulfilling a long-time aspiration, Fairstein is currently completing the first book in a new series of crime novels for middle school readers. The heroine, 12-year-old Devlin Quick, has been described as a 21st century Nancy Drew. Will Dial Press for Young Readers market it that way? "We haven't had any marketing meetings yet, so there's a lot to put on the table," Fairstein says. "I've been longing to write these books because of the profound influence the Nancy Drew books and character had on my life, and the fact that I owe both careers, in the law and in literature, to Nancy Drew to a pretty great degree."
In 2011, Fairstein's first husband, respected attorney and Kennedy family confidante Justin Feldman, passed away. She and current husband Michael Goldberg (also an attorney) eloped in 2014. Her family and friends, long familiar with Fairstein's romantic nature, were "not in the least bit surprised," she says. "I had a spectacular first marriage of 28 years, and now am married again - pinching myself for the joy of this - to my best friend, whom I met the first day of law school more than 40 years ago. Pretty lucky."
Asked about the perfect way to live out her life, Fairstein says she's already doing it. "I'm in a great, happy place in my life, with a man I love and a very portable career. Mike and I like to travel, and another great perk of the writer's life is that I can write in any place in the world, at any pace I choose."
Fairstein confesses to having a few writing rituals, but she's also very superstitious so she doesn't divulge the most serious ones. She does write every day, even if just a short addition to a current work.
As to any autobiographical connection to Alex Cooper, like Fairstein, she is a prosecutor - but there are differences between creation and creator, especially on a personal level. "She's younger, thinner, blonder... and oh, that trust fund!" says Fairstein. And she's not going anywhere anytime soon. "At the moment, my plans for Alex are quite open-ended. She has a few good capers in her yet, I believe. As long as I continue to enjoy the company of Coop and her friends, and as long as my readers look forward to spending time with her, there will be new books."
For information about either the Alexandra Cooper or Devlin Quick series of books, visit LindaFairstein.com, or the author's Amazon page.