VLS Alumni in the News

Alumni Spotlight

Elaine Williams Crockett JD'80: From Extraordinary to Plausible

"Without a doubt, this is one of the most unique and fun stories I’ve read in a long time. Using D.C. as a background was the perfect setting for this story of intrigue, secrets, lies and cover-ups. When the story is finally unraveled, it is a heart-stopping tale that will leave you disgusted, fascinated, and awed at the author’s ability to tell a story," wrote Readers’ Favorite critic Natasha Jackson about VLS alumna Elaine Williams Crockett’s newly released novel Do Not Assume, a political thriller involving a murder mysteriously tied to the White House.

For twelve years before starting her writing career, Elaine was an Attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in Washington, D.C., the office responsible for representing the Commission in Court and for providing legal advice to the five Commissioners of the Agency, the Bureau of Consumer Protection, the Bureau of Competition, and the Bureau of Economics, as well as other offices within the agency. She worked long hours (ten hours a day plus weekends, as necessary) alongside dedicated colleagues, overseeing regulatory compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act, reviewing and certifying financial disclosure forms, and providing expert advice related to the Ethics in Government Act. Her favorite work was reviewing applications from former FTC employees who wished to represent clients in Commission proceedings, work that entailed reading “a lot of imaginative arguments in those applications.” Perhaps this was yet another seed of inspiration for a writer with a vivid imagination. She retired in 2000 and has been working on several novels ever since. Elaine shared some thoughts with the Alumni Office about the intersection of her life as an attorney and as a writer.

How did your work as an attorney influence your writing?

I can’t say enough about how my work as an attorney has influenced my writing. I was always interested in writing and that’s one of the primary reasons I decided to attend law school. Of course, I quickly discovered that when representing a client, an attorney has to be able to take a dubious argument and make it seem completely reasonable. At times, that’s almost like writing fiction, i.e., taking something extraordinary and making it plausible.

Of course, analysis is a big part of legal writing and analysis is equally important in character and plot development. For me, the fun of writing fiction is in setting forth a set of facts in a murder—e.g., method of death, time, place, and other circumstances—and then slowly revealing how the facts support a wide variety of possible motives and lead to a wide array of possible suspects, most of whom were not immediately obvious.

How did you arrive at the topic of your novel Do Not Assume?

My major in college was Criminal Justice. I have always been interested in our criminal justice system and a few years ago, I noticed something that I think is disturbing—suspects are being convicted of murder on the basis of circumstantial evidence with little or no forensics to connect them to the crime. At first, I thought this must be unusual but it’s not. For example, in 2010, the Boston Globe reported that a study of 400 murder cases found that only 13.5 percent had physical evidence linking the suspect to the crime. So, while my book is fictitious, its genesis is serious and real. And without giving away more, that is how I arrived at the topic of my book, Do Not Assume. As for the title, Do Not Assume is a null cipher that when decoded, reveals an important aspect of the plot.

What were some of the challenges you faced in creating a fictional work based on non-fictional experiences you’ve had or characters you’ve encountered?

It’s amazing how many people you meet in Washington. I have been around U.S. Senators, members of the Secret Service and have met a former President, Bill Clinton. I have two close friends who were Federal Judges on the United States Court of Federal Claims, the Court where my protagonist is a sitting judge in Do Not Assume. I’ve visited their chambers and the courtroom several times.

I think that all of those associations and experiences let me portray my characters and their surroundings in a more effective manner. As to surroundings, there is a feeling to a city that’s peculiar unto itself and Washington is no different. The same is true of the other settings in my book. A portion of the story takes place in a fictitious town in Maine but the town itself is based on South Royalton and my time in law school there. I believe that having an intimate knowledge of a setting is invaluable for conveying the essence of a place and personally, I think that’s as important as any factual aspect of a novel.

For the areas of expertise that I wasn’t familiar with but needed to weave into my story, such as forensic science and FBI procedure, I did a lot of research and then consulted with experts. I should also thank my good friend, Google. For the experiences that I describe in the book that I haven’t experienced myself, let’s just say that I have a wild imagination.

Do you have another writing project in mind or in the works?

My next novel, also a thriller, is due to be released in 2016. My current novel Do Not Assume, is available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. For anyone wishing to learn more about the novel, my web site is elainewilIiamscrockett.com. I am also happy to answer questions or just reconnect with old friends at elaine.crockett@verizon.net.

Elaine Williams Crockett

Elaine Williams Crockett JD'80

Not yet logged in on vlsConnect?

Access our jobs board, alumni directory, and your giving history through secure registration and login. Share your professional news with us so we can promote you and your accomplishments. Join our online alumni community!

 

 

Register for vlsConnect button

 

Log in to vlsConnect button

 

Spotlight Archive

«« Randy Abate JD'89
«« Katelyn Atwood JD'10
«« Evan Belser JD'10
«« Joe Benning JD'83
«« Elaine Williams Crockett JD'80
«« Cameron Field JD/MELP'13
«« Maureen Holland JD'89
«« Shazia Khan JD'03
«« Alicia Nevaquaya MSEL'08
«« Pamela Pescosolido JD'90
«« Gabor Rona JD'78
«« Kara Shannon JD'15
«« Paige Tomaselli JD'04
«« Alex Urbelis JD'05
«« Current Spotlight