Feature Book By Susan Kraus

Insufficient Evidence

Insufficent Evidence

Insufficient Evidence is a genre-bending page-turner that tackles the interface of campus sexual assault and hookup culture through multiple perspectives: a middle-aged therapist, students, law enforcement and the court system. But what draws readers in are the characters and their relationships --- friend, family, therapist/client --- both returning cast and new faces.

Hannah, a 19 yr. old freshman, is raped at her first fraternity party. Logan thinks it was just a hookup. Justice is elusive when the words “hookup” and “consensual” come into play, and therapy is a band-aid. Is righteous retribution a form of justice?

Therapist and mediator Grace McDonald works to help her clients while balancing a personal life that includes a single parent daughter, a grandson on the spectrum, and a man she might actually trust enough to let down her walls. But when her search for the truth conflicts with professional ethics, she goes a bit rogue. Do the ends justify the means? You decide.

With fiction built on a foundation of facts, Kraus challenges our assumptions and beliefs. This is not just a “Who done it? ” but “Why?” and “What were they thinking?”

In Insufficient Evidence, Grace echoes women who wonder what happened to the women’s movement of the 1970’s, what’s the story with all these hookups, and why, decades later, are we still dealing with rape culture and misogyny? But this novel is also attracting university students who identify with Hannah and Stacy and Lisa and Molly… and also wonder why the boys are getting off so much more than the girls.

About the Author Susan Kraus

Susan KraussSusan Kraus is a therapist, mediator and writer. She has graduate degrees in English (California State University at Chico) and Social Work (University of Texas, Austin), and post-graduate training in Marriage and Family Therapy at the Menninger Clinic.

Taking to heart the adage “Write what you know,” Kraus uses her decades of professional experience to take readers behind the closed doors of therapy, mediation and intimate relationships. Her novels address controversial issues, always raising more questions than providing answers. But, mostly, Susan writes stores about ordinary people trying to manage the challenges of ordinary life, Never strictly genre, her books may or may not have a murder, because, as Grace puts it, “Sometimes dying is the easy way out. It’s living that takes guts.” For more info on Kraus’s novels, travel writing or background, go to www.susankraus.com.




An Interview with Susan Krauss (Interviewer Pam Grout)

Author Susan Kraus was interviewed by Pam Grout, New York Times best-selling author of E-Squared, Thank & Grow Rich, Art & Soul, Reloaded and 16 other books and hundreds of travel articles. Pam and Susan both live in Lawrence, Kansas, a university town so stuffed with festivals, parades, creativity, ethnic food, great music and overall fun that visitors often ask "Are you sure we're still in Kansas?" For more information on Pam's work, go to www.pamgrout.com.

Pam Grout: Insufficient Evidence deals with campus hookup culture and sexual assault. Your other books tackled other social issues. Is there a common theme or link here?

Susan Krauss: I’m a social worker, therapist and mediator by profession. So, my novels reflect my work and concerns. In Fall From Grace, written in ‘98-‘99, a young mom is extricating herself from a marriage to a personality disordered spouse, which then expands to custody issues, loopholes in gun purchases and stalking. It pits DNA against integrity, intuition against evidence.  In All God’s Children, the focus is on child custody, fundamentalist beliefs and bigotry.  They’re all issues I’ve dealt with as a therapist and mediator. And Insufficient Evidence is no different.

PG: What’s different about this novel and other novels that have rapes in them?

SK: Rape has long been a component of the mystery and thriller genres. But those genres are more ‘black-and-white’ as far as bad guy perps and the legal process. I haven’t found another novel that deals with campus sexual assault in the context of hookup culture, alcohol, consent  --- or the impact of porn watched by boys when very young. As a larger culture, we’re in uncharted waters here. Insufficient Evidence has a rape and sexual assault, and, later, retribution. But the perspectives shift, and readers experience the complexity, ambiguity and frustrations of the characters. 

PG: I’ve heard your novels described as “socially responsible” fiction before. I think this is a new term for many of us. Can you explain it?

SK: I didn’t know the term either. I certainly didn’t start out with any agenda, but I’ve been told that my books are “socially conscious” and “socially engaged.” I’m not sure that it’s a genre so much as these novels provide informed and researched perspectives on difficult social or political issues. But they’ve also been called “genre-benders” and “genre-crossers.”

PG: Would you explain what you mean by that? A “genre-bender”?

SK: My protagonist, Grace McDonald, is a flawed woman: therapist, mom, friend and grandmother. Not a detective or PI. She works intimately with her clients as they make difficult decisions. In Fall From Grace, she does not solve any crime. In each book, Grace changes, as we all change from our experiences. In each book, women’s intuition and persistence are critical. Overall, these novels are more about the relationships and characters, while most mysteries have less focus on character and more on plot. In the third novel, Grace never even knows about one of the two major plot lines. She is more the connection between all the characters. As far as genre, well, there are crimes, but readers may end up feeling empathy for the perpetrators, which is not genre. Here even the bad guys are more three-dimensional.  And they have totally different thematic  ‘centers,’ and challenge different beliefs and assumptions.

PG: How did you settle on campus sexual assault as a focus for this third novel?

SK: I have spent my entire adult life living in cities and town with universities. I’ve had hundreds of clients who are university students or their parents.  When a young woman is sexually assaulted, whether she reports it to the law enforcement or not, her life is significantly affected. As she shares what happened to her with friends and family, they are also impacted. The legal process is not a guaranteed path to justice and can often re-traumatize victims.

I volunteered for the Austin Rape Crisis Center shortly after it was founded, the first Rape Crisis Center in the state of Texas. I was naïve, innocent really, just wanting to be a part of the change movement that all the young, optimistic and determined women felt was coming. And here we are, 40+ years later, and there are ways, with hookup culture, that some women of my generation feel that it’s worse now for young women than it was 30-40-50 years ago. But, then, I wrote this before “MeToo” was a movement. Maybe things can change.

SK: For fiction, this book has a lot of factual information woven throughout. Did you just sit down and write or did you start with research?

SK: I always start with research. Not just reading, although I do a lot of that also. This is a novei>l wl with a bibliography of recommended reading. But I talked with law enforcement, prosecutors and defense attorneys, crisis center staff and volunteers, university staff and students. Lots of students. I sat in on trials of campus rapes. I never witnessed a conviction, but there are scenes in the book that come directly from those trials.

PG: That sounds like a lot of research. How long did it take?

SK: A few years. I was researching for a year or so before I started writing. I was still researching until the week before the final draft went to my editor. Since I’m still working as a therapist and mediator, I have clients every week. I try to mark off blocks of time to write but life interferes. I’ve found that I need weeks away to build momentum or I’d never finish a book.

PG: Are you thinking about your next book?

SK: Yes.

PG: Can you tell me some of the themes?

SK: Immigration is one. The targeting and deporting of decent, hard-working, tax-paying people. Separating  families, for minor technical issues.  Our rejection of people seeking asylum for verifiable, life-threatening reasons. I can feel that Grace is pretty pissed off, and she can no longer stand by and do nothing. I think she will take more risks than she has in the past. She’ll put herself more on the line.  But I also want to explore the complexities of growing old, caring for aging parents. I’m providing care for my 92 yr. old mom who is in physical decline and has dementia. Every day something changes, and every day could be the day that everything changes.  My mom has been clear that she does not want to live with no memory or in pajn. Grace has some strong opinions around these issues, and questions whether dogs and cats are sometimes treated with more compassion than people.  Whether or not Grace acts on her beliefs is the big question, or whether she ignores ethics when her clients are faced with tough decisions.



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