What happens when you wake up naked after a date with no memory of what happened?

Insufficient Evidence is a novel that tackles the interface of hookup culture and campus sexual assault through multiple perspectives: a middle-aged therapist, university students and staff, law enforcement, prosecutors. But what draws readers in are the characters and their relationships — friends, family, therapist/client — and a young woman in search of retribution.

A fast-paced, involving family drama that tackles a headline-grabbing religious sect.; Kraus displays a tremendous talent for making even the most unsympathetic characters three-dimensional.; Grace is a compelling fictional creation: a woman who patiently and skillfully explores the tense pressures beneath the surface of the Phelps-Flores case.; Grace explores the subtleties of her own relationship with her adult daughter.; The author weaves a great deal of background information into the story.;

 

Author Interview

Susan Kraus talks about Insufficient Evidence

Author Susan Kraus was interviewed by Pam Grout, #1 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, fab 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.


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?

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.

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

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.  

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?

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.”

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

My protagonist, Grace McDonald, is a flawed woman: therapist, mom, friend, then a 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 end up feeling empathy for the perpetrators. Each book challenges different beliefs and assumptions.

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

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 in 50 years ago. But, then, I wrote this before “MeToo” was a movement. Maybe things can change.

 

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?

I always start with research. Not just reading, although I do a lot of that also. This is a novel 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.

 

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

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.

Are you thinking about your next book?

Yes.

 Can you tell me some of the themes?

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, and maybe the ethical issues when people want to die because they are terminal and in pain. Grace thinks that dogs and cats are sometimes treated with more compassion than people.  Whether or not Grace acts on her beliefs is the big question.

back cover

At her very first fraternity party, college freshman Hannah is thrilled with the attentions of Logan, a good-looking senior. They talk and flirt. And then it all goes very wrong.  Across town, Shelby, a junior, wakes up naked after a date with no memory of what happened.

Therapist Grace McDonald works with both Hannah and Shelby as they try to process their experiences and seek justice.  But Grace finds herself challenged as she struggles to fully understand college hookup culture and its impact on both relationships and the legal system. At the same time, Grace is balancing a personal life that includes a single-parent daughter, a grandson on the spectrum, and a man she might actually trust enough to love.  When her need for truth conflicts with professional ethics, she goes just a little bit rogue.

Insufficient Evidence compels readers to engage with a reality where saying one word ---“consensual”--- or the disclaimer “It was just a hookup” --- undermines all traditional forms of evidence. It’s a psychological thriller, but more compelling are the relationships, which test the limits and meaning of friendship, family, loyalty, love and retribution.

Susan Kraus tackles polarizing social and political issues and makes them personal, as empathy for her characters drives readers to reconsider their own attitudes and beliefs.  Her writing reflects decades of experience as a therapist and mediator, and a commitment to hands-on research: fiction meticulously grounded in fact.

Insufficient Evidence pushes our understanding of personal accountability, consent, consequences and a hunger for justice, to a controversial edge.

Target Audience

1) Women over 45 who identify with the series protagonist, therapist Grace McDonald. Grace gives a voice to women who wonder what happened to the women’s movement of the 1970’s, what are young women getting from hookups, and why, decades later, are we still dealing with rape culture, misogyny and misinformation? 

2) University students who identify with Hannah and Stacy and Lisa and Molly… and may also wonder why the boys are getting off so much more than the girls. 

3) Anyone attending a university or parent of a boy or girl who will be a student.