Chatting with bestselling crime novelist Lisa Scottoline, whose latest Rosato & Associates book is Accused (St. Martin’s, Oct.), is reminiscent of listening to the late Erma Bombeck read one of her commentaries about life: there is no pretense or self-consciousness, but plenty of warm laughter that spills over and punctuates her self-assessment.

“I love my job, and I have no personal life,” she says, chuckling. “I’m writing everything I want to write, and feel better than I ever have.” Accused certainly reflects this kind of confidence. It features 13-year-old Allegra, a brilliant, precocious girl who uses her trust fund money to hire Rosato & Associates. Allegra is certain the man convicted and imprisoned for murdering her sister is innocent, and as the legal team investigates, more baffling questions than answers are revealed and threatening situations arise for Rosato partner Mary DiNunzio.

As evidenced in the bond of sisterhood among the Rosato & Associates legal team, family is profoundly important to Scottoline. “I come from a very loving, close-knit Italian family,” she says, “similar to that of my character Mary’s in Accused. My mother had 19 sisters and brothers, so you can imagine how big my family is. When I was a kid everyone was always in everyone else’s business.” This sounds uncannily like the Rosato & Associates offices in Philadelphia, where there are no secrets among the four female attorneys, and they can practically finish one another’s sentences.

Over the years, the characters in the Rosato series—Accused is the 12th book—have changed with the new experiences and events that unfold in the women’s lives. In Accused, for instance, not only does DiNunzio finally make partner in the law firm but she also becomes engaged to her longtime boyfriend, Anthony, albeit not without some hesitation. “Mary is the most like everywoman in the series,” Scottoline says. “She’s still insecure and still growing into her own skin.” Scottoline pauses for a moment, laughs, then adds, “Mary is also the shortest person in the tristate area,” a self-dig at the author’s diminutive five-foot-two-inch stature.

Scottoline has attended more BEA conventions that she can count and always enjoys participating, meeting fans, and running into colleagues from different periods of her career. Her favorite BEA story: always running into an agent who rejected her when she was first trying to get published. “He actually wrote to me, ‘we don’t have time to take any more clients, but if we did, we wouldn’t take you,’ ” says Scottoline, whose books have gone on to sell 25 million copies. “But I try to be better, not bitter. So I always give him a nice hello.”

Scottoline, a self-described South Philly girl who lives in a farmhouse in Pennsylvania with a menagerie of animals, says her life today is “blessed and lucky.” She looks forward to her national tour for Accused and is very grateful for her fans. “It’s the readers who make you,” she says. “I do everything I can for them.”

Lisa Scottoline will be signing galleys of Accused today at 11 a.m. in the Macmillan booth (1557).