Written In the Stars: Family law attorney, true crime author focuses on ‘narrative’
By Alison Stanton
Kerrie Droban Zhivago knew she was going to be a writer from the time she was 7 years old.
“I come from a family of writers — one, the former editor of ‘The New York Times,’ wrote a true crime book about the Kitty Genovese murder. I wrote and studied poetry for years, before turning to plays and eventually novels,” Zhivago says.
While she loved spending time writing, Zhivago needed to find something a bit more lucrative to pay the bills. She decided to apply to law school.
“I was literally a starving poet when I applied to law school. And apart from needing a career that allowed me to eat, being a lawyer gave me life-changing passion and purpose,” she says, adding that she has been practicing law for over 30 years, 25 of which have been in private practice.
“As a former prosecutor and death penalty lawyer, I am also certified to practice at the federal level. With more than 20 years of trial experience I have litigated everything from major felonies, including first-degree murder to DUIs.”
Zhivago is now the owner and CEO of Zhivago Law PLLC, a firm with three locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale.
Zhivago Law specializes in family law, which encompasses divorce, custody, support and post-decree modifications, and criminal defense, which focuses on appellate/post-conviction matters.
As much as she truly enjoys her work as an attorney, Zhivago has never lost her passion for writing.
For the last 15 years, Zhivago has been a true crime author and national speaker. She recently published her eighth book, “Aurora: The Psychiatrist Who Treated the Movie Theater Killer Tells Her Story.”
“My talks center mostly around the books I write, true stories about deep cover investigations into outlaw biker gangs, organized crime, the mafia and the pathology of the criminal mind,” Zhivago says, adding that when working in law, she uses her last name of Zhivago, but for her writing work, she uses the “nom de plume” of Kerrie Droban.
“This knowledge, combined with my personal experiences, gives me better insight into my clients’ struggles as they navigate their own abusive relationships with narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths,” she says.
Zhivago says the true crime genre “perfectly complements” her skill set as an attorney as well as her core values of truth and justice.
“Being an attorney has enabled me to truly empower those less fortunate and help them not only survive but thrive after crisis,” she says, adding that she fell into writing true crime after having published her first two novels.
Zhivago was working on her third book when she was approached by undercover operatives who were infiltrating the Hells Angels.
“It’s a long story, part of one of my talks, ‘Doing Time for the Crime,’ but it became my first true crime book, ‘Running with the Devil.’ From there, others wanted me to write their stories,” she says.
“It’s now my favorite genre because it combines the best of both worlds — law and writing — and is about uncovering, and discovering, the truth in people and investigations that are sometimes stranger than fiction.”
Zhivago says her three-plus decades in law helps her in her work as a true crime author.
“As a lawyer, whether it’s family law or criminal defense, I focus on the narrative; for instance, what is the client’s ‘Marriage Story,’ what has happened in their relationship that has led them to this point in their lives and how can I best help them navigate conflict,” she says.
“As a writer, I’m doing the same thing. I consider pathology, strategy, conflict and resolution. I call it ‘diving into the lava,’ going deep to go wide. That’s the only way to truly discover not only what happened but why and how the client or character can triumph.”
Looking back, Zhivago says she is thrilled with her decisions to become a lawyer and follow her childhood dream of being a writer.
“I wouldn’t change a thing. Being a lawyer has been a profound blessing. I could not have asked for a better career choice. Even if I had never practiced, I would always be grateful for the education and knowledge. It is deeply satisfying to be able to be of service to others, to have a skill set that can help people in crisis,” she says.
“And as for writing, that is a calling and a passion and something I was born to do. I’m just grateful that I’ve been blessed enough to write in a complementary genre.”
When Zhivago is not busy working with clients, writing or public speaking, she enjoys hiking, rock wall climbing and anything that has to do with the ocean.
But even as she is enjoying a scenic hike or tackling her latest hobby of jet skiing, Zhivago’s valued clients are never far from her mind.
Just as she has found how powerful and effective it can be to tell someone else’s story in her novels, Zhivago is honored to help her clients take control of their own.
“Hands down, I love empowering people to be their own rescue, to be able to rewrite their story, tell a different narrative, one that is forward thinking and inspiring. Everyone has a story, not everyone has a voice, and I feel honored and privileged to be able to be that voice for a while and advocate for their truth,” she says.
Zhivago Law is located at 1934 E. Camelback Road, Suite 120-482, and in the Union Hills Corp. Center, 18444 N. 25th Avenue, Suite 420, in Phoenix, as well as in Scottsdale’s Kierland Suites, 6424 Greenway Parkway. For more information, call 480-612-3058 or visit kdrobanlaw.com.
To learn more about her work as a true crime author and public speaker, visit kerriedroban.com.
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