'Patricia Cornwell's At Risk': Author thrilled with Andie MacDowell's devilish D.A.

It's unnerving stuff interviewing a consummate interviewer -- a woman who turned an English degree and an earnest fascination with the totality of human existence into a writing career that spans 17 best-sellers, enormous wealth and international acclaim.

And this is no pulp fiction maven, mind you. She's a self-described "broad" who for the past 25-plus years has immersed herself in a world where bad people do unimaginable things to acquaintances and strangers, and where a few unique individuals devote their entire lives to a strange universe in which highly trained minds and the most advanced forensic science merge to make sense of murder and murderers.

But when Patricia Cornwell calls on a snowy Boston day, she turns out to be a delightful woman who is nothing at all like her most famous character (and rumored alter ego), ice-queen forensic scientist Kay Scarpetta.

On consecutive Saturdays beginning April 10, Lifetime will premiere two original films, "At Risk" and "The Front," based on Cornwell's Win Garano series and starring Andie MacDowell, Daniel Sunjata ("Rescue Me") and a personal Cornwell favorite, Diahann Carroll.

When Cornwell learned executive producers Jim Head and Stanley M. Brooks wanted to see her about bringing the Garano novels to Lifetime, she admits she wasn't too excited initially, but the meeting changed her mind. She was especially pleased to be involved in the casting process.

"We had very meaningful discussions in a way that colleagues would do. … And it's got nothing to do with whether or not somebody was a great actor," she says. "It had to do with, 'Mmmmm, that doesn't feel quite right for this person.' Particularly the (sultry and sinister district attorney) Monique Lamont candidates -- that was really important because she's got to be that devil, you know? But at the same time, there's got to be something vulnerable about her so she's not just a total harridan. Andie MacDowell just has that nailed."

"Same with Win (the tough but tender state investigator played by Sunjata who is called upon to straighten out Lamont's troubles in both books). Daniel is perfect. He is very, very good looking and very charming and a big presence. But he plays this character who has -- and no pun intended -- a winsomeness about him. He's not threatening in a way that some big detective might be."

When filming wrapped, Cornwell says she got the chills about how big and rich and complex the finished products rendered her "little novellas."

"They not only captured the things I portrayed in the books," she says, "but they actually went beyond that and did it even better. There are some twists and things that (scriptwriter) John Pielmeier put in to make it better for film, and when I was watching the things, I said to my partner, 'Is that in my book? And if it's not, damn it, I sure wish it was!' "