Saturday, July 25, 2015

FEATURED AUTHOR: BARBARA VENKATARAMAN



ABOUT THE BOOKS


Death by Didgeridoo

Winner of the Indie Book of the Day award.

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It's up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it's too late. It doesn't help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn't commit. 



The Case of the Killer Divorce

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, has returned to her family law practice after a hiatus due to the death of her mother. It's business as usual until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation, and Jamie's client becomes the prime suspect. When she can't untangle truth from lies, Jamie enlists the help of Duke Broussard, her favorite private investigator, to try to clear her client's name. And she’s hoping that, in his spare time, he can help her find her long-lost father.




Peril in the Park

There's big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn's boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can't figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.


INTERVIEW WITH BARBARA VENKATARAMAN

Barbara, tell us about your series. Is this book a standalone, or do readers need to read the series in order?
This book is a collection of my first three Jamie Quinn Mysteries. Each book can stand alone, but they're more fun if you read them in order. Number four is coming soon!

Where’s home for you?
I live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, only thirty miles from Miami Beach, where I was born. It may seem like I don't get out much, but I've been fortunate enough to be able to travel to India, Australia, Chile, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Canada, and Costa Rica.

What’s your favorite memory?

One of my favorite memories is when I was on vacation in Washington with my family. We had gone whitewater rafting and then driven to a snowy area to play in the snow. My younger son, who was seven at the time and very difficult to please, joyfully and spontaneously declared: "This is the best day ever!" It always makes me smile to think about that. 


What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

Laugh as much as you can and be kind to everyone. Love is the answer. It doesn't matter what the question was.

Who would you pick to write your biography?
Someone who could make me look adventurous and daring and brilliant. J.K. Rowling, are you listening?

Who are you?
I am a reluctant family law attorney (if you're one of my clients, I swear I'm working on your case right now); a proud mom of two fine young men; a happily-married divorce attorney; a sister; an aunt to ten wonderful nieces and nephews; a native Floridian; an iced coffee addict; an avid reader of fine literature; a word fanatic, and, finally, I am "Mrs. Grammar Person." I just can't help myself . . . I was glad when 'Carls Furniture' went out of business so that their missing apostrophe would stop bothering me.

What would you like people to say about you after you die?
She was funny and kind and generous and I absolutely loved her books! It's a shame she died tripping over the dog and choking on a cookie . . .

What’s your favorite line from a book?
I have lots of favorites, but the one that sticks with me is from my Russian Lit class in college. It's the first line of Anna Karenina: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Not only is Tolstoy telling us that this story is about an unhappy family, he is also telling us how to write a story. If you write about a happy family, it's boring, there is no story. A story must have conflict to be interesting, and each unhappy family has its own unique story. That's why when life is going too smoothly for your characters, you have to shake things up, make some trouble for them.

What would Jamie Quinn say about you?
She would say "Quit stealing my lines, lady!" Actually, she would say, "Did you have to give me ALL of your phobias and insecurities? Isn't one of you enough for the world?"

How did you create the plot for this book?

Funny story – I was trying to learn how to play a didgeridoo (a large Aborigine wind instrument) when I accidentally dropped it and broke the glass top of a dresser. That's when I realized: You could kill someone with this thing. Later on, my husband found me swinging the didgeridoo around like some weird Ninja warrior, and he looked a bit worried, but I assured him I was just doing research. From then on, I couldn't stop thinking about how someone could get killed with a didgeridoo: Who was this person? Why would they even have a didgeridoo? How could the wrong person be blamed for the murder? Why would there be more than one person who wanted the victim dead? Like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces slowly came together to become my first cozy mystery: "Death by Didgeridoo."

The Case of the Killer Divorce was inspired by Ambien and my quest for a good night's sleep. Did you know Ambien looks just like aspirin? Did you know that Ambien and alcohol can kill you? I didn't know that either, but I called the Walgreen's pharmacist to ask. I assume they called the police as soon as I hung up . . .

Peril in the Park was inspired by two true events. Back when I worked for Broward County, a maintenance worker was mad at his boss and mowed the words "BITE ME" into the lawn. That started me thinking about someone vandalizing the parks in a snarky way to get back at their boss. One thing led to another and Jamie's boyfriend Kip became that boss. Also true, a developer wanted to build a high-rise next to a historical site and years of litigation ensued. That seemed worth killing for . . .

Are any of your characters inspired by real people? 

Of course! All of them are. For example, Grace, my protagonist Jamie Quinn's best friend, is a combination of several of my friends, especially the smart-aleck ones (you know who you are!). I always use the characteristics of people I know, or people I've seen, as a jumping off point. Once, I saw a guy in a parking lot getting out of his car and I said, "There he is! My private investigator, Duke Broussard." I just wish I'd taken his picture . . .

Are you like any of your characters?
My sister swears that I am Jamie Quinn, but it's not true. Just because we're both reluctant family law attorneys with sleep issues and phobias who are insecure and sarcastic doesn't make us the same person. She has a cat and I have dogs and she's younger and has an alcoholic private investigator for a friend.

One of your characters has just found out you’re about to kill him off. He/she decides to beat you to the punch. How would he kill you?
That's a tough one, but I can tell you how he/she wouldn't kill me. None of my victims are ever killed by guns. I did have an FBI agent pull a gun once, but that's all she did. The first victim in my first mystery died by being whacked in the head with a didgeridoo, the second was run over by a car. I can't tell you how the others died because I would give away some secrets and I want you to read the books.

Who are your favorite authors?

I love humor writers like Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen, Erma Bombeck, and Mary Roach. I love science fiction and fantasy and, of course, mysteries. And I could read the Harry Potter series over and over. Growing up, I was a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut – his humor, his conversational tone, his brilliance, and his willingness to do the unexpected. Ann Patchett's book, Bel Canto is one of my favorite books of all time, as is The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffennegger, and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye, by Rachel Joyce. In all three books, the characters are wonderful and memorable, but it's the authors' ability to capture poignant moments that touches me.

What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?
I can't stand too much description. I don't care what color the bedspread is or that their childhood dog was named Scooter. I'm a minimalist; I like a light touch and a broad stroke of the pen.


Do you have a routine for writing?
Sadly, no. If I did, I would finish my books much faster. But I still have to earn a living as a lawyer. Boring, but true.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
As a humor writer, my goal is always to make my readers smile. I've received many kind words from my wonderful readers, but the best compliment I ever received was from a stranger who left a comment on my book of humorous essays, A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities. He wrote: "I have enjoyed this book a lot. It cheered me up during some difficult days. Pleasant reading, especially on difficult days."

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
This interview – LOL! Seriously though, the hardest thing for me was my first short story, "If You'd Just Listened to Me in the First Place." It's super short, but it took me a year to write because I kept getting stuck and quitting. Writing that taught me so much about plot, dialogue and characterization, and I couldn't have been happier when I finally finished it. It taught me that I could work my way through anything if I just didn't quit. The first rule of writing is to write. That's also the second rule and the third.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning author, Barbara Venkataraman, is an attorney and mediator specializing in family law and debt collection. 

She is the author of Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person; The Fight for Magicallus, a children's fantasy; a humorous short story entitled, "If You'd Just Listened to Me in the First Place;" and two books of humorous essays: I'm Not Talking about You, Of Course and A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities, which are part of the Quirky Essays for Quirky People series. Both books of humorous essays won the "Indie Book of the Day" award.



Her latest works are Death by Didgeridoo, first in the Jamie Quinn series, The Case of the Killer Divorce
, the second Jamie Quinn mystery, and just out, Peril in the Park, the latest in the popular Jamie Quinn series. Coming soon, Engaged in Danger – the next Jamie Quinn mystery!

Connect with Barbara:
Blog  |  Goodreads

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