I'm happy to welcome Barbara Venkataraman to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Barbara writes the Jaime Quinn Mystery series. The first three books in the series have just been released as a boxed set and the 4th book will be released soon!
Kathy: Jaime Quinn is a lawyer. What made you decide on that profession. Is there any significance to her family law specialty? Her issues with her own family?
BV: Funny you should ask--I’d always heard you should write what you know and since I’ve been a practicing family lawyer for 28 years (I started as a child, lol), I figured I’d give Jamie the same avocation as me for my first foray into fiction. Like, Jamie, I lost my mom to cancer, but I didn’t spend six months in a depression. Also, I have a nephew with Asperger’s Syndrome and I based the character of Adam on him, but those are the only similarities between Jamie and me. The fact that she’s a family lawyer allows me to use some of the weird stories and incidents I’ve accumulated over the years. And also borrow some stories from my colleagues…
Kathy: How did you come up with the idea of using a didgeridoo as a weapon? Have you ever seen one in person?
BV: Strangely enough, I own a didgeridoo! I bought one because I thought it could help me with my sleep issues. One day, I was trying to teach myself how to play it when I dropped it (those suckers are heavy, and I was light-headed from hyperventilating) and I 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".
Kathy: Jaime and Kip certainly have different ideas as to what constitutes a fun outing. Are you eager for adventure like Kip, or do you prefer more sedate entertainments?
BV: Okay, you caught me, I am just like Jamie. I’m a homebody, a bookworm, and the least adventurous person on the planet. Like Jamie, I am also a pretty big chicken when it comes to the prospect of getting hurt, so I thought it would be interesting to pair her up with someone who loved the outdoors, a boyfriend who enjoyed an adrenaline rush, and Kip is that guy! As Stephen King says, take interesting characters and put them in an interesting situation and see what happens.
Kathy: Your Jaime Quinn mysteries are short. Was it a purposeful decision to write novellas as opposed to novels?
BV: I didn’t start out with anything in mind except that I had an idea for a story and I wanted to see if I could put the story together. Each of my first three Jamie Quinn books is longer than the book before. The fourth book, “Engaged in Danger”, will be the longest by far and is due out in July. I think the reason my books are shorter than most is that I’m a minimalist and a word geek. I choose each word carefully, I re-write as I go, and I don’t like to be overly descriptive. I like to use a broad brush, describe a few features and let the reader fill in the rest. I don’t like description for the sake of description. Nobody cares what color the bedspread is and how many candles are on the table. At least I don’t...
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
BV: I’ve always loved mysteries--the puzzles and the mental challenge they present. Starting with Encyclopedia Brown when I was a kid and graduating to Nancy Drew, then Agatha Christie and all the rest, I couldn’t get enough of mystery. That being said, I’m not a big fan of violence and gore. I like a light-hearted, entertaining story, which is what I set out to write. That’s why cozy mystery is a great genre for me.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
BV: I’m glad you asked! I do, indeed. I first started by writing humor in homage to my favorite humor writers: Erma Bombeck, Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry, and Bill Bryson. I wrote two short books of humorous essays for my series: Quirky Essays for Quirky People and I couldn’t have been more thrilled when they both won awards. The books are: “I’m Not Talking About You, Of Course”, and “A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities” and both are available as e-books and audiobooks. I also wrote a short, humorous grammar book called, “Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person” that teaches grammar through funny stories. Mrs. Grammar Person is my alter ego and sometimes she just takes over! Finally, I wrote a short story, “If You’d Just Listened to Me in the First Place”, and a children’s fantasy, “The Fight for Magicallus”.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
BV: In my Jamie Quinn mystery series, Jamie is a reluctant family lawyer who somehow keeps finding herself involved in murder cases. In Death by Didgeridoo, her disabled cousin is accused of murdering his music teacher; in The Case of the Killer Divorce, Jamie's client, who is in the middle of an acrimonious divorce, is accused of murdering her husband, and in Peril in the Park, Jamie and her boyfriend are in danger from an evil jester who has already murdered one person.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
BV: If you asked my readers, they would all say their favorite character is Duke, the womanizing, partying private investigator who used to be Jamie's client and is now her friend. I do enjoy Duke, but Jamie's BFF, Grace Anderson, is my fave. Mainly because she's a composite of all my friends, and she's cool.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
BV: Aside from the aforementioned, ill-fated attempt to learn the didgeridoo, I would say my inspiration was my desire to write the kind of story I would like to read, one that captured the silliness and smart-alecky dialogue of people who know each other well. I wanted to write a story that was fun. Not many authors can write humor and funny dialogue. One author who is a genius at that is Helen Fielding in her Bridget Jones books. I want to be her when I grow up.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
BV: I published my work because I wanted to share it with other people. The beauty of Amazon Kindle is that self-published authors have no obstacles, financial or otherwise, to publishing their work. I was surprised at how well-received my work has been and I am grateful and humbled by the kind words of my readers. Honestly, if people had hated it, I would’ve pushed the button that said “unpublish” and started over.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
BV: That's easy! Kurt Vonnegut because he was as interesting as any of his characters; Dave Barry, because he is a very funny guy and a native Floridian, like me; Tina Fey, whom I idolize; and Virginia Woolf, whose books were wonderful and who understood that: "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
BV: At the moment, I am busy writing, and not reading, but the last book I read that I loved was called "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves", by Karen Joy Fowler. It's simply brilliant!
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
BV: Hmmm, is this the part where I have to sound more interesting than I am? Ha ha. Well, I like to read, of course, and I like to bake, which is dangerous to my waistline. I love to swim and find my best inspiration while swimming. I also like to micro-manage my kids’ lives long-distance (by text). Just kidding! Not really...I also love to spend time with my friends and family. I used to do all kinds of crafts, but now I write instead.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
BV: Okay, but only if you promise not to judge me: Nutella, pickled beets, lots of different hot sauces, and pasta in every shape and size. I never eat them all together, though.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
BV: Yes! I am working feverishly to finish the fourth Jamie Quinn Mystery, “Engaged in Danger”. Here’s the blurb:
Finally, life is good for reluctant family law attorney, Jamie Quinn--her father may get his visa soon, her boyfriend is the bomb, and her law practice is growing like crazy--but when she agrees to take on a high-profile divorce case, everything falls apart. What looked like an opportunity to work with her friend Grace and make some serious bucks has turned into a deadly game, one that could destroy their friendship and tear their town apart. Why couldn't Jamie just leave well enough alone?
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
BV: First, I love the creative process, it stimulates my brain in a way nothing else can. I love imagining my characters having conversations and doing crazy stuff. In short, writing is a lot of fun! I also enjoy interacting with my readers; they are so supportive and seem to really enjoy my writing. I told one reader that I was working on the fourth book in the series and she said, “Please keep Kip and Jamie together, I think they are such a cute couple.” It sounds like she enjoys my characters as much as I do and I think that’s fantastic!
The Jaime Quin Mystery Collection (Box Set Books 1-3)
By Barbara Venkataraman
Book 1: Death by Didgeridoo
Book 2: The Case of the Killer Divorce
Book 3: Peril in the Park
This review is actually for the boxed set; looking at all three novellas as a whole. However, I will be reviewing each book individually in the days to come.
The Jaime Quinn Mystery collection is a quick, light, enjoyable read. Each book gets longer as the series progresses consequently probing deeper and getting more in depth with the characters.
In Death by Didgeridoo we first meet Jaime Quinn, a reluctant family lawyer devastated by her mother's recent death. She's forced to come out of her self imposed solitary confinement when her nephew is accused of murder. Although not a criminal lawyer by any means, Jaime does what she can and gets back in her lawyer saddle. By helping others she also ends her stagnation and returns to the world.
Jaime is getting her groove back and is working with other clients (not just distressed family members) in The Case of the Killer Divorce. We learn even more about Jaime's father and the search to find him. Secondary characters become even more developed and start to shine.
Peril in the Park is the last book in the set and the most complex. Although happy with her new old boyfriend, their relationship is put to the test in this book as someone is targeting Kip and his work in the parks system. Relationships are also not what they seem with either Jaime's dad or her friend, Duke.
I recommend reading these books as a complete set. The first book is a short novella and the second not much longer. The third book is the longest, but I still consider it a novella. You can easily read all three together and appreciate the developing characters and stories. Although each book is set about a year after the previous one, they are built upon each other, each one providing more details and pulling you further in to Jaime Quinn's life.
Barbara Venkataraman is graciously offering prizes for SIX of my readers! One winner will receive an e-book of Death by Didgeridoo, another an e-book of The Case of the Killer Divorce, the third an e-book of Peril in the Park, and three winners will win an audio boxed set of all 3 books! Six lucky winners in all! To be eligible simply leave a comment no later than 11:59 pm EDT Sunday, May 31st 2015 on this blog post telling us your thoughts about lawyers or didgeridoos! Also let us know which prize you'd prefer if you're lucky enough to win and include your e-mail address so that I may contact you! Good luck!