Fatal February is the first book in a new mystery series featuring criminal defense attorney Mary Magruder Katz and written by Barbara Levenson.
In addition to being a writer, Barbara is also a senior judge in the circuit court of Miami-Dade County; prior to her election to judgeship, Barbara was a criminal defense and civil rights litigator. Fatal February is her first book, but she has already finished her second Mary Magruder Katz mystery and is hard at work on the third book in the series!
I recently had the opportunity to interview Barbara, an interview I enjoyed very much -it was interesting learning more about Barbara’s process in writing Fatal February, and how she manages to balance her career as a judge and her writing career.
An Interview with Barbara Levenson
MB: You’ve mentioned that the idea for Mary Magruder Katz popped full-blown into your head. How did her stories come to you? And what motivated you to put pen to paper to capture these stories?
BL: I guess that Mary had been in my subconscious for a while. I have mentored young women attorneys and new judges over the years. Mary is a compilation of their thoughts and problems, along with my own experiences as a new litigator. Additionally, Mary personifies the melting pot people who populate the Miami area. Something wonderful is afoot here. We have learned to appreciate our differences or to overlook those we can’t appreciate. I wanted to share these areas with readers, and to tell the real Miami story that isn’t about tourism. It’s about day to day living. It’s just done in fabulous weather.
MB: Carlos is such a charismatic and interesting (not to mention sexy!) character. How did you get the idea for his character? Did you know right away that he would be perfect for Mary?
BL: The idea for Carlos actually occurred to me at the car wash that I go to. I was there one day when I saw this amazingly handsome guy. We chatted while we indulged in the free popcorn. He was very charming. Then I observed him being absolutely rude to the attendants and cashier; two personalities. He fit right into the stories swimming around in my brain. I thought he was the one person who could keep up with Mary (at least most of the time).
MB: You’re currently working on the second Mary Magruder Katz novel. Could you describe your writing process? How do you start each writing day? Do you have any writing rituals that you follow?
BL: Actually, the second book is finished and will be published in June,2010. My writing process is simple; sit down in front of the computer and write. Writing is not a job to me. I love to write and look forward to the time spent doing it. I usually try to get rid of the mundane things in my life early in the day. things like straightening out the house, brushing the dogs, or going to the grocery. I answer e-mails and then close my brain to anything but writing. This may mean two hours or six hours of pleasurable time writing.
MB: You’ve spent 32 years as a litigator and then a circuit court judge. How have your experiences enriched your writing career?
BL: Being a lawyer or a judge requires many of the same traits as being a writer. Lawyers and especially judges must be excellent listeners. You must concentrate on hearing what a client is saying or what witnesses are presenting. When an author creates a book, she must listen to the characters. Are their voices authentic? After listening closely to so many voices in courtrooms, it gives an author the ability to develop voices of characters that readers can relate to and feel the characters emotions. A litigator must be immersed in her case and must create the story of the case in language that a juror can readily understand. This is the same job that an author has in creating the plot and characters for the reader.
MB: Your writing style in Fatal February is very engaging – the reader is immediately drawn into Mary’s world. Was the transition from the dryness of legal language to the richness of fiction difficult or did it come easily?
BL: I never subscribed to the theory that legal writing must be wordy and boring. My writing style has always been to be brief and clear, so I didn’t have to cleanse my writing style. I believe more lawyers are moving away from verbosity as they understand that when you want a judge to find in your favor, writing clearly and persuasively will win the day.
Due to a glitch in the blog template I’m using, I’ve just discovered I can’t exceed a certain word count per post. My interview with Barbara Levenson is therefore divided into two parts: please click here for Part 2, and information regarding the giveaway.