Tag Archives: Barbara Levenson

Author Interview: Barbara Levenson (and a Giveaway) Part 2

Due to a glitch in my blog theme, it turns out I can’t go over a certain word count per post, so I’ve had to post my interview with Barbara Levenson in two parts. Here is Part 2 of Barbara Levenson’s interview (and here is part 1 of the interview).

MB: You had a rich and rewarding career in another field before turning to writing. What words of advice would you have for the aspiring novelist who is currently making a living in another profession?

BL: Most authors have had other professions before turning to writing.  It is rare that a person decides he or she is going to support themselves by writing alone.  Work in another field enriches an author’s writing.  For one thing, it brings an understanding of people in real situations.  (I am not sure what profession prepares you to write about vampires or other paranormal subjects.  Maybe a strange boss who reminds one of a werewolf?)  My advice is to steal as much time as possible to sit down and write.  It doesn’t matter whether you write short stories or plays or descriptive paragraphs.  The more that you write, the more your writing improves.  Secondly, aspiring writers should go to as many conferences and seminars as possible.  Interaction with other authors is very helpful.  These gatherings offer the opportunity to learn about the industry of publishing.  Publishing has its own set of quirks.  Preparation for dealing with a whole new profession puts the new writer ahead of the game.  Thousands of people are writing books, most of which won’t get published.  By studying the industry and learning from other writers, chances are good that you will be published.  The best things to keep in mind are that there are no set rules for being a good writer except the rule that says, “You will not get discouraged.”

MB: Could you talk a bit about the events leading up to getting the publishing contract for Fatal February? I was thinking that must be such an exciting moment in an author’s life.

BL: No moment can be more exciting to an author than an actual contract to publish a book.  It means that someone out there likes your work enough to gamble on readers liking it too.  It validates the hours spent slaving over a hot computer.

I began attending writing classes, seminars and conferences when I began working on my novel.  I was fortunate enough to be admitted to the Kenyon College summer wrting institute where I first gained valuable information about the world of publishing.  Two years ago, I attended Sleuthfest, the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America’s annual conference.  Agents and publishers attend this event and share knowledge regarding how to contact them and others, and how to write a query letter that stands out from the thousands publishers and agents receive.

At the luncheon at Sleuthfest, I was lucky to be seated at the table with the editor and president of Oceanview Publishing.  We had a great discussion and they told me when my book was finished to contact them.  In early 2008, Fatal February was ready for the push to sell.  I had heard horror stories from other authors about the amount of letters necessary before publishing became a reality; one author said it took 250 letters.  Undeterred, I started with six letter, one of which was to Oceanview Publishing.  Five of the six responded promptly.  Four of them asked for a few pages, or a few chapters.  Oceanview asked for the full manuscript.  A few weeks later I heard from the editor at Oceanview saying she was sold on Fatal February, but had to have others of their readers sign off on it as well.

The next month, February in fact, there was another Sleuthfest.  While there, I talked to an agent and shared with him what was happening.  He happened to be a lawyer, as well.  He gave me excellent advice.  “You don’t need an agent.  You are a lawyer and have access to other lawyers to look over any contract.”  He also confirmed my impression of Oceanview as being an excellent small publishing house.  The next month, Oceanview offered me a contract and by April, I was signed up.  The first thing I did was to sit down and cry.  All the tension was released, but little did I know that there would be brand new tensions.

New authors need to understand that the process of bringing a book to the bookstore is long, arduous and needs preparation.  Art work, website design, advanced reader copies, blurbs for the cover , advance reviews, and finally a launch date.  It is easier and quicker to have a baby!  I must give Oceanview Publishing a big thank you for turning out quality products and for being a guiding hand every step of the way.  I never felt alone or without resources to guide me.  Also, I will always attend Sleuthfest. It started the process for me.

Fatal February Giveaway

A huge thank you to Barbara for such an insightful interview. This is Barbara’s first stop on her book tour for Fatal February. Check out the link to see other stops on the tour, which includes several guest posts and reviews of the book.

You also have a chance to win a copy of Fatal February. It’s a little bit more complicated than most giveaways, as you need a PIN number. If you’re clicking through to the giveaway link (the form is at the bottom of the page) before noon tomorrow (February 18), use this number: 6126. If you’re a little bit late, don’t despair! You can still enter the giveaway – check out the most current tour stop for a valid PIN.

Author Interview: Barbara Levenson (and a Giveaway)

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.

Mailbox Monday (Feb 9)

mailboxHere’s what arrived at the MsBookish household this past week:

Mystery: Fatal February, by Barbara Levenson, courtesy of Lance from Hidden Staircase Mystery Books. I will be posting an author interview with Barbara Levenson here on February 17, so stay tuned, everyone!

Chick Lit: Houston, We Have a Problema, by Gwendolyn Zepeda, ARC courtesy of Hachette Book Group. This looks like it will be a super fun read.

Mystery: The Man on the Balcony, by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, which came to me via Bookmooch. I read about this series at Meg Cabot’s blog, and it sounded good. This is one of my first Mooches – I think I’m finally figuring out how to use Bookmooch!

Check out what arrived at other book bloggers’ mailboxes this past week, at Marcia’s Printed Page.