I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Lance Wright over at Omnimystery News and shared some background on Dollar Signs that you might not have heard yet! I thought it would be fun to repost our conversation. For the original post over at Omnimystery, click here!
Omnimystery News: Introduce us to the lead characters of your new legal thriller series.
Manning Wolfe: Merit Bridges is the lead character in the Texas Lady Lawyer series. She is an attorney and widowed mother in Austin, Texas who works hard, drinks too much wine, and sleeps with younger men. She uses all manner of avoidance behavior so she doesn't have to deal with what happened involving her husband who is no longer in the picture (no spoiler here — lol). Each of the legal thrillers features an evil doer — hence the "vs". In the first book, when Merit goes after a shady corporation threatening her client, she encounters hired gun Boots King. Merit's dyslexic son Ace, who is loosely based on my real life son, softens Merit's legal life. Merit's office staff rounds out the cast, featuring Betty — a mothering office manager with a bad-ass attitude, Ag — Merit's loyal investigator and possible love interest, and Val — her law clerk and fashion advisor.
OMN: Suppose Merit were to interview you. What might she ask you?
MW: Merit Bridges is a tough cookie — she takes no prisoners, although she has a soft spot for women in trouble because of her childhood with a disadvantaged mother. She'd probably ask me: "Why did you make things so tough on me in this book? What did I ever do to you?" I'd tell her that I knew she could handle it, although I didn't know until I wrote the last part of the book exactly how she was going to get herself out of the jam.
OMN: Into which fiction category would you place Dollar Signs?
MW: The Texas Lady Lawyer novels are all part of a legal thriller series, though each stands alone. I am currently editing the second book and the third is outlined, but not written. I find that classifying the novels as legal thrillers puts them squarely in the appropriate genre. What might be misleading is the Texas Lady Lawyer tagline. The thrillers have a broader audience than Texas just as the John Grisham novels set in Mississippi, the Lisa Scottoline novels set in Philadelphia, and the Michael Connelly novels set in Los Angeles.
OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in your books?
MW: Each Texas Lady Lawyer story is based on an actual client situation that I've dramatized in each novel. Having practiced law for many years, there are tons of scenarios to choose from. You just can't make some of this stuff up! Sometimes what I write as fiction is more believable than what actually happened to my client. All of the characters are based, at least in part, on real people, then exaggerated. Betty, for example, is a composite of a beloved Auntie, a former office manager in my law firm who passed away, and hard-boiled Texas women in general.
OMN: How true are you to the settings of the stories?
MW: Dollar Signs has been labeled as a love letter to Austin, Texas. The city is as important a character as any other in the series except for the protagonist, Merit Bridges. That said, Merit would not be Merit without Austin. She has one foot in nostalgic weird Austin and one foot in new hip Austin. I do stay as true to the character of the city as possible, but I change enough to make sure my client's are disguised and protected.
OMN: What are some of your outside interests? And have any of these found their way into your books?
MW: I am a huge wine lover and Merit drinks wine in the series. I've been known to sip a glass of wine (or two) while reading a good book. In my newsletter there's a section where I pair a book with a bottle of wine and explain why the two compliment each other. I also try to sign my books in wineries and wine related venues when I can.
OMN: What is the best advice you've received as an author?
MW: The best advice I've received is to keep going — write another book, learn and improve. If I just don't quit, I'll eventually improve in all areas — writing, marketing, and strategic planning. As Buckminster Fuller said, "we don't learn less." My advice to other writer's is to keep going, but also with balance — slow down enough to be able to hear your inner voice. The train can start moving so fast down the tracks that writers can be dragged along without having time to make conscious decisions. Whether sitting in a movie, having a facial, or hiking at the local greenbelt, slowing things down a bit allows me to get my bearings, find my intuition, and make decisions that better suit me and my life.
OMN: How involved were you with the cover design?
MW: Texas designer, Heidi Dorey, came up with the flames and font styles after having read a synopsis of the book. Because fire is Boots King's weapon of choice, it seemed a good fit. My dyslexic son, on whom the character Ace is loosely based, took the drone photograph of downtown Austin that is upside down under the flames. The tweaking and remaining details were a cooperative effort. My favorite thing about the cover is the dramatic tone. Readers have written that they felt a punch of emotion when they first saw the cover.
OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young?
MW: I was obsessed with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys at a very young age. I had great teachers in school and they encouraged book reports and library usage. I discovered Thomas Hardy with Tess of the d'Urbervilles, then went on to read Hemingway and the classics. Later I discovered the hard-boiled mystery and pop culture writers. By the time I was in junior high, I had read every book in our small town library. It was my escape from a tough childhood. The local librarian and my freshman journalist teacher were my heroes. I still love librarians and a good library.
OMN: What films or television shows do you watch for entertainment?
MW: I'm a big House of Cards fan. I also still enjoy the original Law & Order TV shows. When I can't sleep, but I'm not awake enough to write, I'll put on a Law & Order marathon. I admire the writing of Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, A Few Good Men, Steve Jobs, etc.) I'm a huge James Bond and Jason Bourne fan — both books and films. James Bond comes out just before my birthday in November each year and one of the gifts I ask for is Bond and a big popcorn. My guilty pleasure is reality TV — Survivor, Top Chef, The Amazing Race. I don't always have a lot of time for TV, so I tend to binge watch to catch up. I find a lot of reality TV is like practicing law, writing, or playing chess — it's necessary to look two or three steps ahead to decide what to do in the moment. It's all about strategy.
Thanks Omnimystery for the great interview!