Amazon Bestselling Author, Alexi Venice, practiced law for 28 years until the novels within her had to be indulged their freedom. Her exciting legal cases inform her writing, in addition to her adventurous spirit, which has led her to fly jets, shoot assault rifles, wake board in the Caribbean, test her strength at CrossFit and get the crap beat out of her boxing. As our Author of the Day, she chats about "Amanda's Dragonfly" - the latest book in her San Francisco Mystery series.
Please give us a short introduction to what Amanda’s Dragonfly is about.
Amanda Hawthorne is a charismatic District Attorney in San Francisco who is preparing for a murder trial against Susie Sangiolo. Nick Nutini, Susie’s lover, is trying to kill Amanda’s witnesses so they can’t testify. Amanda has no choice but to go to war with Nutini.
In her personal life, Amanda is nurturing a new relationship with Dr. Jen Dawson, who recently moved in with her. Previously the level-headed one in the relationship, Amanda becomes increasingly desperate as she defends herself—and Jen—from Nutini’s bullets and car bombs.
While Amanda’s war with Nutini rages, Jen sees a new side of Amanda that’s a little unsettling, making her wonder if she made the right choice. Apart from Amanda, Jen is presented with a monumental personal challenge, requiring her to track down her ex-lover, Tommy Vietti, regarding unfinished business.
Detective Tommy Vietti intentionally dropped off the grid after Jen left him for Amanda, his longtime colleague. Feeling viciously betrayed by both of them, the last thing he wants is for them to find him in paradise because they each need him—for very different reasons. As a seasoned detective, Tommy is no stranger to drama and danger, but Amanda’s mobster war generates more than even he could imagine.
Tell us more about the title. What is Amanda’s Dragonfly?
Since Amanda’s goal is to keep her witnesses alive, I could have named the story Amanda’s Witnesses. While I was writing, however, a cool motif emerged that demanded the title of Amanda’s Dragonfly.
In Bourbon Chase (Book 1), we learned that Amanda has a Tiffany lamp in her office with dragonflies on it. (On a dare, I used my boss’ Tiffany lamp from her office.) Shortly thereafter, I added decorative dragonfly tiles to Amanda’s guest bath in her Sea Cliff mansion.
While I was doing research for the gunfight scenes in Amanda’s Dragonfly (Book 2), something eerie and fortuitous happened. I went to a shooting range that has a variety of guns I’ve shot for my books—everything from assault rifles to handguns. For this book, I wanted Amanda to buy a Glock nine-millimeter. When I got to the range, the owner pulled out a new Glock Zev Dragonfly with little cutouts on the barrel. The second I saw the gun and heard its name, I knew it would be Amanda’s gun, and the book would be Amanda’s Dragonfly.
Just when you think the title means Amanda’s gun, however, the theme continues when she gets a gold dragonfly tattooed on her derriere after a big shootout with the mob. She’s feeling badass, and wants the tattoo to commemorate her victory, leading us to wonder if the title really refers to her tattoo.
Who is Amanda Hawthorne and what makes her tick?
Amanda is a rich, powerful San Francisco native who chooses to rid the city of crime as a prosecutor rather than work in a cushy job in her father’s law firm. She has a reputation for being a player, with a long line of old girlfriends, and is constantly hit on by both men and women. In Amanda’s Dragonfly, she discovers she’s in love with Dr. Jen Dawson, and struggles with a tsunami of new emotions as she tries to keep Jen (also a witness in the murder trial) alive.
Amanda presented herself to me as a complex character—demanding that we love and hate her while watching her maneuver in her prosecutorial world. (I’m using the word hate in the dramatic sense, as in, “You look gorgeous in that red dress. I hate you! Can I borrow it?”)
In contrast to Jen, I have fun playing with Amanda’s vamped-up appearance. She’s petite but strong—into yoga rather than CrossFit. She has dark, naturally curly hair and stunning brown eyes that don’t miss a trick. I take care, though, that her attention to fashion, hair and makeup doesn’t detract from her inner strength, determination and calculating nature. Amused by her.
Amanda is a manipulative control freak, both professionally and in her romantic relationships. She pursues Jen with unparalleled sexual charisma and tenderness, sprinkled with some indifference toward Tommy. Hate her.
She’s dedicated to her job of prosecuting criminals, and to do that, is supremely confident in her abilities as a trial attorney. Respect her.
She’s also intensely loyal to the San Francisco Police Department—and her own brand of justice—not hesitating to take on the Italian mob by herself. Impressed by her.
Amanda is generally rational and analytical, so she freaks out when she falls in love with Jen. Her emotional brain overtakes her rational brain, scaring her a little, and leading her to cross moral and ethical lines to protect Jen during the mob war. Concerned for her.
Watching how she gets herself into, and out of, a moral dilemma is one of the most gripping parts of the book. Fascinated by her.
Why do Jen and Amanda fit so well together?
First and foremost, they’re smitten with each other. The physical attraction was there immediately and the chemistry was undeniable.
After tiptoeing into a romance in Bourbon Chase, I knew I had to continue following Jen and Amanda’s love affair. I hold their relationship dear, and realized as I was writing the first book that I barely explored the depth of their personalities and lives.
My initial fear in writing about two professional women—Jen a doctor, and Amanda a lawyer—in a relationship is that they would come across too much alike. Once they made their appearances and started their stories, however, there was no chance of confusing the two.
I love that Jen doesn’t really care about superficial things like hair, makeup or fashion, but is a naturally beautiful jock. She’s brilliant and educated, driven both professionally and athletically, and happiest when focusing on monumental goals (ignoring her inner self). She’s insightful about everyone’s behavior but her own. Despite her intellectual prowess, however, she can be emotionally labile at times, so she expresses all that emotion through poetry and passion. Heavy on the passion, please.
Jen’s character arc in Bourbon Chase was crystal clear to me prior to writing about her. She had to get from here to there, which I can’t describe without spoiling her trajectory. Let’s just say that her antiquated, conventional thinking got in the way of who she wanted to be, so she had to overcome internal obstacles.
To this day, writing Jen’s transformative thoughts while she swam in the ocean at China Beach was one of my favorite undertakings. I feel like I wrote something creative and compelling—from the heart—as I explored Jen’s feelings and misgivings.
Next, I wondered whether Jen would continue to be emotional in her relationship with Amanda or emerge as the more balanced personality in the duo. As it turns out, Jen is pretty f*ing stable compared to Amanda in Amanda’s Dragonfly and Stabscotch (Book 3). It’s all relative when bullets start flying, right?
Why did you pick San Francisco as the setting?
I used to live there, and for over 20 years, I wanted to write a murder mystery set in in the city, showcasing its charisma and diverse neighborhoods—like North Beach and Sea Cliff. In preparation, I searched out and lingered at various beaches and restaurants. Brutal research, right? Hanging out in places like Caffé Trieste, I immersed myself in the culture, so I could write about Detective Tommy Vietti meeting his father, Cy, there for coffee every morning.
There are playful neighborhoods in the city with beaches, a hippie culture in Haight Ashbury, a sophisticated financial center downtown, and, of course, the grisly underside of drugs, vices and murder. I use each locale to set the mood for various scenes in this series of books.
Did you plan from the start to make this a series? Can the books be read as standalones?
I’m committed to making it as easy as possible for my readers to jump into any of my books as standalones. One of my editors reminds me to drop in an explanation (or remove a spoiler) while reading my manuscripts, so that each book can be enjoyed in any order.
What draws you to writing lesbian murder mystery?
I got bored writing only hetero romance scenes in my adventure/thriller series of books about Pepper McCallan. I’m straight, but I think I can bring something to the table in lesbian literature in terms of substantive plots, interesting characters who are bright, professional women, and an original turn of phrase.
Does your experience as a practicing attorney influence your characters and stories?
My characters are an amalgamation of the characters in my personal and professional lives.
As an author, I had to live 50+ years before I could bring the type of depth I wanted to my characters. I wrote a novel when I was 25 years old and lived in San Francisco. However, both the plot and characters were shallow and predictable. I needed to grow. Twenty-five years later, I bring the personal sorrows and triumphs I’ve experienced in life to my characters’ adventures.
In my professional life, I’ve accumulated many stories over the last 28 years of practicing law. I add these legal twists and turns to the pages in one fictional way or another.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
The skill I’m most proud of is water skiing with my “Hot Mama Water Ski Club.” We’re all moms over 50, love skiing, and are, of course, our own version of hot. Having fun on the water is a big part of my life in the summer.
In my free time, I practice law (under a different name) in the Legal Department of an international healthcare organization.
Do you ever have days when writing is a struggle?
I don’t want to jinx myself. I have deep respect for superstition in baseball, and I’ve applied that to writing. When you’re on a roll and hitting well, you don’t talk about it too much. You just keep going up to the plate and swinging at good pitches.
What are you working on right now?
I’m excited about finalizing Stabscotch, The San Francisco Mystery Series, Book 3 for its release in November. In it, I switch to Tommy’s point of view, so we live his life while he investigates a new murder, seeing Jen and Amanda through his eyes.
Each of Jen, Tommy and Amanda’s personalities make for good drama, especially because their lives are intertwined both at work and at home. Exploring their relationship triangle yields high emotion—jealousy, insecurity, unrequited love, power and lust—the dramatic stuff of ages.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I keep readers up-to-date on my blog: www.alexiveniceblog.com. I post life stories ripe with irreverent commentary. It’s a different writing style than my novels—unvarnished and personal—like we’re chatting over a glass of wine. I’ve been amazed at the traffic and commentary that flows from it. I can tell you that when I post about one of my dogs, readers flock to it. People also seem to engage when I post about my on-going crush on Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.
I also have a website that features my books at: www.alexivenice.com.
And, readers can connect with me on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/alexivenicenovels