Maria Riegger is a banking/corporate attorney by day and a fiction author by night. As a Gemini whose head has always been in the clouds, Riegger loves writing books with spunk. Riegger enjoyed her time in law school immensely - her time there inspired her to write the Law School Heretic series. As our Author of the Day, Riegger talks about her book, Miscalculated Risks, her secret skills and reveals how she manages to make the romance in her books feel so realistic.
Please give us a short introduction to what Miscalculated Risks is about.
Miscalculated Risks is the first book in the Law School Heretic series. It is about a young woman, Isabel, attending law school who feels like a fish out of water, regarding her values, where she lives, and the types of people around her, including her friends and family. Isabel is deeply flawed (who wants to read about perfect characters?), and the reader discovers more about her background in the second book, Acceptable Misconduct.
What inspired you to write about a law student who enjoys arguing with everyone?
I personally LOVED law school. I’ve read several books written by attorneys, where the main characters either hated law school or hated being an attorney. That was not my experience and I wanted to portray Isabel as someone who loves arguing, who is a real law nerd, and who is more of a loner than the average woman. I also wanted to portray her as someone who uses logic to make decisions more than emotions, which is also unusual for a woman.
Family relationships play an important role in your book. Why?
Some of the reasons explaining Isabel’s character are rooted in events of her past and her family dynamics (the reader finds out more about this in the second book). Also, my experience is that almost everyone has some family issues, whether attachment issues, past trauma, codependence, etc. I hope that readers can relate to that.
Tell us more about Isabel and Tarek - what makes them such a good match?
On the surface, they may not appear to have that much in common. It’s only when they become open to getting to know each other that the reader finds that they actually do have several things in common. For instance, they both have multicultural backgrounds; they share the same general outlook on life; and they both feel out of place in Washington, DC.
Did you plan from the start to make this into a series?
No, I did not. I planned on writing one book that turned into a 180,000-word novel. I figured that was way too long, so I split the manuscript into two books. I will write one more novel to finish the series.
Your characters are relatable and the romance realistic. How did you pull this off?
Thank you! I’m a firm believer in the adage that you should write about what you know. Some of my characters have traits that are inspired by real people. I love writing (and reading) about flawed characters, because that mirrors real life, and I think it’s more relatable for the reader (I know it is for me).
As far as the romance being realistic, I have issues with how romances are depicted in some movies and television series (and some books), in that it’s difficult to understand how some characters connect and feel emotionally attracted to each other. The audience usually wants the couple to get together right away, but that’s often not how it works in real life. It’s usually this process of sharing and starting to be vulnerable with each other, and then realizing that there is this emotional and intellectual attraction.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Investing/financial planning. I do the books in my family. I also make a decent cup of coffee and can cook, although I’m not super skilled at it. I’m also intro astrology, and love studying people’s birth charts.
How much do you and Isabel have in common?
We have a good amount in common. For her character, I certainly drew on some of my own experiences, e.g. feeling out of place and like a black sheep, even in my own extended family. But I am definitely more reserved/withdrawn than she is; I prefer to fly under the radar. I don’t feel the need to argue my opinions with everyone; I keep to myself more.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes. I’ve been writing since I was about twelve or thirteen years old.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Eye of the Needle. It’s my favorite thriller of all time, written by my favorite author, Ken Follett. Follet is a multi-genre author whom I’ve always admired; he does a ton of research in preparation for his books. Eye of the Needle is a tightly constructed, fast-paced thriller, with a strong, unlikely (and flawed) female lead. In my opinion, it is a perfect novel.
Which of your characters has been the most challenging to write for?
Male leads are challenging for me, since I need to get inside their heads and think about their motivations; I have to think like a man.
Do you consider yourself a disciplined writer? Do you have a schedule that you stick to, or is it more in the moment?
I am fairly disciplined. I usually have a plan and an idea of what I want to achieve, e.g. how many words I want to write, how many pages I want to edit, etc. I try to make a schedule and stick to it, since I write around my day job. I have a general idea of when I want to finish and publish a book, but I’ve also learned to be flexible and not freak out if I don’t always meet my self-imposed deadlines.
What are you working on right now?
I’m always working on multiple projects. I'm currently working on rewrites of Thunderstruck, a contemporary romance set during a fictionalized political campaign (to be published around March 2018). I'm also working on a nonfiction book, Your Scorpio Child, which is a sort of handbook for parents of Scorpio children, which is not without humor. In my opinion, Scorpios are the most misunderstood of all the zodiac signs, but also one of the most loyal.
I'm also writing Chaos Theory, a contemporary action/romance in which the main character is a reclusive author who is also psychic.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I'm on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lawschoolheretic , Twitter at @RieggerM, Goodreads, Amazon, and LinkedIn. I also blog on writing, reviewing, legal history, and constitutional law issues at www.lawschoolheretic.com. You can email me directly at [email protected]