Deborah Hawkins - A Riveting Thriller With a Shocking Twist
Deborah Hawkins is a practicing attorney who writes legal fiction that you can't put down. She taught English and worked as an editor before becoming an attorney. She lives in a magical yellow house with two Golden Retrievers and two cats. She plans to add another Golden any day now. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Vengeance.
Please give us a short Introduction to what Vengeance is about
Vengeance is about three people running from the past. Andy Owens, the only child of wealthy parents, has been arrested for the murder of his best friend Nate, whose body was found in San Diego Bay after a joyride with Andy on his father’s yacht. The police believe that Andy and Nate were rivals in a love triangle.
Charlotte Estes and Sean Donovan, partners at Goldstein, Miller, Mahoney, and Estes are assigned to defend Andy. Charlotte, who is newly widowed, has come to San Diego to start over after her husband’s death in Washington, D.C., which has been followed by several mysterious attempts on her life.
Sean’s career at the firm is on the rocks because of a big trial that he lost several years ago. Andy’s parents, Lucas Owens and Ella Lawrence, are major clients of Goldstein, Miller, and their business is worth millions to the firm’s bottom line. Sean and Charlotte know that the firm can’t afford to lose Andy’s trial, but they know he’s guilty.
What inspired you to write about a rich party boy who has flunked the bar twice?
Initially, I wondered what it would be like for Charlotte, who is still emotionally fragile after the loss of her husband, to have to defend the son of the man who had broken her heart many years ago. The original focus of the story was Charlotte and Lucas’ history. But as I got deeper into Andy’s individual predicament, I realized that there was a lot more to him than just being spoiled and rich. And I liked him for trying to use his own resources, however flawed or inadequate they were, to try to help himself. Andy was fun to write about because he isn’t perfect.
Tell us about Andy Owens. What makes him so special?
Andy undergoes a transformation in Vengeance. He begins as an immature young man who was trying to turn his life around while he was withTina Hernandez but whose attempt at a better life ended after she broke up with him. His awakening to his own power to change comes when he realizes that he has no one to help him prove he didn’t kill Nate except himself. He can’t rely on the attorneys his parents have hired because they think he’s guilty, and he can’t rely on his family’s money to get him out of his predicament. At that point, he becomes willing to deal with his drinking and emotional problems in order to save himself.
Andy also has a good heart. He genuinely wants to help others, and he’s put off by his parents’ callousness and by their obsession with wealth.
You are a practicing attorney. Do any of your real-life cases ever inspire your stories?
I can’t use details from my own cases in my fiction because of client privacy.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’m a well-trained classical clarinetist and a fantastic cook.
Who is Charlotte Estes and what makes her tick?
When the book opens, Charlotte is reeling from the death of her husband, Matt. They had built an outstanding criminal defense law firm together in Washington, D.C., yet Charlotte does not have the heart to carry on alone after Matt’s death. She believed her marriage was rock solid until Matt died in a hotel room in the bed of a highly attractive woman who was also a client.
When Vengeance opens, Charlotte is struggling to come to terms with Matt’s loss and his unexpected betrayal. She’s also trying to carry on in spite of the mysterious attempts on her life which have followed her from D.C. to San Diego.
Everything that’s wrong in her life is exacerbated by having to deal with Lucas Owens. She’s long ago put Lucas’ betrayal behind her, and she’s annoyed by his advances, although there are moments when she can still see in him the boy she once loved. She doesn’t like the way Lucas is using Andy’s case to try to undo the past. Charlotte’s view of Andy as irredeemable is largely derived from her irritation with Lucas.
Charlotte knows that Sean resents her because he voted against the merger with her firm, so she sets out to show him that she genuinely wants to work as colleagues. At first, her only interest is in establishing a cordial working relationship, but as time goes on, she begins to let herself see him in a personal light, too.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their on tangent or refuse to do what you had planned for them?
All the time. One of the most amusing comments that I see in reviews are by readers who claim that they knew the outcome of one of my books from the beginning. I always laugh when I read that because I never know the outcome when I start to write. I’m more of a channel for each character’s story. They tell me about themselves and what happened to them as I write. I’m always sad when a book is over, and I have say to goodbye to that group of characters.
The character who has surprised me the most is Hugh Mahoney. He first appeared in The Death of Distant Stars, and I thought that was it for him. But Hugh has been in every book since.
How are your legal thrillers different from the rest?
They are different in a number of ways. First, I have a degree in English, and I’ve been writing and studying fiction for a long time, so mine are just better written, I think, than many of the legal thrillers out there. Second, mine are authentic. I am, as you said, a practicing attorney and have been for many years. I’m not a journalist pretending to be an attorney as are a lot of legal thriller writers. A reader gets to experience what it is really like to be an attorney trying to actually figure out how to defend a client when he or she reads one of my books. Third, my plots are all character driven and my characters are all multi-dimensional. They aren’t cardboard cutouts. They are real people with flaws and weaknesses. They aren’t super heroes. Fourth, I don’t like to read about suffering and violence, and I don’t like to write about it, either. Fifth, I’m not writing about solo attorneys running their own practices. I’m writing about attorneys who practice together in a large law firm. That’s a different style of legal thriller than, for example, the Lincoln Lawyer legal thrillers where it’s one attorney against the world.
What did you have the most fun with when writing Vengeance?
Getting to know Andy and seeing him grow up and find himself was very rewarding. I liked Sean, too. He was anxious to make up for his mistakes after he realized they he’d made them.
If you could meet anyone dead or alive, who would it be and what would you discuss?
When I was a kid, I wanted to meet Louisa May Alcott because I loved her books and that’s why I became a writer. I’d also like to meet W.B. Yeats, the Irish poet. I wrote my Masters’ thesis on Yeats.
This is book 5 of a series. Can it be read as a stand-alone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
All the books are stand-alone novels. I personally like those better than a series in which the same character or characters appears over and over. And I really dislike any novel that doesn’t have an ending, and so you have to buy another one to see how things turned out. I won’t buy any more books from an author who does that.
I wrote two books of women’s fiction before Istarted Dark Moon, the first book in the Warrick, Thompson Files. As I was writing, Moon, the law firms that had previously appeared in Dance for a Dead Princess and Ride Your Heart ‘Til It Breaks came up again, and I remembered from my time working in national law firms that, at the national level, the big firms all know about each other, and they recognize the names and reputations of the individual lawyers in the firms. It’s like one big national and even international legal community.
I have three fictional firms that recur throughout my books: Warrick, Thompson, and Hays; Craig, Lewis, and Weller; and Goldstein, Miller, and Mahoney. I mentioned that Hugh Mahoney, who was a principal character in Distant Stars, has been in all the books since then in 3a background role. Sara Knight, the heroine of Dark Moon, plays a bit part in defending Hugh in Distant Stars. Alan Warrick, who first appeared in Ride Your Heart, is back in Mirror, Mirror.
Jeff Ryder, the hero of Mirror, is also a principal in Secrets along with Claire Chastain, who was Jeff’s sidekick in Mirror, but who now is the principal heroine in Secrets with Jeff in the sidekick role.
I wrote the books in a slightly different order than they are currently marketed. A marketing person suggested the current order. The Death of Distant Stars actually was written after Dark Moon and before Mirror, Mirror.
As much as I hate books that don’t resolve all the plot lines, it was impossible to tie up all the ends in Mirror, Mirror. The remaining thread from Mirror, Mirror was carried over and resolved in Keeping Secrets. I think you can read either book without reading the other, but a few readers who’ve read Secrets first seem to be a little confused, and they’ve written to me and I’ve explained that the backstory of Jeff and Claire is in Mirror.
Ride Your Heart ‘Til It Breaks won the Beverly Hills Book Award for Women’s Fiction in 2015. It’s about an attorney who falls in love with a jazz trumpet player. It’s not technically part of the Warrick, Thompson files but the Warrick firm first appeared in that book, and the characters from Ride own the jazz club, Over The Moon, which has a bit part in Mirror, Mirror and Keeping Secrets and Vengeance. Some really dedicated readers read Ride, even though it’s not a legal thriller, to find out the backstory on the jazz club.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I don’t really have an average day. I wish I did. I write either early in the morning before I start work or at night after work. Nights are hard because I’m really tired after a full day of law practice. And I write on weekends, too. Saturdays are great writing days because I can just concentrate on writing.
What are you working on right now?
The next novel in the Warrick Thompson Files. It’s called Unforgettable. Cameron Rhodes has to defend the famous Irish poet, Lachlan Adair, against charges that he murdered his actress wife, Nora Carson. Nora’s body was found at the bottom of the stairs in her Rancho Santa Fe mansion on the morning after Valentine’s day. Nora was on the verge of making her big comeback in the sequel to Unforgettable, the movie based on Lachlan’s 2013 smash-hit novel.
But Nora also refused to give Lachlan the divorce he wanted so that he could marry again.
Cam’s efforts to defend Lachlan are sometimes aided, but more often hampered, by Lachlan’s mysterious and beautiful daughter, Raven, who is herself a solicitor.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
The series page for the Warrick, Thompson Files on Amazon is https://www.amazon.com/Warrick-Thompson-Files-Book/dp/B07S7R89NM
My website is deborahhawkinsfiction.com. You can sign up for my newsletter there.
My email address is [email protected]. Please do write. Amazon does not let us respond to reviews anymore, and recently I noticed a couple of readers who had good questions that I couldn’t answer because the comment feature is gone. I wished those readers had written to me because I had the answers to their questions. So write, write, write and ask away.