Maria Riegger - Gritty Contemporary Romance With Plenty of Sarcasm
Maria Riegger is based in the Washington, DC area. She is a banking/corporate attorney by day (but please don't hold that against her), and an author by night. Maria is a Gemini whose head has always been in the clouds. She has been writing since she was about thirteen years old. A lover of languages, she speaks French, Spanish, and Catalan. She has been caught air-guitaring in public. In true Gemini fashion, she indulges both her logical personality as an attorney as well as her creative fiction-writing personality. She loved law school and even misses it, which led her friends to conclude that she is certifiable. An irreverent Gen X’er, she writes gritty contemporary romance, with plenty of sarcasm, as well as nonfiction. As our Author of the Day, Maria tells us all about her book, Miscalculated Risks.
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 an overachieving law student?
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.
Tell us more about Isabel. What makes her tick?
Isabel’s personality and craving for deep meaning set her far apart from most people in the Washington, DC area (where I grew up and currently live). The DC area is full of superficial people looking to get ahead, many of whom value achievement and status more than meaningful contact with other people and a deep sense of purpose in life. Isabel resists the pressure to conform and be like everyone else.
Why contemporary romance? What drew you to the genre?
Honestly, I write what I think is a good story and then figure out the applicable genre. I didn’t necessarily set out to write a romance book.
Your books are often gritty and contain a lot of sarcasm - why do you take this approach?
I enjoy presenting a realistic story. 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).
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. Throughout all that, people make mistakes, and I enjoy exploring all that in my writing. I also think that humor is one way that many couples bond, and I personally enjoy a good laugh (I have a dry sense of humor), so I incorporate that in my writing.
What makes Isabel and Tarek such a great 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.
Do you ever have a character take off on their own tangent - refusing to do what you had planned for them?
Absolutely! I see where the writing takes me. If the character wants to do something different, I let him/her. You’ve got to be flexible in your writing approach.
Which character in Miscalculated Risks was the most fun to create?
Isabel was fun to create because I allowed her to blurt out things that most people, including myself, would usually hesitate to state out loud. She doesn’t have much of a filter. Her character comes off as abrasive and even mean to some people. But Isabel is a product of her upbringing and the environment around her, and those things are not always kind and supportive. I enjoy seeing strong women stand up for themselves, even if it means putting off some people.
Isabel and I 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.
This is the first book in a series. Did you plan from the start to make this into a series? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
No, I did not initially plan this to be a series. 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.
Why did you title this book Miscalculated Risks?
The title comes from the fact that Isabel takes emotional risks in opening up and being vulnerable to another person. Essentially, these are risks of the heart.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I have a full-time day job as an attorney, so I tend to cram as much writing as I can in at night and on the weekends. I’m a night owl, and it’s fairly common for me to be up until 1am or 2am writing. I also constantly take notes wherever I am when an idea strikes me.
What are you working on right now?
I’m always working on multiple projects. This past May 2019 I published a nonfiction parenting book called Your Scorpio Child: A Guide for Parents. In August 2019 I published Thunderstruck, a standalone contemporary romance set in the Washington DC, area during a fictionalized political campaign. I also recently published a self-publishing guide, Self-Publishing Primer. I'm currently working on another nonfiction book, Your Gemini Child: He’s Not Crazy, He’s Just Always in his Head, which will be published December 2019. In addition to being an attorney and author, I’m also a practicing astrologer. That’s probably eclectic enough.
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, self-publishing, legal history, and constitutional law issues at www.lawschoolheretic.com. You can email me directly at [email protected].
Buy links for Miscalculated Risks: