"I am ready to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared to meet me is another matter."
-Winston Churchill

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

VBT Pit Stop At the Round Table & Giveaway with M.D. Cliatt - The Public Pretender

Welcome to Immortality and Beyond Monica. We're so happy to have you with us today. Monica is on tour with the Virtual Book Tour Cafe' and you can view her schedule HERE. I also had the pleasure of interviewing her live at BK Media Entertainment, and you can listen in HERE.

I'm a wife and a mother who loves to tell stories. I live in Central Pennsylvania where I'm a staff attorney in a law school clinical program, and I'm an adjunct law professor who teaches juvenile justice and legal writing. I used to be a public defender specializing in representing children, and for the most part, loved the work. I thrived on the heat of courtroom battle, but the highs are very high and the lows are very low and I burned out. Now, I spend time grading papers, supervising law students as they represent indigent clients in court and reading with my sister in our long distance book club.

Now that we're all settled in my lair, let's get started shall we?

BK:  Please tell us a little bit about your current release...
The story is about a fiery criminal defense attorney, Maeven Dayne, who specializes in representing juvenile defendants. When it comes to her job, she’s driven and passionate. When it comes to her family, she’s devoted, but her job is demanding and distracting. She pleases her husband when she decides to quit her job to spend more time with the family. But, on Maeven’s last day at work in the courtroom, a juvenile probation officer she despises drags a weeping young girl before an irritated judge for an unscheduled hearing while Maeven is packing up her things to leave. She is walking out of the courtroom, fighting her urge to turn around when she hears the probation officer had the girl incarcerated for weeks without notifying her parents or arranging for representation. Maeven can’t resist the girl’s pitiful pleas for help and intervenes.

BK:  What inspired this particular novel/book?
Because I was mad about the way the juvenile justice system works and how little families knew about it, I started writing a guide. A creative spring erupted in my mind while I was writing, and I couldn’t force myself to stay within the rigid lines of legal exposition. It seemed fitting because I spent more time using stories and analogies to explain to kids and their families what was happening to them in court. And, admittedly, I enjoyed the fictional narrative more.  

BK:  When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I developed a voracious appetite for reading as a child. I marveled at the way an author could magically transport me to another world by using my imagination and without the use of pictures, videos or soundtracks. So, I started buying journals to write stories, but I never finished any of them.
BK:  How do you keep your writing different from all the others that write in this particular genre?
I just write about what I like and the types of characters and subjects I don’t see.

BK:  What was the hardest thing about writing this story?
Emotional upheaval.  Sometimes, I trudged through some dark memories to create content for characters. And then, I just had to fight off procrastination.

BK:  What character was your favorite to write for in this story? Why?
Besides the main character, I enjoyed writing about three other characters: Crow, Nathan and Jason.  Since you asked for one, I’ll pick Nathan, the main character’s husband. His love, protection, patience and genuine concern for his family and others are at the core of his character. When his love for and trust in his wife is pushed to its limits, his reaction to the challenge is pivotal to the plot. I just love the way he loves. I’m sorry, but I just have to add that I enjoyed her youngest son’s snarky humor and laughed out loud, cried over her oldest son’s scenes and found myself fascinated by Crow, her shady, but loveable former client. 
BK:  Which was your favorite scene to write?
I love the courtroom scene where Maeven first hears about this young girl’s predicament. It’s her last day of work, she has just finished her last case and she keeps telling herself to keep moving. The probation officer she detests is waiting and watching to make sure she’s leaving before he addresses the judge to explain the young girl’s case. Maeven’s conscience is tugging at her and the sheriff is looking at her with an expression on his face that begs her to stay. She succumbs to her conscience, turns around and then intervenes. The judge and the probation officer are livid by the time she’s done.   

BK:  Will this become a series? If so, what inspired it to be a series?
Yes, I’ve developed the plot for the second book. The characters are still alive in my head and there are characters and relationships I’d like to explore. It helps that one of my students told me that she liked to see more of Maeven’s adventures, so I don’t feel totally stupid about doing it.  

BK:  Now for a little fun, and into your everyday life, What is a day in your life like?
I wake up around four in the morning when I’m the only one, besides the dog, stirring around my house. I turn on some instrumental music so lyrics don’t distract me, get a cup of tea or hot water with lemon, a pillow, a blanket and park myself on the couch in front of my bow window. Hopefully, I find my writing vibe and voice and get lost in my imagination with a particularly intriguing character and/or plot. I write for a couple of hours and then head off to work where I teach and supervise law students.

BK:  What do you like to do when you're not writing? 
I like sneaking off to the movies with my husband during the middle of the day and reading with my book buddy, my sister.

BK:  What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you? 
I ran away from home when I was seventeen, moved in with my school bus driver and then married my high school sweetheart a few months later. Twenty one years and two teenagers later, we’re still like newlyweds.  

BK:  What do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?
Right now, my book buddy and I are reading Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance. We read a lot of fiction in different genres. I love to read Jane Austen and J. K. Rowling.

BK:  Please tell us one piece of advice you were given as an author that you carry with you when you write? 
Write what you know and break some rules.
BK: I love that!

BK:  What is one piece of advice you can give to aspiring writers/authors?
Here’s the one piece of advice I haven’t mastered, but I’m trying: write every day.

BK:  What are you currently working on?
I have three projects swirling around in my brain right now. I’m working with my sons on a fantasy novel about a pregnant queen, I’m flirting with an idea for a romance novel, and as I said earlier, I plan to write a sequel to The Public Pretender. 

BK:  Where can readers connect with you? 

Maeven discovers people are profiting from imprisoning innocent kids. A whistleblower ends up dead, but he left clues. When her oldest son is beaten, arrested and detained on false charges, her husband receives a message proposing an offer: Maeven must quit the girl’s case, or they lose their son. The problem? Can she sacrifice one for the other?  

        Down a dark and an empty hallway lined with closed, gray metal doors, loud angry voices bounced off the walls. The sickening sounds of fists pummeling flesh and furniture crashing to the floor took her by surprise. She quickened her pace to get to the office to see what was happening, her heels clicking on the linoleum. She didn't want them to hear her so she walked on the tips of her toes.
        From the doorway of an office with dim light, she could see the silhouette of a person standing in front of a desk. The silhouette picked up a heavy object and bashed someone else behind the desk over and over again. She gasped in horror. Frightened, she slipped into the janitorial closet next to the office and hid. She didn’t close the door all the way so that she could see. Someone screamed and then she heard a groan. From the closet she watched the attacker run out of the office and down the hallway to a pitch black stairwell.
        She trembled behind the closet door. She saw an eerie green glow coming from the office where the attack happened, and she could hear a muffled voice. Her muscles tensed and beads of sweat appeared on her forehead. Silence enveloped her. Her fear paralyzed her, but she forced herself to move fast to get out of the closet and into the office. The sweat began to creep down her face and sting her eyes. She was wasting too much time. She eased out of the closet and looked both ways. No one in sight.
        The office door was ajar; she slipped inside. Finding the room in disarray, she took two apprehensive steps forward. She stumbled over black loafer clad feet. A body wearing faded blue jeans lay on the floor behind the mahogany desk bleeding from the head. The janitors would find dark red pools tomorrow morning. She took two steps forward. Her feet straddled both sides of his legs as she crouched over the body. From the glow of the screen saver on the computer, she could tell the hair was caked with blood.
        She waddled near his head and then reached down with her hand to touch his neck as if she were checking a child for a fever. No pulse.  She could feel her stomach churn with nausea as she stared at the blood on her fingers.  She stood up and then stared down at him.
        She reminded herself about why she came, and she used her clean hand to rummage through papers with a sense of urgency, files and books on his desk. She had to find those papers. She looked in the metal file cabinet behind his desk. The soft hum of a clarinet and a sultry male voice crooning from the radio on the corner of the desk startled her.  She switched it off. She opened the first cabinet drawer and found a box of tea bags. She opened the second drawer and found a battered manila file.  She grabbed it, and the papers inside the file crackled in the silence. She opened the file, unfolded the first page, held it up near the computer screen glow and skimmed it. Yes, these were the papers she needed, and she shoved the file under her arm.
        She looked down at the body and noticed his eyelids were open. She crouched down and bent over him, putting her ear close to his mouth. She could hear shallow breathing coming through his lips. Horrified, she stood upright and looked for his phone. Shaking, she lifted the receiver off the desk phone.  She heard a dial tone, and then used her index finger to push the numbers 9-1-1.
        A male operator's flat business voice asked, "911, what's the problem?"
        She didn't answer. She laid the receiver on its side on top of the scattered papers and then ran out of the room.  As she ran, she stumbled but caught herself by grabbing the doorknob. She turned to take the route down the hallway opposite the attacker's path. She headed for the other darkened stairwell, skidded to a stop at the top of the stairs and then took off her shoes. She let her hand slide down the metal handrail as she flew down the metal steps until she reached the bottom. 
         She ran for the side door, and the red and white "EXIT" sign above the door beckoned to her. She burst through the door and raced toward alley, escaping into the cool evening air.  As she ran, the bells from the cathedral next door chimed several times. 
        She turned at the sound of a car driving toward her. A black sports utility vehicle sped around the corner of the building and down the alley. She ran away from the light of the street lamps to cower in the dark behind the bushes alongside the wall.  
        The black vehicle pulled up to the corner of the alley and parked.  The attacker got out with a gas can, walked to the sidewalk, and up to the building. She ran down the alley in the opposite direction from the attacker toward her parked car behind the courthouse. Once inside, she jammed her key into the ignition and started the engine.  She threw the file and her shoes on the seat and pressed the gas pedal.  
        She passed a speeding police car with flashing lights.  Through her rearview mirror, she saw it come to an abrupt stop in front of the building she just escaped.   Two officers jumped out of the car just as glass shattered overhead and flames exploded through the windows.

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1 comment:

Nightly Cafe said...

Monica thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today. It's been so much fun having you here.