Tuesday, September 15, 2009

[Interview] J. R. Reardon

Novelist J. R. Reardon is a Boston native; Suffolk University Law School alum, and former partner of Saltzman & McNaught LLP.

She has practiced law in many areas including civil and criminal litigation. She is active in several legal associations in both Massachusetts and the District of Columbia and is admitted to practice in the federal and state courts of Massachusetts, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

In addition, she has also taught insurance law and is published in the Suffolk University Law Review.

Her first novel, Confidential Communications (Xlibris, 2008) has been described as "...a compelling read that will keep you turning page after page, hoping that justice will prevail."

In this interview, J. R. Reardon talks about her writing:

When did you start writing? And, how did you decide you wanted to get published?

My mother encouraged my siblings and I to read early on, and we took regular trips to the library as children. I suppose that is one of the reasons why I have always had such an active imagination.

I began writing in grammar school -- a short story here, a short story there… and then when I was old enough to babysit I would tell stories to the children I was sitting at night.

My latest novel, Confidential Communications was written well over a decade ago. I was fresh out of law school, new to court appearances and had some down time. One night, the idea popped into my head and I found myself typing away feverishly at the computer. I printed out an 80-page draft for a very select group of people, had it copy-written, and then put it away in an old file cabinet. The story was well received, but life took over, my cases increased, and I became extremely busy.

In the fall of 2003, I married my husband David and moved from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. In January, we learned that we were expecting our daughter. Instead of taking on a job in the District, Dave suggested that I sit back and enjoy my pregnancy. I had been a partner in my own law firm for quite some time and it was the perfect time to relax, sit back and smell the proverbial roses. During that time, Dave also suggested that I revisit the book (he was one of the few to have received a copy and he truly enjoyed it -- having seen first-hand for years what a critical eye he has with books he has read, I trusted his instincts).

After reading Confidential Communications for the first time in years, I decided “why not?” The original program was so old however, that I was unable to convert it to Word. So, I re-typed it and began the process of expanding it. With another decade of life under my belt, I was able to add some depth to the characters, as well as a few more scenarios. Some of the areas Dave and I had actually visited, and a few we thought would be fun to visit, so I did some research online and included those as well.

Once we were happy with the final version, off it went to print. New to the industry, I had circulated some query letters around, but stumbled upon Xlibris upon the recommendation of a college in Pennsylvania while I was writing my law review articles. At that point, I decided, “It’s done -- why wait?” The positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads [make me] sure glad I didn’t, and am excited for the upcoming release of the sequel.

How would you describe your writing?

That is a great question. I have always lived life with an open mind, curious about everything that is going on around me. One of the best things and most difficult things I had to deal with when practicing law was my uncanny ability to put myself into other people’s shoes. Doing so, I could better understand other people’s perspectives. I could argue cases easier in court, settle cases easier out of court, and truly empathize with the feelings of others, no matter what side they were on.

I try to do the same with my writing. I put myself into the character’s shoes and try to see what they see, feel what they feel, hear what they hear, think what they think and react how they may react. That way, I can make the reader feel, see, and hear what they need to in order to fully enjoy the story.

Who is your target audience?

When I first wrote Confidential Communications, I honestly didn’t have a target audience. In fact, I still don’t “target an audience.” I write my story, release it into the world and let the audience find it.

I enjoy telling stories and sharing them with others. It is a means of escape -- whether it be to another state, another country, another setting, another life. In a crazy world if I can help someone to escape for at least a little while, I have done my job.

Which authors influenced you most?

I can’t really say that I have been influenced by other authors in my writing. I have enjoyed many an author’s writing in the course of my life, and now that I have more time to read, I am enjoying more and more. The books I choose to read depend on my mood.

If I want something that is for me, a quick, easy read… perhaps someone who has chapters I can breeze through at breakfast or lunch, I may pick up a Robert Parker book. If I want more detail but still escape to Boston, I may read something by Dennis Lehane. And if I’m cleaning out the old Tupperware tubs, I may pick up an old Beverly Gray mystery book that I had never read before just to see how people saw the world in the ‘50s. Lately I have read a lot of extremely talented indie authors.

I will say that my husband, my parents, teachers I had in grammar school, high school, college or law school, as well as judges and insurance adjusters -- were those who influenced my writing the most. I am forever thankful to them for that. Those people actually have read my writing and either commented, graded, or simply understood my position. They made me explain myself fully -- again, I put myself in their shoes so that they may understand what I am saying, even if it is as difficult as explaining someone else’s position -- i.e. my client.

Have your personal experiences influenced your writing in any way?

The story and the characters of Confidential Communications are all fictional, although I will admit that by the end, the character, Joshua, has a little of my husband David (who is also an attorney) in him. Also, Justice McNaught is based in part on my late grandfather who sat on the Federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts. He was the person who originally inspired me as a child to pursue a degree in law and took ethics extremely seriously. I figured, heck, why not “tip my hat” as a little thank you to him and make him a Justice of the United States Supreme Court?

The character Rebecca Lawson also is extremely ethical. As an attorney, I have always strived to be such an ethical person as my grandfather, and other members of the bar who I have met, that still do. There should be more. I hate the fact that I get such mixed reactions when people find out my profession, and hate more the number of legal insults that are out there due to the inappropriate actions of a select few. It is my hope that someday people will see the legal profession as it was made to be: a group of ethical leaders who we can look up to, to make a positive difference in our community.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I think I have always been concerned with the quality of my writing: is there anything I missed in the editing process? Have the editors missed anything? Have I described something enough or too much? I don’t want to read anything boring or that is riddled with mistakes, and certainly wouldn’t want to subject anyone else to that either.

I am also sometimes concerned with people reading too much into my work. It is after all, a work of fiction. Many family/friends naturally thought that the character Rebecca Lawson was based on me, and my personal experiences. Not so, although I did fall under a firetruck in law school. There were also other characters who family and friends were convinced were based on people I hadn’t even thought of in years. Part of the fun in reading a book is picturing a character, and it has been extremely fun for me to hear how others see one of my characters, whether it be based on an actor/actress or someone I perhaps knew as a child.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

There is not enough time in the day to do everything that I want to do.

Becoming a published author seemed to fall into place at the right time. I have met incredible people along the way and learned an incredible amount about the publishing process, marketing and promotion. Not long after Confidential Communications was published, I found myself typing away at the computer again with the sequel, and I’d love to share it with the world right now. But Confidential Communications hasn’t even been out a year yet and it has picked up so much steam that I’m doing a lot of promoting and answering fan mail from all over the world. Many fans are looking for the sequel already and I’m excited!

Do you write everyday?

I do write a little every day in addition to my daily emails, tweets, facebook, forums, blogs, etc.

Some days I write more than others.

Perhaps I only have time to jot a few notes on some stickies as I clean the house or take my daughter out somewhere, or it may be handwriting a 20-page chapter out on a legal pad during the course of a week to be typed into the computer later on a weekend.

My family always comes first. Writing is just a way to keep my mind fresh. But it is addictive. I am grateful that I type quickly.

How many books have you written so far?

I have written Confidential Communications, published by Xlibris in June of 2008, available through Xlibris, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and a number of other retailers. It is available in hardcover, softcover and now ebook versions.

The sequel to Confidential Communications is called Dishonored. It is expected to be released later this year.

While I was in the process of editing Confidential Communications, I was busy editing my first law review article with the Suffolk University Law Review. The title for that article is “Selecting Supreme Court Justices: Preserving the System, Protecting with Professionalism” and can be found in Volume 40, Book 4.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into Confidential Communications?

I think writing scenes which shock the reader are difficult, and there are a few in Confidential Communications. There were times that I worried my family and friends would over-analyze it, thinking they were true stories, or perhaps some reader would read it and not enjoy, but I just thought about all the other books out there with shocking twists and turns and just let it go.

It was also hard for me to take the original 80 pages of the book and re-type it, only to expand it and add things when I hadn’t done that type of project before. There is something to be said for finishing a piece of work. When you hit “save” and “print”, you want it to be perfect and done. After a while with the editing I had to take a break -- I was able to recite the first chapter and unable to find anything to change after a while. Taking breaks is highly recommended!

Then there was the difficulty of editing with my daughter at my side. She wanted my attention when I was working and I, of course, made time for her. There were many times I had to collect stickies at the end of the day where I’d jot down ideas or lines so that I wouldn’t forget to add them later.

What did you enjoy most?

I think I enjoyed shocking my husband when he took his first round of editing it once I took a break. He had read the original version and it was fun to have him tell me “I didn’t see that coming!”

I also love hearing the wonderful comments from my readers.

It was also fun seeing my daughter coloring at the table with me, pretending to “do her work” or “write a book like Mommy.”

Publishing a book was always on my “to do list”, although it is surreal to actually hold it and see people buying it… Here’s my philosophy in life: I don’t want to turn around at age 80 and say “I wish I had done that…” David and I want our daughter to live her life to the fullest in the same way. The world is a great place as long as you see it that way. If you hit any bumps in the road, maybe it’s a sign for you to slow down, open your eyes and your mind, and look at life in yet one more creative way.

What sets Confidential Communications apart from other things you've written

Well, writing a book is certainly different from filing a motion in court. A motion is based on facts and how the law applies to those facts, while this book is fiction.

My law review article also is based on law, public policy, civil procedure and legal history. Definitely a more serious type of work.

Are there any similarities?

Writing Confidential Communications, I was able to use a legal concept, and craft a realistic story around it, which ended up being scarily similar to stories on the news today. Like other legal thrillers, it involves ethical choices but I am told by many that it has a different perspective of the behind-the-scenes action that goes on in the legal world.

What will your next book be about?

As I stated above, my newest novel is called Dishonored, and is expected to be released later this year.

The synopsis is as follows: Federal Court Judge Rebecca Tameron seemed to have it all… a loving family, a prestigious career and the respect of her community -- that is, until her world falls apart.

Implicated in the disappearance of a Supreme Court Justice, and the shooting of a Federal agent, Tameron scrambles to uncover the truth. The problem is, each investigative avenue she pursues only leads to more questions, and every investigative avenue leads back to her. How can she clear her name?

While exploring the reaches, limits and dangers of our increasingly security-conscious and interconnected world, Dishonored questions the faith we place in both strangers and friends, and reminds us just how perilous our techno-savvy life can be.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

That is a tough question. Being published, being recognized, receiving fan mail and emails from all over the world, having the book sell well… the list goes on and on. And it hasn’t even been released a year yet.

I’ve received requests for signed copies and held book signings in the Mall. There is something new every day that I seem to be blessed with.

I will say that I loved seeing my daughter’s face when the first completed copy arrived at my house and she said “Mommy! That’s you on the back of that book!”

Related resources:

Author's website
Author's page, Xlibris

Possibly related books:

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1 comment:

Josie Kramer said...

Her first book "Confidential Communications" is a really good read. Everyone should pick it up.