Today Barbara Venkataraman is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Malice in Miami, her latest novel in the Jamie Quinn Mystery series.
Welcome, Barbara. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
Malice in Miami is the sixth book in the Jamie Quinn Cozy Mystery Series. Jamie is a family lawyer who somehow keeps finding herself in the middle of murder investigations. She can always count on the support of Marmaduke Broussard III, a PI who is her former client and a good-time Charlie who works out of a bar, as well as her brilliant friend Grace, also an attorney, and her boyfriend Kip, an adventurous tree-hugger type.
In Malice in Miami, Jamie is loving life–and why wouldn’t she? Her boyfriend Kip is back from Australia, her long-lost dad finally has his visa and she’s about to start her dream job at an art foundation. But it all falls apart when Jamie is accused of stealing priceless art from a rare book collection. If she can’t find out who framed her, she can kiss her dream job good-bye–and her law license too. Meanwhile, Kip has problems of his own. Now an environmental activist, he uncovers a deadly secret–one that just might get him killed. Jamie’s in trouble, Kip’s in danger, and Duke Broussard has gone AWOL. How could Jamie’s favorite P.I. abandon her at a time like this?
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
The chaos of my brain, ha ha. I collect interesting news articles about a variety of topics and when it’s time to write a new Jamie Quinn Mystery I reread them to see what pops into my head. In this instance, I homed in on efforts to eradicate the pythons taking over the Everglades; Veterans who hunt pythons to deal with their PTSD; art thieves stealing rare books and maps from libraries; the sugar industry polluting Florida with the blessing of the politicians that they fund; birth defects caused by pesticides; a beautiful Miami mansion called Vizcaya, built by a rich industrialist in the early 20th century, and a case of mistaken identity. I let it all percolate until it somehow comes together as a story.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
Jamie always gets her man–or woman–in the end. While I do point out some real-world problems within the body of the story I always try to show what’s being done about these problems. Mostly, I like to make readers aware of the issues, like pythons eradicating so many animals and birds in the Everglades. Jamie always has good intentions and tries to do the right thing although it frequently blows up in her face. Then, with help from her friends and family, she picks herself up again and charges forward. I guess the theme is that doing the right thing works out eventually, more or less.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
All my characters are based on combinations of people I know. For example, Jamie’s best friend Grace has qualities from several of my friends. Each one thinks Grace is her so I just let them think that. Jamie Quinn, the protagonist, is my alter ego. She is like me but on steroids, with more phobias and hang-ups, and she is constantly thrust into uncomfortable situations. Like me, she is self-deprecating, helpful to a fault, and can’t say no to a sad story. Having Jamie go through all that is therapeutic for me; I have to admit she’s my favorite. The world revolves around her but it wouldn’t be a universe without her quirky friends and family.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
In this case, I have been to Vizcaya, the beautiful mansion in Miami, many times and I love it there, but since we were in the middle of a pandemic, I relied on books, websites and videos to capture the elegance and beauty of the place. As for the Everglades, I have also been there but I have never hunted pythons, nor do I intend to. I watched hours of videos about python hunts until pythons were slithering into my dreams. I feel confident that I conveyed my squeamishness and horror when I described Jamie going on a python hunt with her boyfriend Kip.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
Since I know very little about anything I have to do tons of research. Sometimes I can just copy and paste facts I need for the story to the bottom of the manuscript for easy reference. For Malice in Miami though, I had to do so much research that I printed everything and sorted it into folders titled: pythons; sugar industry; pesticides; art thieves; art foundations; worker’s compensation cases; and Erin Brockovich.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
The best compliment I get from readers is how they would really like to be friends with Jamie. I tell them I feel the same way.
Thank you for answering my questions, Barbara, and good luck with Malice in Miami, your latest novel in the Jamie Quinn Mystery series.
The novel is available online at Amazon
About Barbara Venkataraman: Barbara is an attorney and author of the award-winning Jamie Quinn Cozy Mystery series, as well as Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person, Quirky Essays for Quirky People, and A Year of Shorts: Flash Fiction. Her books have won numerous awards including Indie Book of the Day, First Place in the 2016 Chanticleer Murder & Mayhem Mystery Writing Competition, Gold Medal in the Readers’ Favorite Contest for Memoir, and Two-time Finalist in the Kindle Book Awards. She also co-authored Accidental Activist: Justice for the Groveland Four with her son Josh about his four-year quest to obtain posthumous pardons for The Groveland Four.