Your Next Mystery Read – Barbara Venkataraman’s Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection Box Set Books 1-3

I was recently sent Barbara Venkataraman’s Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection: Box Set Books 1-3, and found it a joy to read. This book set includes the first three stories in the Jamie Quinn series. I also had a chat with the author to find out a little more about the inspiration and behind the scenes creation of the books.

jamie quinn


Death by Didgeridoo (Winner of the Indie Book of the Day award)

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It’s up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it’s too late. It doesn’t help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn’t commit.

The Case of the Killer Divorce
Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, has returned to her family law practice after a hiatus due to the death of her mother. It’s business as usual until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation, and Jamie’s client becomes the prime suspect. When she can’t untangle truth from lies, Jamie enlists the help of Duke Broussard, her favorite private investigator, to try to clear her client’s name. And she’s hoping that, in his spare time, he can help her find her long-lost father.

Peril in the Park
There’s big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn’s boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can’t figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.

A preview of the next Jamie Quinn Mystery, Engaged in Danger, can be found at the end of the book. Engaged in Danger won first place in the Amateur Detective category of the Chanticleer Murder & Mayhem Mystery Writing Competition.

The Jamie Quinn series was in fact first inspired by a didgeridoo that Barbara Venkataraman had purchased to help with her sleep apnea (a condition also experienced by her character Jamie). She says “always one to embrace outlandish remedies, I had read that playing the didgeridoo improved the symptoms of sleep apnea, so I tried. And failed. It was so hard that one day I hyperventilated and dropped the didgeridoo, cracking a glass table. It occurred to me that a didgeridoo could be a lethal weapon, so I started asking questions–who would get killed? A music teacher. Who could have done it? Lots of people. Who will get falsely accused? A disabled student. Who will come to his rescue? His cousin, Jamie Quinn, a reluctant family lawyer. And off we went…”

Barbara Venkataraman herself is also an attorney and mediator, specializing in family law and debt collection, and she describes Jamie as her alter ego. She considers both herself and Jamie as “reluctant family lawyers, home-bodies who are loyal to our family and friends with a self-deprecating sense of humor and a snarky side”. However, she also adds that Jamie is “younger, more neurotic, and keeps finding herself embroiled in murder mysteries”.

Unlike Jamie, Barbara is also the author of an award-winning series and has always known she wanted to be a writer. She says, “ever since I wrote a poem about ducks in second grade and my teacher liked it so much she enlarged it and hung it on the wall, I was hooked.” She also talks about her love of words, both writing and read them, saying “I can spend a long time choosing one word, weighing my options and the feeling I want to convey”.

For all you aspiring authors out there, Barbara also describes what her process is like when writing a Jamie Quinn novel. “It’s a very loose process that looks like organized chaos from the outside. I come up with a synopsis and a very loose summary. I usually know the beginning and the end going in, but the middle is fluid and changes as I go. I research the topics I need for the story and paste it to the bottom of the document, so I can refer to it as I go. I write short chapters and send them to my reader girls as I finish them. None of my characters are ever shot so I have to come up with creative murder methods. I have researched so many ways to kill people that I think the FBI will come knocking soon!”

That the victims in the Jamie Quinn books do die more creatively is something I enjoyed about the books. It gave the mystery a little more fun and creativity and was a change from CSI’s common diagnosis of “gunshot wound to the head/chest”.

Jamie Quinn as a protagonist is also ideal for a cozy mystery with a point of difference because she differs from the usual cookie cutter cupcake baker as a family attorney. As an attorney, her involvement in a mystery also makes more sense than the ‘stick your nose in, smarter than the police, baker’ type character. In that vein, I also appreciate how Jamie involves people like private investigator Duke and doesn’t seem to feel the need to confront a killer alone in a dangerous situation.

I found these books to be a great light read and will definitely explore the rest of the series in the future.

You can check out the series on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Krystal xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bevan Stephen talks Death and the Detective

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Bevan Stephen is an aspiring new author, having recently released his first book Death and the Detective. The prequel to a series centering around Detective Jennifer Kane, this book gives readers a taster for the series to come.

When asked about his new book, this is what he had to say:

What inspired the character of Jennifer Kane?

“Her initial concept was always there, I think – a little voice in the back of my mind, that loved to giggle at inappropriate humor and respond with a resounding “Hell yeah!” when watching a particularly awesome movie action scene. But what really drew that voice out and developed it was my complete disdain for TV crime shows.

Back when I was in my late teens/very early twenties, I used to watch a lot of them. Numb3rs, The Mentalist, NCIS, CSI, all their different permutations and the other letters of the alphabet I missed. I remember watching all of these and getting bored of seeing the same characters time and time again. The nerd, the serious one with gang activity in their past, the smartass who talks too much, the firm team leader with a heart of gold on the inside. You know the ones. They’re in every TV crime drama you pick.

They were all the same character, but I could deal with that. There were two things that I got tired of – how same-ish they all were was one, but what I hated the most was how in control they all were. We’re human beings: 99% percent of the time, we aren’t cool and collected and in perfect control: we’re juggling work and family and responsibilities and friends and everything else you can imagine. I saw these personalities on screen, with perfectly combed hair, pearly white teeth and everything figured out in life – and I disliked them.

That’s a big part of what inspired Jennifer Kane – that idea that even the best of us barely have things in control. We can’t relate to the woman with a million dollars in her bank account and a new dress every Sunday – but you bet we can see the woman struggling to support a job, hobbies, friends and family, and feel something for them.

Other than that though, I just loved the basic character of Kane. She was fun in my head and she proved to be just as fun on paper.”

What made you choose to write from a female perspective as a male?

“It was something about the challenge of doing it right. I saw a lot of examples of female characters written by male authors who evidently didn’t know how to write girls, and I thought to myself “I can do better than these paid professionals” and so I set out to prove it.

The way I see it, the best female characters are written by ignoring the gender part. I’ve always believed that people are people – a bunch of individuals with goals, dreams, fears, aspirations, and that everything else (to a certain extent) can be switched out with minimal fuss. Yes, there are unique things between individual genders, ages, and other groupings that that collective can relate to. But those important, character defining concepts are things that should always stay the same, in my eyes.

For a somewhat crude, but succinct analogy: Men and women can both be brave in the face of absolute terror. Men and women can’t both relate to taking their bra off at the end of a long days work.”

Kane gives a lot of detective advice. How did you come up with that advice?

“I know I got some of the mechanical stuff from those TV crime shows I so lovingly mentioned in the first question. Kane’s method of checking the path the murder weapon took when it entered the body to see if the attacker was right handed, for instance, I remember seeing in an episode of NCIS. It was during an autopsy scene where I saw it, and I remember thinking “Huh. Neat.”

Other than that, it’s a lot of thinking things through and a lot of search engine use. I ended up visiting a few fan sites online and picking up general advice for investigating. But some of it – like Kane’s lesson to Matt about not excluding other options/theories – it was a perfect character arc for Matt and I twisted the story a little to help work with that. I think it turned out great.

Slightly related, the search engine use did get a little weird at points, full disclosure there. Yes, I’m searching for information on butterfly knives and which parts of the throat would be lethal if stabbed. No, I am not planning on putting this into practice in real life. Remember, parents – if little Timmy is suddenly fascinated with the medical effects of hydrochloric acid on the human body, don’t worry – he might just be doing book research. Hopefully.”

Death and the Detective is a prequel. Can you give us a hint what will be in the next book?

“I plan to make the actual series longer, better, and hopefully in a shorter time frame if I’m lucky. ‘Death and the Detective Book 0.5’ was a scant ~25k words, and it took me 3 years to make. That’s not great stats for the amount of time it took. However, a lot of that is chalked up to me giving up on it at one point.

Since then, I can confidently say that my work ethic and general dedication to writing has taken a dramatic turn for the better. I’ve learned a lot more, wrote some more stories that taught me a lot about story-craft, and changed my entire process. For instance – the first draft of Death and the Detective was 25k words and took over a year. To compare, I recently finished up a first draft of the first book in an epic fantasy series I’ve had my heart on for a while. This one was 74k words and it took me under four months. Three times the length for a third of the time. I was pretty pleased with that.

The proper Death and the Detective series are planned to be full size novels, and be of a much higher quality than its introduction. As for any juicy details about the first book in the series… I can reveal with absolute joy that we’re getting a look into the personal lives and dramas of Kane and Matt. I don’t want to give away too much, but I can tell you this – it’s going to be a fun ride, with some unfortunately familiar faces on the way.”

Have you ever had writers block? If so, how do you deal with it?

“Unfortunately, yes. There was a point in the drafting and editing slog of the book where I was doing my day job, coming home, and spending all my spare time on the book. I didn’t read, I didn’t listen to music, or watch movies – any time I had must be spent on the book. I was

incredibly productive, I thought I was doing just fine – until I hit the wall so hard that it left me paralyzed. The well of creativity was empty, and I hadn’t seen it coming. I shut down on writing for about a month. It was a dark time.

Over that month I was agonizing about my lack of progress – “I’m not writing or editing, I’m so unproductive, I’ll never make it as an author” spun around my head a lot. I’ll be honest – it was hell. I thought I’d gone too far and that the well would be empty forever.

I didn’t realize the well could refill, and it wasn’t until the end of that month that I realized it – after I finished watching Avatar: The Last Airbender (it goes without saying that I’m talking about the show, not the live action movie). That show was emotional, powerful, and beautiful – and when it was over I just had to sit there and process the raw emotion it left in is wake. I felt inspired. And the next morning, I got out of bed and finished editing the fourth draft of the book. I was back.

Here’s my PSA to all artists out there, writers, drawers, musicians, what have you – we can’t create in a vacuum. You can’t just work on your art all day without break and expect it to be fine – you MUST consume art to refill your well. There is nothing wrong with taking a day or two off to watch a good movie or read a book – it’s highly encouraged. You’re the creator of these worlds you make – but the creator can’t work if they’re starving. Feed the creator, and things will be just fine.”

Death and the Detective is available on Amazon.

Krystal xx

 

 

 

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