An interview with author Barbara Venkataraman

Barbara Venkataraman is the author of the Jamie Quinn series of cozy mysteries and her newest book, Malice in Miami is now available for free for a limited time, and you can get the first 3 books in the series for just 99 cents! and all are available on Kindle Unlimited. This is a great cozy series, I definitely recommend!

Malice in Miami Get for 99 cents on Amazon for a limited time!

Reluctant family law attorney Jamie Quinn 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?

I invited Barbara to do a quick interview about her writing, her methods and her visions of how she crafts her books:

Q.There are now 6 books in the Jamie Quinn series, how did Jamie come about? Which is your favorite?

Barbara: My favorite Jamie Quinn book is always the most recent one, but I have a special place in my heart for the first one, Death by Didgeridoo. Although it’s the shortest and the characters have developed so much since then, the first book got me started on this journey. I’ve always been writing since I was in second grade but hadn’t managed to get past short stories and essays until I came up with Jamie Quinn. I was trying to teach myself to play a didgeridoo to help with my sleep apnea and I dropped the didge and broke a glass tabletop. It occurred to me this could be a lethal weapon and I immediately thought of the title Death by Didgeridoo. From there I just started asking questions–Who would get killed with a musical instrument? A music teacher Who would want him dead? Several people. Whose didgeridoo was it? One of his students. And I kept going until I had a story.

Q. What comes first for you, the plot or the characters?

Barbara: Plot first. I have the same main characters in all the books but the other characters just show up when I need them to make the plot move along. Sometimes I get surprised. In Jeopardy in July, I came up with Herb Lowenthal as a very minor character but as I wrote I realized he had an important part to play.

Q. How do you come up with the plots for your books?

Barbara: That’s a mystery even to me. Stephen King says put interesting characters in an interesting situation and see what happens.

Q.How do you come up with the character’s names in your books?

Barbara: I try to come up with a name that fits the person without repeating any names or making them too odd. My cousin’s daughter died tragically and her father asked me to make her a character, so I did. Jesse Sandler was my cousin’s name and the character has her personality. After I did that, several friends and relatives asked me to make them a character so that makes it easy to name them, lol.

Q.How do you cope with writer’s block? Any favorite tricks to get your plot moving again?

Barbara: Writer’s block is a pain, but it can be managed. If I’m totally blocked, I have to ask why. Did I write myself into a corner? Do I have no idea what happens next? Two things help. First, write something else, an essay, a short story,a letter to the editor–just to get the juices flowing. Then go back to the problem and ask questions like, what are all the things that could happen nest? What are the obstacles to each option? Sometimes I’m blocked because I’m going in the wrong direction and I have to shift gears.

Q. What sort of books do you like to read? Do you have any cozy mystery authors you recommend?

Barbara: I actually avoid cozy mysteries because I don’t want to accidentally borrow any ideas. The most recent book I read that I absolutely loved was the Pulitzer Prize winning “Less”. The writing is fantastic and I loved the main character. I also loved “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.”

Q. Tell us about where you write. Do you have a studio? A favorite cafe? Curled up on the couch? What do you like to eat or drink while writing?

Barbara:I sit at my computer to type at my desk in our guest room/office. When I get stuck I go for walk outside to think.

Q. If your book were made into a movie, which actors would you pick to play your characters?

Barbara: That’s tough. Jamie Quinn would be Jennifer Connelly and Kip Simons would be Jared Padalecki. Grace is Cobie Smulders.

Q. If you could be a character in one of your favorite books, who would you be?

Barbara: I would be the wife in the Time Traveler’s Wife.

Q. Last, do you have any new quirky insights for us?

Barbara: If you want to write, do it! It’s the same way you get to Carnegie Hall, practice, practice, practice.

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