An interview with V. S. Kemanis

V.S. Kemanis
Forsaken Oath
released: April 30, 2016




Ms. Kemanis,

Thank you for taking your time for me ~ 

Who are your influences? 

My creative life was shaped and encouraged by my parents and six siblings. My father was a composer and music professor at Cal Berkeley and my mother was an actress. I grew up in a household full of music, books, university students, artists, and actors. Reading was encouraged, and I always had a book in hand. As a young girl, I devoured Nancy Drew mysteries, and as a teenager and young adult, I loved all the classics, including Dickens, the Brontës, and the Russian novelists. Now, I admire the literary greats who evoke deep psychological suspense in their writing: Ian McEwan and Alice Munro to name a few. Among the lawyers who write courtroom fiction, my favorites are Scott Turow and Adam Mitzner. 

When did you begin writing? 

During school and college years, I loved to write essays for class assignments, but I didn’t start writing fiction until after I’d graduated from law school. My first endeavors were short stories, and I’ve now written dozens. My first novel, Thursday’s List, was written in the late nineties but not published until 2012, after I pulled it out of a drawer and did a thorough edit. 

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc.? 

My short stories just come to me. They usually start with something very small—an observation of a person on the street, an overheard line of conversation, or an image from a fleeting memory. From there, the idea slowly develops in the back of my mind, resurfacing from time to time, gradually taking shape as a story. This process may go on for a year or more, until the story is ready to be written.

My novels feature the fictional assistant district attorney Dana Hargrove, and each novel picks up her life at a different stage of her career, 1988, 1994, and 2001. Three more novels are in the planning, which will bring Dana through to the present day. In my career as a lawyer I’ve been a prosecutor of street crime and organized crime, and have also worked for appellate courts. My experiences provide the inspiration for my characters and storylines in the novels, but all characters and situations are fictional. 

If you could actually meet one of your characters, who would it be?  Why? 

Of course, I’d like to meet Dana Hargrove. I’m very envious of her. 

Do you work from an outline? 

Yes. My first step in the process is a mental image of the overall scheme for the book. The next step is to write an outline that looks more like a synopsis, chapter by chapter. I write the novel with guidance from the chapter synopsis, but the finished novel invariably strays from it. During the writing process, inconsistencies may need fixing, or new ideas emerge that further the storyline. 

Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel(s). 

In Thursday’s List, when Dana is a rookie, she does a little after-hours sleuthing in the basement headquarters of the DA’s squad, a place lovingly known as the “Dungeon.” 

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy? 

I strive for emotional depth in my writing, as well as precision and beauty in the prose. Under the ceiling of plot structure, the undercurrent includes many relatable aspects of the human condition—moral dilemmas, human foibles, internal conflicts, and life’s pleasures. A common theme in the Dana Hargrove novels is the stress every career woman faces in juggling her commitments to home life and the office. 

Have you ever tried writing in any other genres? 

I find it difficult to pigeonhole my books in any single genre, so I suppose they straddle several genres already. One reviewer of Thursday’s List noted that it had qualities which would appeal to fans of the legal thriller, mystery, courtroom drama, or police procedural. My short stories fall loosely in the category of literary fiction and their themes vary widely. 

Do you have any interesting writing-related anecdotes to share? 

Within a few days of writing a scene about a character who fell and broke her wrist, I stepped into a pothole on a city street, fell, and broke my wrist. Not very funny! But it was a hairline fracture that healed quickly. 

Do you listen to music as you write? 

I don’t. Absolute quiet is best for me. Music almost always carries associations with it, and if it’s a song, the lyrics are distracting. I need a blank slate so that I can see the situations I’m creating and hear my characters speaking in their own voices. 

Again, thank you for taking your time for me.  Would you care to add anything Ms. Kemanis? 

Thank you, Jeff, for inviting me to share these thoughts with you on your superb site, Buttonholed Book Reviews!



V. S. Kemanis



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