Rachel Thompson

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Author Interview – Maria Granovsky

How did you come up with the title? “Poison pill” is a legal term. It relates to a contract provision that makes an undesirable action by a party so extremely costly that it virtually guarantees that party won’t do it. A poison pill provision plays an important role in the plot of POISON PILL. In addition the book is about a bad diet drug — so POISON PILL seemed like a perfect double entendre title.

What is your greatest strength as a writer? From a technical standpoint, readers comment almost uniformly that they love the dialogue. They say it has authenticity, it’s witty, and the characters’ voices are distinct and consistent.

Personally, I think my greatest strength is describing complex scientific and legal concepts in a way that is accessible to a non-expert, without being condescending or boring. And I should be pretty good at this by now — this is what I do in my day job as a patent litigator.

What genre are you most comfortable writing? Hands down, suspense, capers, and thrillers are my genres. I love reading them, I understand their construction, and I find them a great vehicle to explore serious and complex issues in a non-preachy and entertaining manner.

How did you develop your plot and characters? The characters are based on composites of people I know. My protagonists came to me almost pre-formed. I just knew who they were, their background stories, and their responses to different situations. As to the plot, I knew the beginning and the end, but didn’t outline the full story. Instead, it felt like the characters did their own thing, and I just reported on what they were up to. Only in the last couple of chapters, where everything had to be resolved, did I step in with a detailed list of plot points that needed to be addressed.

How much of the book is realistic? I think of the book as heightened reality. Much of what I describe is absolutely true (the descriptions of litigation and life in a big firm, for example), but certain periods of time have been compressed for dramatic effect, and the chase scenes are a necessary plot device and a nod to the genre.

How long have you been writing? I started writing fiction on November 1, 2010. POISON PILL is the first piece of fiction I’ve written (not counting any stories I wrote as a pre-teen), and it began as a National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) novel. For those unfamiliar with NaNo, it’s an organized challenge in which you commit to write a first draft of a novel (50,000 words) during the month of November.

On the nonfiction front, however, I’ve been writing for decades. I authored scientific and legal academic papers, and drafted countless legal documents, such as briefs.

Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? I have included a lot of what I know in this novel. I was a bench scientist specializing in genetics before becoming a lawyer and working on pharmaceutical patent cases. So a lot of the substance is based on what I’ve experienced first-hand, as are many of the personalities and relationships I describe. No character is a straight portrait of a specific individual, but most are composites of people I know, with significant tweaking to fictionalize them further.

How important do you think villains are in a story? I think the inclusion of villains never hurts, but their importance varies by genre. If you’re writing a man vs. nature story (i.e., floods, volcano eruptions, meteorites), or a coming of age story, then villains may be less necessary than if you’re writing a crime-based thriller.

For me, though, the term “villains” is somewhat problematic. I’m not interested in characters that are inherently evil. Rather, I want to understand how decent people can do horrible things, be it through plausible deniability, sins of omission, or making a bad choice when faced with several less-than-ideal options, then failing to admit their mistake and correct course.  And I’m interested in how corrupt systems influence the behaviors of those who work in them. Those are the evils I explore in POISON PILL.

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Genre – Legal Thriller

Rating – PG

More details about the author & the book

Connect with Maria Granovsky on Twitter & GoodReads

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