Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Crashing Planes? There's an app for that: An interview with lawyer and thriller author Melissa Miller

Today, I'm talking with lawyer and author Melissa Miller about her legal thriller, IRREPARABLE HARM.


1) Please tell us about your book.

IRREPARABLE HARM is my debut novel and the first book in a legal thriller series featuring Attorney Sasha McCandless. Here’s the blurb:

There's a smartphone app that can crash a plane. And it's for sale to the highest bidder . . .

Attorney Sasha McCandless is closing in on the prize after eight long years: she's months away from being made partner at a prestigious law firm. All she has to do is keep her head down and her billable hours up. Then a plane operated by her client slams into the side of a mountain, killing everyone aboard. Sasha gears up to prepare a defense to the inevitable civil lawsuits.

She quickly realizes the crash was no accident: a developer has created an application that can control a commercial plane's onboard computer from a smartphone. Sasha joins forces with a federal air marshal who's investigating the crash. As they race to prevent another disaster, people close to the matter start to die. And she's next on the list. Sasha will need to rely on her legal training and her Krav Maga training in equal measure to find and stop a madman before he strikes again.

2) How did your legal background influence the plotting of this book?

Like Sasha, I’m a civil litigator with a practice that focuses on complex commercial litigation. My legal background was helpful, of course, when I was writing the courtroom scenes and explaining things like the standard a party has to meet to obtain injunctive relief. What I aimed to do, though, and I hope I succeeded, was to pull back the curtain and show the lay reader the backstage strategic and practical considerations that underlie a lot of the legal stuff and to give a glimpse of life at a law firm.

3) What inspired you to write this particular book?

I’m a reader of many genres, but there is nothing I love better than a good thriller—especially a legal thriller. Despite that, for some reason, I tried for years to write literary fiction and it never clicked. But, when the germ of an idea—what if you could control a plane with a smartphone app?—occurred to me, I was off and flying (no pun intended) with this book.

4) Your heroine, Sasha, is both a legal expert and proficient in the Israeli martial art Krav Maga. That's an interesting combination. Why Krav Maga versus something a bit more mainstream like Tae Kwon Do or Karate?

Krav Maga was the right fit for a woman Sasha’s size. She is just under five feet tall and just shy of one hundred pounds. She needs a self-defense / hand-to-hand combat system that would work for someone of her stature. I have a friend who is not much bigger than Sasha who practices Krav Maga. She has learned to use her size to work for her. Also, although Krav Maga incorporates aspects of boxing, judo, and jujitsu, the philosophy differs from most other martial arts in that it isn’t ritualized. It’s more focused on the practical application in, say, a street fight than on working through traditional exercises.

5) Plane crashes are a major aspect of this book. Did writing this book make you more nervous about flying?

You know, it’s funny, but looking back, I don’t think I’ve traveled by plane since the book was published. That is, however, a total coincidence, I promise. Having moved from D.C. to central Pennsylvania, I have found it easier and quicker to handle East Coast business travel by train. Having three kids ages six and under, I have found leisure travel easier to handle by car (the flying public is welcome).

6) Did you find it difficult to balance the drama of legal maneuvering and the more action-oriented scenes?

Somewhat, but probably not the way you’d think. Because I live and breathe the legal stuff, I tend to focus, if anything, a little too much on the action when I am writing. I have to remind myself, okay, this woman is a lawyer, let’s do some lawyering in between our butt kicking scenes! The fun thing about writing the legal aspects are that my characters can really explore, test, and question the confines of our legal system in ways that real lawyers simply can’t (if they want to keep their licenses).

7) Do you intend to write more books focused on this character?

I do, and I have. The second book in the Sasha McCandless series is INADVERTENT DISCLOSURE; it will be available later this month. I am hard at work on the third book, tentatively titled Irretrievably Broken. I have further plans for Sasha, but I think after book three, I might take a break from two-word legal doctrines beginning with the letter “I” and turn to a young adult suspense novel that’s been kicking around in my brain for a while now.

Thanks for having me!


Thanks, Melissa.

IRREPARABLE HARM  is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble in both physical and e-book formats.

You can visit her at her website at http://www.melissafmiller.com/.


Melissa F. Miller said...

Thanks so much for having me here today!

Fatima Fayez said...

The premise of your book sounds fascinating. Thanks for sharing behind the scenes info :)

J.A. Beard said...

You're welcome, Melissa.

Thanks for commenting, Fatima.

Melissa F. Miller said...

It was my pleasure, Fatima.