Interview with Alexi Venice, Author of Standby Counsel
01 Sep 2020
What can you tell us about your new release, Standby Counsel?
I’ll provide a quote from a Goodreads reviewer because she summarizes the story better than I could anyway😊 I replaced a few of her sentences with a bracketed ellipsis […] where there was a spoiler.
“This is one action-packed, keeps you guessing, can’t put it down, legal thriller! Alexi Venice knows how to write engaging and complex courtroom dramas. Standby Counsel is an exceptional tale of crime, drama and romance. Venice leaves her readers captivated till the very end!
Monica Spade practices civil law in the close-knit community of Apple Grove, Wisconsin, a normally quiet little Midwestern town. Life is pretty good for her. She’s in love with Shelby St. Claire, a beautiful high school art teacher. She’s enjoying practicing law inside the walls of Spade, Daniels and Taylor. It seems as if nothing could wipe the smile off her face, except maybe a phone call from a judge ordering her to serve as standby counsel…
Even though Monica tries her best to convince the judge that she is ill-equipped for the job, her arguments fall on deaf ears. The two-week trial that captures the interest and fascination of Apple Grove only proves to complicate the lives of Monica and her lover Shelby… The trial’s outcome is nothing anyone in Apple Grove could have predicted, especially Monica and Shelby.
The character development in this book is quite exceptional. Monica is viewed as the protagonist, while Stela is the antagonist. The character work devoted to Stela is nothing short of amazing. Venice really hits the mark here. Stela is a driven, powerful and motivated diabolical psychopath. Readers are meant to dislike her. However, even though they don’t care for her, they understand her. Warped as she is, they get what drives her and what motivates her. Stela cranks up the emotion and tension in this thriller-like any true villain should.
Monica’s character work and story arc are also nicely done. Readers connect and relate to her very easily. She plays the part of a flawed hero quite fittingly. Readers appreciate her imperfections with enthusiasm. She is likable and approachable; one cannot help but embrace her. Though she isn’t perfect, she is always kind, caring and loyal. One of her most attractive traits is her willingness to love with her whole heart, passionately and completely…
The pacing and plotting of this story are top-notch. There are so many riveting twists and turns; readers are more than likely to lose sleep turning pages into the night with this one. Venice’s own experience in the courtroom lends itself to a creative and well-written story. Once this story gets its talons into a reader, it does not want to let go.
Venice’s books don’t disappoint. If you enjoy high octane, suspense-filled legal thrillers, then I would strongly suggest getting this one. She knows how to entertain her readers with solid courtroom dramas that keep readers guessing. Standby Counsel should not be missed.” 5 Stars-The Lesbian Book Blog
Tell us more about Monica Spade. What makes her tick?
Monica is insecure, but she takes a strategic risk in her legal practice by accepting the appointment of standby counsel for Stela-the-slayer. Monica is terrified, but curious and courageous, so she braces herself to meet Stela at the jail. While terrified of Stela, Monica is also intrigued. She digs into the case because she’s curious and methodical. Monica has much to learn about manipulative clients and the practice of law, especially legal antics in the courtroom. In her personal life, Monica has some catching up to do in the dating world. She doesn’t want to come off as naïve to Shelby in matters of the heart, but she’s never fallen for a woman like she has for Shelby.
What makes Monica and Shelby such a great couple?
They don’t compete with each other on any level. Monica is attracted to Shelby’s beauty and sweet personality, and Shelby is attracted to Monica’s smart mind and genuine, transparent love. Monica feels like Shelby is too good for her, but women hit on Monica all the time, so she is just maturing into her own sexual appeal. Each woman approaches their relationship with tenderness and respect, acknowledging that their chemistry in bed is undeniable.
What inspired you to write a legal thriller about a young woman who stabs her boyfriend to death?
During my day job as a practicing attorney, I became involved in a murder trial where a young woman stabbed a man to death in the back seat of her car. While working closely with the District Attorney to prepare my clients to testify, I became immersed in the evidence and courtroom battle. That televised drama was inspirational for me to write this novel, which contains different characters, a new set of facts, and a heady dose of international intrigue.
As an attorney, do you write a lot about legal events in your real world?
My 31-year career has provided some spicy vignettes that inform my writing. A few lessons I’ve learned are that initial facts aren’t always supported by the evidence, DNA evidence can be manipulated if you understand the medicine, and people aren’t always who they claim to be.
In the first Monica Spade book, Conscious Bias, I explored several angles of bias regarding a young white man accused of killing a Saudi foreign exchange student. This was based on actual events and a murder trial in which my clients testified. There are arrows of bias flying all over in that story, including at Monica Spade. I’m not trying to avoid controversy. Instead, I’m attempting to unearth some deep-rooted stereotypical biases in small-town America.
In Standby Counsel, I challenge the perceptions of a seemingly helpless woman, her assertion of self-defense, and deeper layers of her motives.
Initially, I was nervous about the reception for brutal storylines, but I’ve been pleased that readers have embraced the Monica Spade Series and have really embraced Monica and her girlfriend, Shelby. Since I’ve personally experienced many of the events in Monica’s world, I believe her narrative is authentic and genuine.
Why do you write legal and crime drama with lesbian romance?
The old adage is to write about what you know, and I feel comfortable writing about legal drama, the courtroom theater, and unexpected things that might, or might not, happen in hospitals. I also delight in adding dark humor to heavy issues, so playful dialogue and subplots are intentionally woven into my storylines.
In addition, the books I enjoy have a little romance in them, so I always include romance in my legal and crime dramas. Both the Monica Spade Series and the San Francisco Mystery Series have lesbian romances. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written plenty of straight romance, but the market is flooded with male heroes who get the girl at the end, so I’m offering an alternative—the female heroine who vanquishes the female villain and gets “the girl” at the end😊.
By the way, I’m an equal-opportunity writer, so the antagonists in my books are mostly female as well. Who says the “bad guy” has to be a guy at all? I love writing about seriously flawed, powerful women with deadly skill sets who commit heinous crimes. I know, right? Don’t be intimidated. My female heroines—Monica Spade and District Attorney Amanda Hawthorne—have the guts to take them on.
I also adore the supporting cast of strong men around Monica—her mentor and senior partner of their law firm, Jim Daniels; and her friend and peer, the fiery litigator, Nathan Taylor.
Do any of your characters go rogue, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
Yes! Two characters unexpectedly stormed center stage in Standby Counsel. My editor helped me work through their backstories and encouraged me to craft their twisty-turny subplot. I spent long bike rides thinking about their subversive agenda and how Monica would strategically deal with them. I processed and processed, then the story miraculously took shape, and I ultimately felt blessed that they inserted themselves into my story. Despite outlining Standby Counsel, or perhaps because of it, there were truly magical moments during the creative process that made this story special for me to write.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
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