Unsympathetic Victims is the first in the Ashley Montgomery Legal Thriller Series by Laura Snider. Fans of relatable female protagonists and plot twists that keep you guessing will love Snider’s gripping debut novel. SRP sat down with the lawyer/author to find out more about how she uses her professional experience to shape her books and what simlarities she’s found between the two.
SRP: Ashley Montgomery, the protagonist in your debut thriller Unsympathetic Victims, is a public defender, and, when you’re not writing, you’re a prosecutor. How did it feel to write from the opposition’s perspective?
Laura: I spent seven years as a public defender working in rural communities in Iowa. Yes, I’m a prosecutor now, but I wasn’t when I originally started writing the manuscript. I loved my work as a public defender, but it can be a grind. The case load is overwhelming. The only way to properly represent that number of clients is for public defenders to end up working extremely long hours for little compensation.
Prosecutors are better funded positions. They generally don’t have to work the late hours. Yes, law enforcement sometimes needs guidance in the form of a late-night call, but that work can be done from home. I made the switch because I got married and had children. I no longer had all the time in the world to work, and I felt like I had to decide between my family and criminal defense. I also started my writing career around the same time, and that requires a good chunk of time. Working part-time as a prosecutor has allowed me to be present for my family, work in criminal law, and write.
SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Laura: I think the most difficult part of writing any book is the revision process. I don’t outline before writing, so that makes for a lot of cutting and letting go. There are characters I’ve created and lost through revisions. I’ve had to trash entire scenes. Sometimes it is necessary to scrap 50,000 words and start over. It’s not fun to let go of a single word, but 50,000 can be pretty gut wrenching. But the truth is that revisions are the only way that a manuscript gets any better. I have come to terms with the fact that the first draft of anything I write is junk compared to the final product.
SRP: What’s your favorite characteristic of your protagonist, Ashley Montgomery? Do you see any of yourself in her?
Laura: I love Ashley’s snarkiness. She’s different from most people and she owns it. I would say I have many of the same thought patterns as Ashley, but I’ve never been strong enough to brazenly say what I think like she does.
Ashley’s character is modeled off the many excellent attorneys that I worked with in the public defender system. I worked with some pretty fantastic attorneys. They fight for their clients in a way that is unapologetic and bold, and I’ve always admired that about them.
SRP: What’s next for Ashley Montgomery?
Laura: Like any other public defender, Ashley’s office is a revolving door of new clients. In each new book, she’ll receive new cases, and with them clients and circumstances that continue to challenge her understanding of true justice.
SRP: Where do you see parallels between working in law and writing fiction novels?
Laura: Deadlines and preparation are both necessary parts of practicing law and fiction writing.
In law, deadlines are constantly present, forcing each case to move along at a fairly expedient pace. There are speedy trial deadlines, indictment deadlines, and motion deadlines. In writing, deadlines are necessary to keep the publication process moving along. There are people who cannot even start working on their job until I finish the writing portion. Blowing deadlines in both writing and the legal profession can cause serious issues for other people.
Preparation is key in both writing and law as well. They each require a different kind of preparation, but in both professions it is time consuming and it shows if you don’t do your due diligence.
SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?
Laura: I’m always reading three books – a physical book, e-book, and listening to an audiobook.
At this moment, my physical book is Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen, my audiobook is A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers, and my ebook is A Killer’s Wife by Victor Methos.
Some of my favorite books that I’ve read this year have been, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood.
SRP: Are you a pantser or a plotter, meaning do you dive head first into writing and see where the story takes you or do you like to create an outline and work from it?
Laura: I’m a pantser. I write and see where the story takes me. I do this mostly because my books are character driven and I have a hard time deciding what a character will do until after I’ve created him or her. So, I sit down and start writing and as the characters form, so does the story line. It makes for some pretty extensive editing, which can be painful at times, but also much more adventurous. My characters are constantly doing things that surprise me, and I love that about them.
Unsympathetic Victims launches July 27. You can pre-order your copy for just $0.99!
When successful public defender Ashley Montgomery helps acquit yet another client, people in small-town Brine, Iowa are enraged. Following the verdict, a protest breaks out — and the hated defense attorney quickly finds her life in danger.
But little does Ashley know, things are about to get worse — much worse. One of her clients turns up dead, and Ashley is arrested for his murder. As local investigators Katie Mickey and George Thomanson dive into the case, they start to suspect that Ashely is being framed — but by whom?
With Ashley’s freedom at stake, Katie and George are desperate to find out the truth. And soon, they uncover a sinister plot born of corruption, greed, and misplaced loyalty that will leave the whole town reeling — and questioning their faith in the people they trusted most.
SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Sin City Investigations and Jim Bean?
J.D.: I knew I wanted to write a Private Investigator series. I crushed hard on Rockford as a youngster (and still do!). At about the same time I was plotting through it, a good friend of mine was falsely accused of a serious crime. It devastated his life in more ways than I would have ever imagined. He had to start over. New job. New friends. New city. I found his experience, as bad as it was, made an excellent backstory for a PI. He gave his blessing and Jim was born.
SRP: What can you tell us about the series?
J.D.: I want to see characters in a series change over time. It makes them seem more human. With 19 Souls, Jim Bean starts the series dealing with a life-changing incident in his past. He’s gone to Vegas to lick his wounds, changed his name, and is happy to exist with minimal clients, his cat, and a good bottle of scotch. I’d like to think that after a while, he’ll get out of his own way and move past his anger. I’ve started the third book in the series, and he’s still a combination of Dirty Harry and Jim Rockford.
SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing 19 Souls, the first book in the series?
J.D.: I loved writing that book! Female serial killer? What’s not to love about that. Smart villains are super interesting to create, and Sophie Evers fits that bill! I had to take Jim to some pretty dark places though, and I sort of felt sorry for him at times.
SRP: What’s next for the series?
J.D.: Skin Game is next up in the series. In it, Jim and the woman who broke his heart in college have only a few days to rescue several young girls from a human trafficking ring.
SRP: What are you working on now?
J.D.: Wrapping up the next adventure with Jim. I’ll just say that I did some research with a taxidermist.
SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?
J.D.: Wow. Right now, I’m reading this weird Sci-fi my hubs gave me. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. It’s an entire novel in journal entries and interviews. It’s fascinating!
SRP: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
J.D.: Go big. Stories need to be large, not in word count, but in scope. Big characters, big setting, big themes. You can always back it down if needed, but making a thin story work is difficult.
Her bloody finger left a translucent smear on the phone screen as she glanced through the list of private investigators in Vegas. Her stained nail came to rest on Sin City Investigations.
Jim Bean would serve her well.
Private investigator Jim Bean is a straightforward, to-the-point man. He likes his cases to follow suit. But when his latest client, Sophie Evers, asks him to find her brother Daniel, Jim has no idea how complicated his life is about to become.
As he falls deep into a manipulative game of cat and mouse, Jim uncovers the horrible truth about Sophie. Now he must set things right before her plan leads to the loss of innocent souls . . . even more than it already has.