Our interview today is with Laura Rizio the author of Blood Money (rated 4.2 stars on 46 reviews) which is a legal thriller. Before the interview a book description: Nick Ceratto, a young, cracker jack litigator looking for a partnership in the prestigious Philadelphia law firm of Maglio, Silvio, and Levin discovers his firm’s dark secret for increasing it’s bottom line while preparing a medical malpractice case for trial.The partners are setting up major cases by seriously injuring and even murdering their clients to produce huge jury awards. When the firm discovers he knows, Nick’s only hope is to stay one step ahead of the hitman long enough to intentionally lose his case and expose the firm’s corruption. As his mission careens towards an explosive climax, the only question left, is whose lives will be sacrificed along the way.
Blood Money is a classic examination of the duality of the American justice system, it’s strengths and weaknesses, and the interplay between it and raw ambition. Blood Money is a disturbing depiction of a system gone wrong, and the one time golden boy who is finally able to understand the bigger picture and remember the oath taken and his dream that was once so clear.
Interview with Laura Rizio
WHAT WAS IMPORTANT ABOUT THE SETTING FOR Blood Money?
Philadelphia, like any big city has a good mix of cultures, neighborhoods, economic groups and colorful characters that an author can draw upon to paint interesting pictures for the reader. I like to paint a character as I would a painting. Also, again, like any big city, Philly has it’s share of corruption which is featured strongly in the book. Most of all, I know Philadelphia. I lived in the city for twenty years and still practice law there and so I know what makes the city tick. I understand it and love it even with all of its flaws.
WHAT ARE THE BASIC THEMES EMPHASIZED THROUGHOUT THE BOOK?
Greed, the pursuit of money for money sake, raw ambition, and redemption are themes repeated throughout the book. We all possess these traits. We see them in ourselves but rarely admit that we have them. But they lurk somewhere deep down in our souls.
We all have a dark side and a light side. Hopefully the light side prevails when confronted with the choice between good and evil. For some it does not. The protagonist, Nick Ceratto, has this conflict. He sees money and fame and he sees injustice. He has a choice to make as we all eventually do.
ARE THE CHARACTERS BELIEVABLE?
To me they are. I have met most of these characters although not necessarily quite as cynical or as psychopathic as the ones in my book. Engaging in the practice of law as a trial lawyer, one gets to meet all kinds of people. Clients come to you for representation when they are in trouble and they are in trouble for a reason. As a lawyer you want to win your case and so does opposing counsel. Conflict is a way of life with this profession and temptation is always there to step out of what is permissible into what in criminal. All my characters are painted carefully from my own life’s book.
HOW DO THE CHARACTERS CHANGE OR EVOLVE IN THE STORY?
Basically they don’t. They are what they are. They relate to each other in their own way based on their individual personalities and backgrounds. They love each other. They hate each other. They challenge each other. They disappoint each other. Some are victorious and some fall hard. I must say though that the protagonist, Nick Ceratto, young hot-shot over ambitious litigator that he is, evolves from a narcissistic womanizer to a seeker of justice.
WHAT RESEARCH HAVE YOU DONE TO BACK UP YOUR STORY?
I drew on my life experience and my experience as a trial lawyer, admittedly concentrating on the darker side of the profession. I have painted my characters with a little more greed and ill will than I have actually seen, but all one has to do is to read the newspapers and watch television to see that all of what I write about exists in the real world. I have simply cast all of the bad news into the legal profession because, fairly or unfairly, this is what I know best.
WHAT IS YOUR METHOD FOR WRITING A BOOK?
First I think a long time about the story. Then I sit down with a yellow legal pad and a pen or pencil and just start. I do not outline. I just write. Then, I read what I have written and will frequently rewrite it until it sounds good to me. I hand each chapter off to my typist who happens to be my husband, Jim. He is also my law partner, and for me a real blessing since he loves to type. Jim also does some preliminary editing and critiquing. I like to hand write because I like the feel of the pen or pencil across paper. To me this is writing. If I start typing, I think more about typing than the story which is a distraction.
I like to write in the afternoon, after lunch, after I have gotten through the mail and phone calls. I set this time aside for myself than am free to concentrate and to call upon my genie. After I have written the book, I have it professionally edited because it is impossible for the writer or even a reader to pick up all the inconsistencies and errors, and there will be no matter how careful you are.
HOW DO YOU GET PAST WRITER’S BLOCK OR DISTRACTIONS?
First, I set aside at least two hours a day for writing. But I am always thinking about the story, so there is always something going on in my head to draw upon. Scattered though it may be, stuff is floating around in there. When I sit down to write, I try to pull out the scenes and put then together in a realistic way. If I don’t put the pen in my hand, I will not write. So it for me is important to have the yellow pad out and the pens out at all times. If I’m stuck—and it’s usually at the beginning of a chapter, I keep on going sketching out scenes or dialogue even if I don’t use them. This gets the juices going and then once I have a few sentences on the page, the rest falls into place. I also call on my genie and tell her to get right on over here since I’m ready and she should be too. She usually cooperates, sometimes reluctantly, but she eventually gets to me.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK FROM CHILDHOOD?
My father used to make up stories to tell to the children in our family. The stories were never the same when retold. But they were fascinating and got better with each telling. One was Rachel and the Dokes. A Doke was a part Doe and part Oak—actually a clothes tree that came alive to give Rachel a hard time. And then there was the story of the Cayoodle, a combination of Coyote and Poodle. When I learned to read, I looked for books that had the same kind of magic. Those books were Alice in Wonderland and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. My favorite author as an adult is Charles Dickens and of his works, Pickwick Papers, Hard Times and Great Expectations are my favorites.
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