Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Please Welcome Novelist Mari Passananti

Omnimystery News: Author Interview
with Mari Passananti

We are delighted to welcome novelist Mari Passananti to Omnimystery News today.

Mari's second novel is the political thriller The K Street Affair (Rutland Square Press, January 2013 trade paperback).

We recently had a chance to talk to Mari about her new book.

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Omnimystery News: When you began writing The K Street Affair, did you consider that it might be the first of a series?

Mari Passananti
Photo provided courtesy of
Mari Passananti

Mari Passananti: The K Street Affair started as a stand-alone, but most of my beta readers told me they wanted to know what's next for Lena. I've started drafting a sequel. Lena and some other key characters will re-appear. Others won't, as they've been killed or sent to prison.

OMN: The "K Street" in the title suggests this is a political thriller. Would you agree?

MP: I'd rather go with suspense novel. But is it okay to say I hate labels? Like Jennifer Weiner said last week, I write fiction. Labels exist so booksellers can organize their stores. I especially hate the ridiculously broad label women's fiction, though it's the fairest characterization of my first book, The Hazards of Hunting while Heartbroken (though a crime occurs in that novel too). Just as YA seems to include any novel with an adolescent protagonist, women's fiction swallows up all the books with female main characters.

OMN: You are an attorney, as is your character, Lena. Coincidence?

MP: I worked as an associate in a large law firm and as a headhunter with one of the country's largest legal search firms. I understand how large law firms work, and I know how it feels to be the junior person on a big project, which is Lena's role when we meet her.

OMN: Tell us about your writing process.

MP: I'm a pantster who keeps failing to reform. But I'm trying, because I think reform would be in the best interest of my career. Outliners tend to write faster. Working part-time, basically only while my son is at pre-school, I can write a good first draft in six to nine months. So I see room for personal improvement there.

When I start writing, I always have the ending mapped out. The route from start to finish changes during the writing and editing process, and I write myself into corners on occasion. I'm attempting to outline the sequel to The K Street Affair now. We'll see how it goes.

OMN: How do you go about fact-checking your story?

MP: In a word, obsessively. The Internet is invaluable, and I'm a voracious reader. I can email experts, and look random things up (such as the cruising altitude of a Lear Jet or the way an offshore blocker company works) without dragging my kid to the library, where he'd keep trying to bolt to the kids' section.

OMN: We're fans of adaptations of novels and always like to ask, who do you see playing Lena — or any other character — in the film version of The K Street Affair?

MP: Dare to dream …

Natalie Portman as Lena
Jude Law as Mikhail
Leonardo DiCaprio as Max
Ed Harris as Henry Redwell
Ryan Gosling as Damien
Kevin Spacey as William Acheson
Johnny Depp as Volodya Korov
Dustin Hoffman as Randolph Smerth
Mila Kunis as the agent known only as Katya
George Clooney as Jack Prescott
Tilda Swinton as Evelyn Peabody

Is this film over budget yet?

OMN: The K Street Affair obviously takes place in Washington D.C. How important is the setting to the storyline?

MP: I try to be true to the geography and local environment. The K Street Affair takes place in major cities. Making up locations and tinkering with the geography might interrupt the flow of the story to readers familiar with DC and Moscow. Both cities are power centers. The novel deals with the wielding of political influence, so neither was an accidental choice.

OMN: Tell us what kinds of books you read as a child.

MP: My tastes were eclectic, even as a kid.

I think I read every word Judy Blume ever wrote. She's fantastic. It's as if she remembers exactly what it's like to be an awkward pre-teen, and she never glossed over the meaty or icky stuff.

I read all the Black Stallion novels, all the Nancy Drew mysteries, and lots of James Herriot.

I liked stories about women having adventures. In my early teens, I devoured the Clan of the Cave Bear series and the biography of Isak Dinesen.

OMN: What are your hobbies? Do they find a way into your books?

MP: I love to travel, and I have to stop myself from sending my characters on too many journeys.

I love horses, though we live in the city so having one isn't in the cards at the moment. I wouldn't rule out putting a horse in a future book. So far my heroines have had friends with cats, which I admit is a poor showing, since I'm such an animal lover.

I also adore the outdoors, and I get weird and antsy if I don't get outside and/or get moving every day.

OMN: How do you engage with your current — and potential — readers?

MP: The million dollar question. I know I should always be doing more. If only I could get by on three hours of sleep a night, my career would be perfect.

I write a blog, The Little Grape, but it's not an "author blog" in the traditional sense.

By which I mean I don't write much about the usual author blog topics such as the writing life, my writing process or the publishing industry. Many sites, such as Writer Unboxed and Beyond the Margins, do a brilliant job with those topics and I don't feel the need to reinvent that particular wheel.

I write about raising my toddler, women's issues, politics and current events, and whatever else sparks my imagination. I'm not shy about my views, and I understand my forthrightness is both an asset and a liability.

I'm learning to tweet, but am still a bit of a fledgling at it.

OMN: You indicated you're a voracious reader. What authors do you most enjoy reading?

MP: My tastes are eclectic, though I read mostly fiction.

I love reading other lawyers who have become full time writers, regardless of genre. E.g., anything and everything from John Grisham to Emily Giffin. I recently finished Defending Jacob by William Landay.

I devour anything Margaret Atwood writes. She not only crafts gorgeous prose, she's a brilliant socio-political critic. And her villains are usually corporations or powerful political figures.

I'm a big fan of Allegra Goodman, perhaps because she often writes about smart, professional women who know something and have a tough time being heard.

On the cozier side, I love Alexander McCall Smith. He's just so damned charming.

OMN: You mentioned that a sequel to The K Street Affair is being outlined. Any other novels planned?

MP: I'm working on a new novel about a woman who abandons her legal career to follow her celebrated humanitarian husband to the developing world. If he works tirelessly to save countless children, but treats his own family abominably, is he still a great man? In aid to the developing world, do appearances matter more than results? Does modern marriage have room for two big, ambitious personalities, or does one partner always end up yielding?

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Mari Passananti has practiced law and worked in a major legal search firm. She always wanted to be a writer, and penned her first story at age six. It told the tale of a family with too many pets. To her dismay, she sold only one handwritten copy — to her parents.

A graduate of the University of Rhode Island and Georgetown University Law Center, Mari lives in Boston, where she divides her time between writing and trying to keep up with her toddler. Her other interests include reading, riding horses, skiing, traveling and rescuing dogs. She blogs about real life at The Little Grape.

You can learn more about Mari and her books on her website, MariPassanantiBooks.com.

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The K Street Affair by Mari Passananti

The K Street Affair
Mari Passananti

Hours after a crippling attack rocks Washington, D.C., Lena Mancuso, a talented young associate at one of the country's best law firms, finds federal agents at her door, bearing unbelievable news.

Lena's clients may have financed the murder of hundreds of civilians.

The FBI wants Lena's insider access to spy on her firm's high-profile roster of international clients, whose ranks include a disgraced K Street lobbyist, a flamboyant Russian oil baron and the future Saudi king - unlikely bedfellows linked by common interests in a massive multinational corporation. A corporation that seeks to control the world oil markets and install one of their own in the Oval Office.

Helping the FBI means Lena will endanger herself and everyone she loves, but refusing them feels unthinkable. Armed with a mix of smarts, intuition and grit she never knew she possessed, Lena will risk everything in a race to stop a catastrophic chain of events.

Amazon.com Print and/or Kindle Edition  Barnes&Noble Print Edition and/or Nook Book

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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