I am thrilled to have been invited to participate in the “Death & Damages” box set anthology with a stable of talented bestselling authors like the one you are about to meet.
These amazing writers have graciously agreed to let my blog readers share in an exclusive interview AND get a sneak peek at the book they have contributed to the Death & Damages box set – 25 stories for 99 cents!
Today, we sit down with Aime Austin, author of Qualified Immunity.
DAN: Tell my readers briefly about the story you are contributing to the Death & Damages anthology. What inspired your story?
AIME AUSTIN: Qualified Immunity is the story of one mother’s battle against a foster care system.
That’s always an engaging subject that pulls at the heart strings.
What inspired the story?
Right after law school I worked as a guardian ad Litem. My job was to advocate for abused, neglected, and dependent children in Cuyahoga County, Ohio which included the city of Cleveland and surrounding suburbs.
Truth in fiction, eh? How long of a piece is it?
Qualified Immunity is about 350 pages, a good sized novel that will keep you turning the pages long into the night.
Tell me a little bit about you. Where do you do your writing?
I travel a lot, so I write where I am. I spend some of the year in Los Angeles, and the rest in Budapest (where I am now). I have a desk everywhere I go and get to writing at it almost daily.
What does writing success look like to you?
Touching readers with my stories. Those emails that I get where people tell me I’ve described their life or that they’ve learned something are the best.
Do you ever collaborate with others?
Nope. I’m a total introvert so I like to be alone much of the day. The same can be said of my writing projects. I have a distinct vision that I want to execute.
Tell me a little bit about your process. What is the path from idea to finished story? Do you use critique partners? Do you have a favorite editor?
In the Casey Cort series, I’m following the work and home life of my heroine, Casey. She’s a young lawyer in Cleveland who’s had a string of bad luck. Despite that she almost always does the right thing in a world where few follow that example.
In every book, Casey has a case or dilemma that she has to figure out. My process is to sit and type from chapter one to the end.
These look great! I love the look of the series.
What do you do for your cover? It’s always hard to find a good cover – like yours. How do you find yours, or the artwork?
I’m lucky to have found a wonderful designer. Though she doesn’t normally work on thrillers, we talked and she created a distinctive look that reflects my series.
What about your blurb and tagline? What is your process for arriving at a really killer tagline and then a blurb that makes readers want to buy the book?
One thread pulled, everything unravels…is the tagline for Qualified Immunity.
Yeah, that’s good.
One teacher calls CPS (fairly or not is up to the reader to decide) and it’s starts a chain of events that can’t be stopped.
That, too. Nice job!
* EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PREVIEW *
October 6, 2001
Twelve-year-old Olivia Grant never knew what she was going to encounter when she went home. It was always best if she tackled it alone. She squirmed in the center of the third-row seat of the ginormous SUV. Hugging herself, she prayed silently that her friends wouldn’t see anything more than her front door.
“So who do you like, Olivia?” Cate Byers leaned around the bucket seat. Blue eyes illuminated by a passing street light met hers.
Beth Fogle shifted so that she too was looking at Olivia. “Yeah, who? Maybe he even likes you back.”
Olivia ducked her head, both embarrassed and thrilled to be talking to girls that she’d watched from afar for weeks—enjoying the popularity-by-association conferred by her budding friendship with Cate.
Beth’s singsong voice rose above a whisper. “I know who she likes.”
“Who? Who? How do you know?” Cate asked, straining against the seatbelt.
“I bet she likes Marquis Chapman,” Beth pronounced.
“No, I don’t like Marquis,” Olivia said. Overcome by a sudden need to share confidences with these girls, she blurted out, “I like Jon Heath.”
Beth and Cate shared a look. “Jon Heath?” Beth flicked her long blond hair, laughing as she turned back in her seat. “He’ll never go out with you.”
Mortification stole Olivia’s voice. She smoothed her hands through hair the beautician had spent an hour straightening. Was it because she wasn’t super skinny? She wasn’t as pretty as Beth, but she wasn’t ugly either.
Cate leaned toward Beth and whispered something Olivia couldn’t hear over the sound of fat tires swishing across wet pavement. When the car stopped at the light where the Chagrin, Van Aken, and Warrensville Center streets met, the car was quiet. Beth’s whispered response came through loud and clear.
“Besides, if they had kids, they’d be striped like zebras.”
Olivia’s heart squeezed like it was locked in the vice grip of a small fist. She would never fit in.
“Girls, that’s enough,” Mrs. Byers said, pressing on the gas. Shaker Heights was devoid of traffic tonight. Low-slung, two- and three-story brick buildings stood stoic on the side of the street. The earlier rain had cleared, but Olivia couldn’t see a single star to wish on through the overcast sky.
Mrs. Byers cleared her throat loudly. “Olivia, Sheila and I must have gotten our signals crossed,” she said, silencing the other girls once and for all. “Your mom, she’s a judge now, isn’t she?” she continued, as if trying to redeem Beth’s earlier slight. “You must be so proud of her. She’s gone so far. I’d love to be a career woman like your mother, but I’ve dedicated my life to my kids,” she finished, watching Olivia in the rearview mirror. Olivia met Mrs. Byers’ sincere blue eyes, and looked away, embarrassed. Nothing Mrs. Byers could say would make her anything but the odd black girl out.
For a few short hours, she’d been one of the gang. Then her mom hadn’t come to pick her up after dinner. Embarrassed didn’t even begin to describe how stupid she felt waiting in that damp, chilly Benihana parking lot for more than a half hour, praying every car that passed was her mother. After the waiters came out, a sure sign the restaurant was closing, Mrs. Byers had said she was happy to drive Olivia home. It was on the way.
Olivia turned to look out the window. She’d never be like these girls. Beth was the leader of the second most popular clique at the school. After being invited to Cate’s birthday party tonight, she’d hoped to be elevated to a higher status.
She shook her head, mumbling prayers to herself again. Her mom was at home. It wasn’t like she ever went out or anything. Her mom just watched endless hours of television on the white couch, in the white living room of their two-bedroom apartment—then went to bed. The pattern never changed. Usually Olivia was right there with her. The one night she decided to go out….
Mrs. Byers interrupted her thoughts. “You’re on Latimore, right?”
Olivia nodded then spoke up, giving her house number. They were getting close to her neighborhood, Lomond. While Cate, Beth, and most of the cool kids lived in the northeast neighborhoods of Shaker, Olivia and her mom lived south of the Blue Line—one of the two light rail lines that bisected Cleveland and Shaker Heights. The other kids all lived in ‘century’ houses—historic homes built at the turn of the century north of the light rail.
Olivia hated living on the other side of the tracks in a neighborhood filled with newer two and three family homes, cleverly disguised by their architects to look like single family structures. School was full of lessons about Pride! and Self-esteem! Olivia tried to feel good about where she lived, and not compare herself to the other kids. But on nights like this she was left wanting.
The SUV got closer to her house. Practiced, Olivia started giving directions.
“Here.” She pointed and leaned forward in the car’s darkened interior. “You have to make a left on to Lynnfield Road, then swing a right on to Newell, then a left on Latimore.” During their short residence in Shaker, Olivia had given directions to other moms when her mother ‘forgot’ to pick her up. At twelve going on thirteen, she was already quite familiar with the city’s winding streets. “We’re the third house on the right.”
Olivia stepped between Cate and Beth and opened the large back door of the SUV. Mrs. Byers turned to face her. “It was so nice finally meeting you, Olivia. I always like to meet Cate’s new friends. Tell your mom I look forward to finally meeting her at Mommies and Muffins on Friday.”
Mommies and Muffins. Not likely, Olivia thought. Her mom’s job always came first. “Thanks for the ride,” she said. Cate and Beth waved through the open door.
Mrs. Byers started fingering the keys as if she were going to turn off the engine. Instead she set the truck’s parking brake apparently intending to wait for Olivia to get inside safely. Olivia balked. “Oh, you don’t have to wait for me. I’m just going inside right here,” Olivia said pointing toward the brightly lit front door.
“You kids think you’re all grown up.” Mrs. Byers gave a knowing smile, her teeth flashing white in the soft glow of the dozen tiny interior lights. “Hope to see you soon.”
Olivia jumped from the running board, slammed the door, and ran up the slippery front walk toward the faux Tudor style building. The SUV pulled away from the curb, and Olivia breathed a sigh of relief.
She searched for her keys in all the pockets of her purple nylon Kipling backpack. She felt around and found the furry gorilla charm that sucked its own thumb, but no keys.
“Shit,” she whispered fiercely, then covered her foul mouth with her hands. The memory hit her squarely between the eyes. She’d left the keys in her room because her mom had promised to pick her up tonight. Looking up at the second floor living room window, the bulb of a single lamp glowed. Hope burgeoned in her chest. Maybe her mom was awake. Olivia rang the doorbell, pressing and holding the button for long seconds, praying she didn’t wake up the landlords downstairs.
She stood for what felt like hours, alternatively ringing the doorbell and listening for the sound of her mother’s uneven footfalls on the stairs. But her mom didn’t come. Olivia walked down the cracked asphalt driveway to the back door. Ineffectually, she pulled and twisted the knob. It was locked as well. She came round front again.
Panicked, sweat broke out everywhere as Olivia considered her options. She could walk back the way they’d come, down Chagrin to the gas station at the huge five-street intersection at the end of the Blue Line and call her mom, if she could find a working pay phone. Looking around the darkened street, hearing the wet leaves of the towering maples and oaks shake in the wind, she shivered. Not a good idea.
Olivia studied the front door. It was wood with large decorative glass inserts. She could see the dead bolt, which held the door locked, through the panes. Without a second thought, Olivia took off her jacket, balled it around her fist, and broke one of the eight squares in the door. The shards of glass were surprisingly quiet as they hit the hallway runner. Reaching in, she turned the lock, walked inside, and ran up the stairs.
Grateful to find the door to their apartment unlocked, Olivia pushed it open quietly. Her mom was snoring loudly, splayed out on the couch. The television blared the nightly news theme. It took a few seconds of searching to find the remote, but a satisfying silence fell when she stabbed the red off button. With a sigh, she pulled a blanket over her mom and then went to bed.
About The Author
Aime Austin is the author of smart women’s fiction. Her compelling stories are boldly told, designed to keep readers turning the pages. Whether you’re reading romantic women’s fiction written as Sylvie Fox or The Casey Cort Series of legal thrillers, she wants you to enjoy the heroine’s journey.
Before turning to writing full time, Aime practiced law for nearly a decade.
She splits her time between Los Angeles and Budapest, where she enjoys yoga, knitting, farm-to-table cooking, and life with her family. When she’s not writing, her nose is stuck in a book.
Connect with Aimee
Gang, please join me in thanking Aime for sharing these authorly insights with us.
Click HERE to order your copy of Death & Damages TODAY and read the rest of this great story when it is released in the Death & Damages boxed set!
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Danger lurks around every corner as these courageous cops, adventurous agents, and daring detectives hunt for the answers to stop the crimes by vicious killers.
But what if the damage is already done?
Inside these pages, you’ll find 25 adventures full of captivating conundrums, hair-raising homicides, and suspenseful secrets from today’s USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling and award-winning authors.
Become a private investigator yourself when you inspect plots of deadly assassins, cold-blooded killers, and bone-chilling suspense inside the pages of DEATH AND DAMAGES, an enthralling mystery and thriller boxed set.
Fans of Lee Child, James Patterson, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and John Grisham will devour these puzzling mysteries and gripping thrillers.
Including Stories From…
- New York Times bestselling author Patricia Loofbourrow
- USA Today bestselling author Pauline Creeden
- USA Today bestselling author John Ling
- Award-Winning author Alexa Padgett
- Siera London
- USA Today bestselling author Shereen Vedam
- Multi-Award-Winning author, Deborah Shlian
- USA Today bestselling author Kelly Hashway
- USA Today bestselling author JB Michaels
- Maggie Carpenter
- USA Today bestselling author Tiana Laveen
- Angela Sanders
- Award-Winning author Karen M. Bryson
- Aime Austin
- Lisa B. Thomas
- USA Today bestselling author Fiona Quinn
- Kerry J Donovan
- Jane Blythe
- Bestselling author Dan Alatorre
- USA Today bestselling authors Muffy Wilson and Dariel Raye
- Ja’Nese Dixon
- USA Today bestselling author Terry Keys
- Bill Hargenrader
- Wall Street Journal bestselling author Judith Lucci
- Award-Winning author Maria Grazia Swan