Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Complicit, and what compelled you to write it.
Author: Thank you for having me on your blog, Mayra. I am a fervent believer in the idea that people gain a lot of facts and perspectives from fiction. As a former director of a sexual assault services program and a voracious reader of crime fiction, I wanted to talk about the realities of sexual and interpersonal violence in a way that would help shed light on how victims react in the face of trauma and how the criminal justice system can both help and harm. I’m also very interested in writing about the motivation behind human behavior, always in the hope of creating more empathy in the world.
M.C.: What is your book about?
Author: Complicit takes place in a small town in New Mexico. Kate Medina, a former forensic psychologist, returns to her hometown after her mother dies and takes a job as a high school psychologist. When a student is killed, Kate is dragged into the investigation by her former best friend, Roman Aguilar, the lead homicide investigator.
M.C.: What themes do you explore in Complicit?
Author: Complicit looks at domestic human trafficking and misconceptions we (society) have about who the perpetrators of sexual assault actually are. We tend to think of strangers in a dark alley, but the truth is much more frightening. The book tackles the topics of difficult family relationships, secrets, avoidance, and the effects of trauma, while also exploring forgiveness, justice, and perseverance.
M.C.: Why do you write?
Author: I was lucky. I was raised by strong, beautiful women and I’ve been blessed to have courageous role models in my life. Not one of these women was perfect, but they were still heroic in my eyes. I write stories about women who struggle and juggle and don’t always choose the right path, but who keep fighting and working and growing.
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
Author: At night when the house is quiet and dark. I keep myself pretty busy and I have two kids so when everyone has finally gone to bed and all the distractions are gone, my imagination goes a little crazy. Thankfully I keep my phone nearby to take notes.
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
Author: I’m not terribly picky. I write in a very straightforward conversational voice and I don’t usually correct people’s grammar when they talk. Unless they use the word irregardless…in which case, steam starts coming out of my ears.
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
Author: Oh yes. Character is my happy place, and I feel like I’m constantly in a tug-of-war over what the character wants to do versus where I want the story to go. I’m not an outliner, so I might have a general idea of where we’re headed but I leave a lot of it up to my characters as they develop and change throughout the story.
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
Author: Sending a finished book out for the first round of reviews. By this point, they book has been read and re-read by me and countless others for months, but I always feel dread when I send it out. Imposter syndrome kicks in. I start thinking about what I’ll do in my next career. It’s both a ridiculous and comforting part of the process.
M.C.: Your best?
Author: When a reader gets exactly what I was trying to do in a book. I’m always hoping readers will enjoy my books, but I honestly love when someone resonates so deeply with a reader that they have to reach out and tell me all about it. Those moments feel like success.
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
Author: At this point, no. I mean, if I had to earn a bigger income, I might go back to having a day job. Or when I finally break down and go to law school, though I think I would still be writing through all of that. There are about a million things I want to do in my life so I may veer a bit, but it’s hard to imagine not writing along the way.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
Author: Opening up that first box and pulling out a real live paperback. That book smell and feel. That moment before the abject terror sinks in and you realize there’s a lot of work to do to get that book out of your hands and into someone else’s.
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
Author: Not writing itself. I love to write, but the obsession is with the research and the characters. I’ve always been this way. When I worked as a marketing consultant, I became completely fixated on whatever product or service I was promoting. Industrial barcodes were my jam for a while. It’s the same with writing.
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
Author: Always. I love reading speculative fiction, but I can’t write it. When I set out to tell a story, it’s usually rooted very firmly in people and places I know. At least at first. People who know me well might suspect a thing or two from reading my work, but by the time the book is published, things have been twisted and mangled and contorted to fit the story.
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Thoughts?
Author: That’s about right. You have to really love writing because there will always be negative reviews and trolls and all sorts of challenges and obstacles that gnaw away at you. When you’re really in love, so to speak, with writing, it’s like armor that sees you through the hardest parts of the process. You can still get hurt, but you’ll survive.
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
Author: I do. My web address is www.amyrivers.com and I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Patreon, and sometimes Twitter. I love to hear from you so feel free to reach out!