After fleeing the crush of a partnership at a large Chicago criminal-defense firm and the humiliation of a professional breakdown, Devlin Winters just wants to be left alone with a couple sundowners on the deck of her dilapidated mahogany trawler on Galveston Bay. But when an old flame shows up on the boardwalk with a mysterious little boy in tow and an indictment on his heels, fate has other plans, and Devlin finds herself thrust onto a sailboat bound for St. Kitts and staring down her demons in the courtroom, as she squares off against an obsessed prosecutor with a secret of his own.
Sage Webb practiced criminal defense for over a decade before turning to fiction. She is the author of two novels and the recipient of numerous literary awards in the U.S. and U.K., including second place in the Hackney Literary Awards. Her short stories have appeared in Texas anthologies and literary reviews. In 2020, Michigan’s Mackinac State Historic Parks named her an artist in residence. She belongs to International Thriller Writers and PEN America, and lives with her husband, a ship’s cat, and a boat dog on a sailboat in Galveston Bay.
Q&A with Sage Webb
What was the inspiration for this book?
The Venturi Effect springs from my own experience of moving to Texas to live on a small sailboat when I needed a change of scenery, and from fraud cases in the federal criminal-justice system—not cases I’ve been involved with, but interesting cases for which I’ve read judicial opinions and pleadings. With most of my writing, I like to stay pretty “true to life.” I agree with those who recognize the limits of “writing what you know,” but I still see “writing what you know” as providing a solid springboard for making stories.
What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?
I consider myself lucky. I write full time. Now, most of what I write isn’t that interesting at all; it’s legal or commercial . . . and it’s pretty dry. It’s still writing, though, so I get to work on style, usage, brevity, even typography, every day. But this immersion in the written word (and in my laptop!) also means I don’t get a break. And this lack of a “break,” and the constant specter of deadlines, are the hardest parts of writing for me. There are days when I’d like to have a job working with people, or that involves doing concrete tasks that have marked starting and finishing points. With writing (in any genre or discipline), it sometimes feels like I can go on and on (alone) forever and never have the piece truly finished or polished, like there’s always one more tweak I could give it. So in that sense, the other hard part—the deadlines—does its job. The deadlines provide an end point, at least. But it can be really (like really, really) hard to juggle them. I blame deadlines (when actually it’s lupus) for my hair falling out!
What do you absolutely need while writing?
My laptop. That’s it. Because of those hard parts—the deadlines and the constant presence of the work—I’ve trained myself to write “wherever, whenever, however.” When we go on roadtrips, my husband will drive, and I’ll open up my laptop and write. If I’m choosing ideal circumstances, however, I’ll choose any situation that puts a majestic, judgmental cat close at hand.
Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?
For fiction, I write when time allows. I don’t have a routine; it’s simply a matter of working around other deadlines and commitments. When things slow down a little on the commercial/legal front, I’ll settle into a story. Sometimes I’ll feel inspired, and sometimes things will feel flatter, but either way, I’ll try to dig in. As a rule, I aim to work on one book at a time, but sometimes (like right now), I’ll have multiple book-length projects in the hopper.
Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Assistant U.S. Attorney Xavier Charles. Perhaps he’s a little misguided at times, but he has his ideals and he tries to live up to them. He works hard, he tries hard, and he wants to be committed to things he cares about. I’d totally take him out for a cup of tea and debate him. Plus I adore his cats!
Who is your least favorite character from your book and why?
Viggo Bryson seems like the natural choice, but honestly, I think it’s Nils. Sometimes, Nils just seems kind of passive or pococurante for me. He kind of lets his life sweep him along, rather than living intentionally. His parents and brother have given him money at various times. He has allowed himself to get caught up in his brother’s tomfoolery. He loves Devlin, but he let her go when they were younger, and then, when she comes back into his life, he kind of fails to pursue her properly.
Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?
Most of the details are authentic. The legal citations, the potential sentences for fraud offenses, the fraud scheme itself, the boat banter . . . all that is realistic. Writing the in-court dialogue, I would sometimes pull up publicly available transcripts of proceedings to review attorneys’ and judges’ diction and get into an authentic flow. But the part about Devlin jumping into the water in the storm is pure fiction. An experienced sailor would never do that. And for good reason. No good is going to come of that. I’ve jumped off boats in nice weather, in protected bays, for fun . . . just messing around . . . and it’s really hard to swim fully clothed, especially in shoes, and it’s really, really hard for the person steering the boat to keep track of someone in the water. That whole storm scenario involves a lot of poetic license.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Write reviews! Please! Reviews help authors sell books. They also provide valuable feedback on so many levels, and they help the publishing industry as a whole grow and better cater to consumer preferences. Tell authors and publishers what you think about the books you read: what you think matters a lot!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Devlin and I share some background. We both practiced criminal defense in the Midwest, and we both moved to Texas to get a change of scenery (though I decidedly did not break down and take my dog’s tramadol). Like Devlin and the Brysons, I raced small sailboats as a kid, and like them, I’ve sailed in Chicago. Now, my husband and I live on a forty-foot sailboat in a marina off Galveston Bay. We spend our weekends at anchor with our boat dog.
What’s next that we can look forward to?
Devlin, the Bryson brothers, and Xavier will return in 2021 in The Cult of Mammon. This second book in the series presents a darker web of fraud, while weaving in a little Civil War history and taking readers to Hawaii and California.
Then on a more personal level, I’ve got a travel narrative in the works, covering a span when I was ranging through Texas in a 15’ travel trailer in an attempt to do the adult equivalent of “running away to join the circus.”
For short stories, this past summer, I was honored to be an artist in residence for Michigan’s Mackinac State Historic Parks on Mackinac Island and spent three weeks outlining a story collection to celebrate the island. The final manuscript is due August 2021 and will include some light-hearted pieces, some flash fiction, some historical pieces. . . . Basically, it will showcase this delicious time warp in Lake Huron where cars have no place and every summer feels like 1890.
You can find Sage at:
www.sagewebb.com, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!
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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Sage Webb. There will be Fourteen (14) winners for this tour. Seven (7) winners will each receive a $15 Amazon.com Gift Card and Seven (7) winners will each receive a physical copy of The Venturi Effect by Sage Webb (US addresses only). The giveaway begins on November 1, 2020 and runs through January 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.