- Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana
Manning Wolfe will be joining Billy Kring and Martin Limón for a panel discussion about using your professional experiences to craft great crime fiction on Tuesday, July 12th, at 7 PM. Her debut novel features Austin attorney Merit Bridges. Meike Alana was able to ask her a few questions about the book and her characters before the event.
Meike Alana: Your character, Merit Bridges, is an attorney living in Austin. You’re an attorney living in Austin. What other similarities are there between you and Merit? What are some differences?
Manning Wolfe: Merit and I share a sense of justice, which is probably what brought both of us to the practice of law. We both fight for the underdog and champion women. I am not Merit, however; she is a hybrid of several lawyers – both female and male – that I’ve known over the years. She sleeps with younger men, wears designer gowns on a regular basis, and is chased by dangerous villains. I’m not nearly that glamorous.
MA: Betty is one of my favorite characters in the book—the combination of “tough as nails” yet “motherly/grandmotherly” is intriguing. What was your inspiration for her?
MW: Betty was named after my office manager of many years who passed away a few years ago. The character is an amalgamation of the real Betty, two of my Aunts, and the quintessential Texas prairie woman who had to be stronger than steel to survive.
“Merit sleeps with younger men, wears designer gowns on a regular basis, and is chased by dangerous villains. I’m not nearly that glamorous.”
MA: Merit’s son is dyslexic and the reader learns a lot about the challenges faced by people with this type of learning disability. I’m guessing that was intentional; can you tell us a little bit more about why you chose to include this?
MW: My son Aaron, on whom Merit’s son Ace is based, is dyslexic. Having parents who love to read and being reading challenged is very difficult for a young man. Fortunately, there is help and both Aaron and Ace are now excellent readers. It is very expensive to hire the professionals necessary to remediate reading skills, and there were times when Aaron’s monthly school tuition cost more than my mortgage. Not every parent can afford what’s needed, and the public schools do not have the personnel to provide complete services.
I hope to bring awareness to the different programs available for dyslexics. Two special places here in Austin are Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic: http://www.tsbvi.edu/national-agenda/2226-recording-for; and
The Texas State Library Association Talking Book Program: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/tbp/index.html. Each has a different focus, the former records textbooks, manuals, etc. and the later focuses on fiction and non-fiction.
MA: When Merit’s personal safety is threatened, she has to decide whether to purchase a gun. Merit is conflicted about the decision, and firearm ownership is a political hot button these days. You do a great job presenting all sides of this issue. Can you tell us how you developed your strategy for telling this part of the story?
MW: I didn’t think I could truthfully write a story set in Texas where a character’s life is threatened without including guns – it just wouldn’t be authentic. Merit does struggle with the decision about buying a gun because I wanted to emphasize the importance of being conscious in making the decision about a gun purchase. Most of us in Texas grow up with guns all around us, and, for most people it’s an automatic purchase at a certain point to add a firearm to one’s assets. My goal was to show the uses and misuses of firearms without preaching or even giving my personal opinion. I hope it is an organic part of the story.
MA: What’s next for Merit?
MW: Merit discovers dark secrets in the Austin music scene that endanger her life. In the process she takes on a Bigwig in the music industry after a washed up down-and-out musician is found floating dead in Lady Bird Lake.
Come by the store Tuesday, July 12th, at 7 PM, for a panel discussion with Manning Wolfe, Martin Limón, and Billy Kring. You can find copies of Wolfe’s debut, Dollar Signs, on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.