When asked why she moved from California to South Florida, author Solange Ritchie’s response is blunt: “Two words: divorce and family.”
But that wasn’t the only drastic change Ritchie made. She changed her profession from attorney to full-time writer, embracing the uncertainty that it can sometimes bring.
“I see both careers as similar in many ways,” Ritchie said. “Perhaps that is why so many lawyers go on to become great novelists. The act of storytelling is in our blood. For me, after 20 years of being involved in heavy-duty litigation against monster-sized defense firms, I find writing novels suits the kinder, gentler pace of life in Florida.”
The Pembroke Pines resident was born in Jamaica to a Jamaican father and a French mother and immigrated to the United States at age 11. During her legal career in Southern California, she dealt with cases related to business, labor and employment law.
Fiction writing stemmed from a personal tragedy. When Ritchie was 37 years old, her first husband died due to gross medical negligence. As a result, she began writing creatively as a way to deal with the stress of his hospitalization and death. But in the process, she discovered that powerful women as main characters weren’t abundant in fiction, particularly in the genre of the thriller novel. Ritchie set off to write her own with her debut novel, “The Burning Man” and her character Dr. Catherine Powers, an FBI Special Investigator. Dr. Powers finds herself confronting a particularly perverted serial killer.
In her second book, “Firestorm,” Katherine Powers returns to deal not with one, but two criminals who join forces to carry out a bloody killing spree. While this book is slightly more fast-paced than the first one in the series, “Firestorm” maintains an edgy plot not to mention an appealing sexual tension between Dr. Powers and her occasional partner, Detective Jim McGregor.
Ritchie, who appears Saturday to sign her book in Delray Beach, seeks to explore with her novels the double standard and sexual harassment of women in the workplace, along with the constant dichotomy that women face between family and career. She answered questions via email.
You wrote your character Dr. Catherine Powers, as a response to a lack of powerful women as lead characters. Why do you think this is so?
In the thrillers and mystery genre, male lead characters seem to dominate as far as lead characters. Readers have become accustomed to the gumshoe, beer-drinking detective or the former military man who now finds himself with nothing to do but hunt down the bad guys. To me, these characters are stereotypes. I wanted a lead character who is different. A strong and capable woman, who is vulnerable at the same time. A character that has some depth to her personality. A character who quietly fights her own inner demons and struggles with her own inner doubts. A compassionate woman. A woman with morals, and a character with a little bit of ESP.
‘Firestorm’ is your second novel. Is it easier to write or more challenging?
I would say ‘Firestorm’ was easier to write than ‘The Burning Man.’ After a certain amount of time, as a writer, you develop a style that you feel comfortable with – a style that is true to your soul. For instance, when I am writing about a deranged killer, I repeat the same phrases over and over as far as the killer’s thoughts. Why? Because this is how an obsessive mind works. For some readers and some critics, they don’t seem to get it. But it works for me and makes sense to me. I think you have to trust your instincts as a writer. You can’t listen to the critics.
Why a thriller novel? Is there something about the genre that particularly appeals to you?
Yes. Mysteries and thrillers have always been what I like to read. As I child, I think I read every Agatha Christie novel. I guess it’s the idea of putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Thrillers tend to be fast-paced which fits my personality. I am a very driven, ambitious person. My mind thinks quickly. I am very decisive and a bottom-line type of individual. So I gravitate naturally to thrillers.
Your two main characters in ‘Firestorm’ seem to have that Mulder and Scully vibe. Did you envision it that way?
Yes and no. I was and remain a huge fan of ‘The X Files.’ I liked the idea of a male and female team working together to solve a crime. Without sounding sexist, I believe that men and women are gifted in different ways. Men see things differently than women. Women see things differently than men. I believe there is such a thing as “women’s intuition.” So having a man and woman team seemed like a natural way to have the best of both worlds. I can see the similarities to Mulder and Scully. I consider that a compliment. Thank you.
When can we expect book 3?
Books 3 and 4 in the Dr. Catherine Powers series are written.
Book 3 is called ‘Slayer.’ It deals with a dirty international law firm in Fort Lauderdale involved in sex trafficking, drug sales, and a whole host of other crimes. When former employees of the firm are found dead in the Florida Everglades, Cat is called in to get to the bottom of what going on. As the law firm’s secrets are exposed, Cat is tasked with bringing down “The Operation” and bringing the firm’s partners to justice. I have someone in New York looking at book 3 now, so the time frame depends on what happens with their decision.
Book 4 is called Bomb Blast. In it, a team of Syrian-born bombers engage in taking out “soft targets” across the United States. I have the bare bones concepts for books 5 and 6 but they have not been written.
Being a lover of ghosts and “things that go bump in the night,” I have just started writing a Southern Gothic novel set in St. Augustine about a young girl who comes into possession of a cursed silver box. The working title is ‘Fiona’s Box.’ I may publish is as a full novel or a novella. Only time will tell.
IF YOU GO
Murder on the Beach bookstore, 273 Pineapple Grove Way (NE 2nd Ave.), Delray Beach
7 p.m., May 19
Information: 561-279-7790 or murderonthebeach.com