Crime fiction author Aime Austin joins us on the podcast this week to talk about her Casey Cort Legal Thrillers series and how she develops compelling legal mysteries through multiple points of view. Aime recently rebranded her entire series and tells us how and why she decided it was time to rebrand and what that process was like, and we also discuss her new podcast, A Time to Thrill, and how her real life experience as a lawyer influenced her writing career.
- Aime talks to us about her road from practicing lawyer to author of legal thrillers, and how her time working in an unjust legal system inspired a lot of the cases her protagonist encounters
- She explains how she creates the multiple narrators for her books, how she develops these unique voices, and what inspired her to tell her stories through multiple points of view
- Aime tells us about the challenges and responsibilities that come with tackling darker subject matter in her novels, and she tells us what the reader response has been like and how she keeps herself from becoming too affected while researching these difficult topics
- She discusses how motherhood has impacted her writing and her writing routine, how it taught her to create realistic writing goals and embrace flexibility, and she tells us how her writing process changed during the pandemic
- Aime talks about her road to indie publishing and she explains that while it wasn’t always her plan, she knows she has managed to reach more readers by publishing indie than she would have through a traditional publisher
- Aime discusses the recent rebranding of her series, why she decided it was time to give her series new covers and titles, and what that process was like for her
- She tells us about her current and upcoming projects, including her podcast A Time to Thrill and a spin-off series, and she talks about how these projects came to fruition
A Time to Thrill Podcast
Follow Aime on Instagram
The Casey Cort Series
The Teenage Brain
What Happened to You
Marc Maron WTF
Best Book Ever
What Came Before He Shot Her
The Lincoln Lawyer
Aime Austin is the author of the Casey Cort Crime Fiction Series. Casey is almost always in trouble. Aime’s full time job? Rescuing her. Good thing Aime’s got experience. She practiced family and criminal law in Cleveland, Ohio for several years—so she has the skills for the job.
When Aime isn’t rescuing Casey from herself, she’s hosting the podcast, A Time to Thrill, raising her son or traveling between Budapest and Los Angeles.
Transcript provided by Speechpad
Rachel: Hello and welcome to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast, where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts, I’m Rachel, the author engagement coordinator for Kobo Writing Life.
Joni: And I’m Joni, author engagement specialist at “Kobo Writing Life.” On today’s episode, we’re talking to Aime Austin, who is the author of the Casey Cort legal thriller series. Aime is a former lawyer who practiced family & criminal law in Cleveland, Ohio for several years. So, she knows what she’s talking about.
When there’s not a global pandemic, she is traveling between Budapest and Los Angeles. She is based in both places, and she also has her own podcast.
Rachel: We spoke to Aime about her Casey Cort series, which she recently rebranded with new titles and covers. We spoke to her about that process. We talked to her about how she writes her books, which contain multiple points of view, and she creates mysteries without actually plotting them, which I find fascinating. And we spoke to her about her podcast, “A Time To Thrill,” and we asked her what her favorite guilty pleasure book is. And Joni, what’s your favorite guilty pleasure book?
Joni: Okay, like I don’t feel guilty or embarrassed about this at all that I really love “Valley of the Dolls.” It is my favorite, like garbage book. It’s super readable. It’s so campy and ridiculous, like the most absurd things happen in it, but it is such a good read. And if you haven’t read it, that should be your summer book beach read, highly recommend. Rachel, what is yours?
Rachel: Like you, I don’t feel guilty about this at all. I have no shame about this. I am proud of this, in fact. I have read every novelization of Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series.
Joni: So it is just very on-brand for you, Rachel.
Rachel: Thank you very much. I’m happy my brand is strong. Anyways, we had a great time talking to Aime and we hope you enjoy the interview.
Joni: So, we are here today with Aime Austin. Thank you so much for coming on, Aime.
Aime: Thank you so much for having me.
Joni: Can you start by telling our listeners a little bit about yourself and about the kind of books that you write?
Aime: So, as Aime Austin, I write, what I would call legal thrillers with crime fiction. I’ve written 10 but the ninth one… This is… I always lose track this way, but the ninth one is releasing…it’s May 24th and it’s crime fiction with a protagonist, name is Casey Cort. She is a lawyer who had a hard time. So, she hangs in, she’s single; She is self-employed from it as a solo practitioner and she runs into a lot of situations.
But mainly, it’s not a murder mystery. Somebody actually recently asked me that. So, in the first book, she is representing a judge whose daughter has been lost to foster care. And then the second one is about judicial corruption, they’re sex trafficking, that kind of thing. So she runs into those kinds of situations. And the tenth book, actually I just finished writing, but won’t be out until September. It’s her first murder case, and it’s actually my first murder mystery writing.
Rachel: I was going to say that’s fun, but saying that’s fun about murder is bizarre.
Aime: But it’s been an interesting… I never wrote, well, okay, so I don’t plot books. So, that’s its own problem. So, I decided that there was going to be this murder and then halfway through I realized that I was going to have to solve the murder as well, and that was more difficult. It was like putting together a puzzle. I had to like, actually get a big board and figure out who did it, and the murder timeline and all of that, and that was new.
Rachel: So, based on other interviews that I’ve listened to with you, you were a lawyer, correct?
Rachel: Was that kind of your inspiration for the character of Casey, and how did you go from practicing law to writing legal thrillers?
Aime: So, I will say this. I went to law school I think under parental pressure because it would not have been my choice, but there was a lot of… My mom went to graduate school. She took off, let’s say…she started when I was five. So, maybe she took off like 10 years between undergrad and grad school. And she really felt pained by that and felt that it really held back her career. So, there was a huge push to go to graduate school immediately after.
So, I majored in English and I wanted to be like a writer like Studs Terkel. I wanted to do like narrative non-fiction, but I got pushed. So, I went to law school and I practiced for a little while, but kind of quit to write, and it was actually depressing. So, I hung out a shingle not because, I mean there’s no…I didn’t cross a family, like I wasn’t banished, you know, in the Cleveland legal circles. I just did it.
And it was a little bit depressing. So, I did some of the kinds of cases that she did. Not nearly as dramatic, nobody, you know, lost their life, or I did not handle sex trafficking or anything nearly as fun. I don’t mean fun that way but fun interesting. I lived in Cleveland during a certain time where there was like a lot of corruption in the legal system, and for some reason, it really affected me, and I sort of wanted to write about that. And it was actually interesting going back.
So, I stopped practicing law years and years ago. Finally, in 2008, but that was in California, but one of the things that was interesting is that going back, a lot of the people who I had worked with, like went to jail. So, I feel a little vindicated, in the sense that, like I have a friend who…she has lived there as well, but she was an attorney in Cleveland as well. We had gone to college together.
And every so often I’ll call her or email. I’m like, “Oh, what happened to so and so?” She is like, “Oh my God, she got disbarred.” I’m like, “Oh, finally.” Or, “So and so,” I’m like, “What happened to him?” She was like, “Well, he went to jail.” I just was so affected by the corruption and it felt so normalized, and nobody ever said anything. And I was like so… There’s only one judge, for example, that handled domestic violence and divorce cases, and he had like a penchant for women wearing skirts and women wearing pink, and all of these. And unless women were like seriously battered or came in bruised, he didn’t seem to feel compelled to make orders. But he was the only one.
So, you know, even, and as an attorney, like I had a pink suit that I would wear, and I hate pink, but anyway. I had a pink suit that I would wear to go in front of him to try to like engender sympathy for my clients, but I didn’t feel what that was. I didn’t like that at all. And so I wrote about a lot of those things and it was similar with foster care.
There was a lot of… So women, for example, who gave birth in public hospitals were drug tested. The women who gave birth in private hospitals were not. So the poorer you were, the more likely you were for your children in different foster care, you know, in the LA. But I gave birth at home. Nobody asked me anything at all. But I think if I had given him birth in public hospital, I would have been subject to probably a lot more scrutiny.
Joni: That is grim.
Rachel: Yeah, I can see how you were a little bit disheartened by the legal system.
Aime: I guess maybe I was idealistic. I lived in New York City and then I moved to suburban Connecticut, and I went to like a private college in a private law school setting. I was probably in a bubble moreso, and you know, so I took on these cases because people said it was a good idea and it was great for the community and all that. I just had no idea, like I just had no idea, I mean I really didn’t.
And I think upon leaving, I did an interview for “The Plain Dealer,” which is the paper in Cleveland, talking about some of these things because it had come to light that the foster care system was completely unbalanced and was not fair in how they were doling out supervision of families, and the reunification process was kind of a nightmare as well because people would stay in foster care system forever and reunification was in theory, the goal, but was not always what really happened.
Joni: So you write about these kind of issues a lot in your book and I’m curious how heavily does…that’s a lot of responsibility to tell those stories, especially if they’re not own stories, like how do you tackle that and how has the response been from readers?
Aime: The reader response, it’s super interesting. One of the, I guess the main responses I get is, “I’m glad you’re telling me stories because they’re stories that are generally told.” So, they’re not nice stories specifically, but I did witness very similar things and so it’s fiction. So, it’s going to be dramatized because, you know, it’s kind of mundane, I mean the fact that some case took 15 months to wind its way to the system is not that interesting. And so obviously the timelines are usually compressed.
And even like I’ve gotten emails, well, I guess you would understand this, so obviously selling books on like Kobo, I get emails from people in Canada, as well as the UK, in English speaking countries mostly, and they talk about the system and where they are, and it’s not always dissimilar. So, that’s pretty interesting in terms of some of the other things like sex trafficking and all that.
I did some volunteer work in California when I first moved here around those issues, and when I am trying to pass statutes to try to limit sex trafficking, at least state-wide for, you know, children that came in with no sort of pedigree. But it’s more, I really want to, how can I say this, I feel that the stories of people who are victims of things like that don’t get told and it feels really important to tell those kinds of stories. There are other authors to do that and I do read them but it’s not the majority. A lot of crime fiction, more gruesome crimes, a lot of death, I guess, I want to say that.
Joni: Yeah, I think we talk about this on here a lot, but I think it’s one of the biggest, we get so sad that these, that we need to talk about this because it’s going on but at the same time I think that telling stories really humanizes what’s going on and makes people realize things where they might not know about. The more reading it in the newspaper, it comes across differently. So, I think it’s super important that you’re telling them. I’m so glad that you…it’s great to hear from readers, but I’m sad that it’s necessary. Does that makes sense?
Aime: Yes, it’s… Yes, I don’t know how to, yes, I agree with you. It is sad but it is interesting humanizing and I do get emails from readers, actually about two… So, in over 10 books, most of the victims are not children, I would say that, but in 2, they’re children. So one is a girl who goes in a foster care I think when she’s about 13, and one is a girl who is sex trafficked at 15, and I get a lot of emails from readers where they want to know what happened. And I don’t have a good answer because that’s not… I don’t know if there’s any kind of happy or good ending to that kind of severe trauma at that stage in one’s life.
Rachel: I just, I have to ask, sorry, if this is like really personal, but how does that affect you emotionally, like when you’re exploring these topics, like I imagine you do have to do some research around them and then how do you keep yourself from kind of like spiraling into a hole of just badness, and keep writing these books?
Aime: Oh I wish, sometimes I feel like it doesn’t affect me, but then sometimes maybe I’m crying. I think the hardest part is the trauma. So, I’ve been reading a lot more books about trauma lately and what I think I find is sad is that it’s really hard for the human brain to heal from trauma because of repeated abuse, the repeated whatever… How can I say this? The human brain gets used to repetition and if the repetition is good and everybody is loving and delightful, yeah, your life is far different than if the repetition is traumatic. And I think that’s the hardest part.
Lately, for some reason lately, that’s so, it saddens me a lot and I’ve been reading more and more books about neuroscience and the human brain just as a, I don’t know, a side note. Well, I started with reading books about being happy and the happiness, and retraining the brain for happiness and then it delved into trauma. So, I think I recently read The Teenage Brain, which is not that is more prescriptive about what to do when, because teenagers are constantly, you know, being influenced in how to sort of keep the influence more positive than negative, especially because the brain is not fully formed.
But I’ve also been reading books by an author named Bruce Perry. So he recently, he co-wrote a book with Oprah that was released last week or the week before called What Happened to You, and it talks about how people spend a lot of time asking what’s wrong with me and he said, “I think the very question is, what happened to you, because the trauma affects how you appear to other people.”
And then he also wrote a book that I read this week called “The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog,” and it talks about trauma in children, and he, like does, let’s say, six or seven case studies about trauma, but it’s pretty awful. I mean he talks about like a child who was left alone, like all day, like a baby. And it sort of delved into sociopathy because there’s no way for the brain to, without like human love and touch and all those things, it doesn’t go well.
But most people are not, it’s usually not that bad, but it’s still kind of awful that the brain, it’s very difficult to retrain the brain out of trauma and it has to be pretty deliberate, and most people are not making those kinds of deliberate actions toward healing.
Joni: Yeah, and I feel like we should say at this point for anyone listening that wants to read your book is that they’re not all. Like you’re dealing with heavy topics but they’re not. They’re still like page-turner thrillers.
Joni: Don’t be afraid to pick these books.
Aime: That’s true. I mean there’s light, and so Casey has like, she has a love life that’s always off the rails. She has a cat. She has neighbors. I mean she has a full life, and so usually, so each book is written, all but one actually, have three point-of-view characters. So it’s always Casey and then it’s the other people in life.
So, sometimes the other point of view characters are victims but sometimes they’re attorneys. So, they’re just different people who are involved in some process, and even the book that’s coming out now is actually about toxic tort. It’s about poison gas or poison water in this case. So, it’s not so traumatic.
Joni: Yeah, we wanted to ask you more about writing from the POV of multiple characters, like how do you go about creating those voices and how do you bring together one story with three narratives?
Aime: So, I’ve seen it many, many years ago. So I’ve been a voracious reader most of my life, but maybe in the late ’90s, I was really into Phillip Margolin. So, he’s a thriller writer. He doesn’t release as rapidly as he used to. Who was the first author I think I read who wove like multiple points of view and he’s had more than three, and you have to read like 10 chapters before you could figure out what’s going on and by the time you’ve got to like halfway to the book, you’re like, “Oh my God, here we go. Now, I’m into it.”
But it was a lot of disparate information that you had to pull together as a reader, and I thought that was a fascinating and brilliant way to tell stories because for me, one point of view character is not always enough because they have limited information. I mean any one person has limited information, even in police procedurals where they have to interview like lots and lots of people.
So Casey is the easiest, right, obviously because I’ve written her for like 10 books. So I know her super well. My son said, I mistakenly call her my friend sometimes. And I was like, “Oh you’re my friend, Casey.” He says, “Casey is not your friend, Mommy. Casey is not real.” So, I spend a lot of time with her in my head and thinking about her life and she’s had to make some choices about lots of different things.
The other characters, I have to, I think it’s just a matter of research and then a lot of time thinking and developing them in my head. So, since I don’t plot, it’s more sitting in my head. So, one of the things, I’m interested in a couple of different things now. One is like cyber stalking and the other is like the catholic priest abuse scandal.
So, what will end up happening, because I haven’t done it yet. I ask people for resources. People gave me ton of resources on it. I’ll probably spend several months reading about it and thinking about it, and then usually when exercising, or you know, showering or cooking, because that’s the things you do that I’m that physical, is when the ideas usually come to me, but I give it sometime to percolate. In the meantime I probably work on something else.
Rachel: Because you’re not a plotter, like you said, how do you kind of develop how the mystery’s going to unfold through three different voices. Do you kind of think it through, like do you have an idea in your head of where it’s going to go or do you just kind of giv’er and then go back and edit and figure out from there?
Aime: I sit and write, and I only edit three pages back. Okay, so there’s an author coach named Becca Syme, who has coached a whole bunch of people. I’m sure that you’ve heard of her. And I didn’t understand how it worked because I was talking to her on coaching. I was like, “I want to write faster. I want to do all these things,” and she was like, “What I think you don’t understand is that your brain is like working on it, just not in written form.”
So, I think that I usually, to be honest, like in the shower or biking or like lifting weights or doing Pilates or yoga or something, you know, then it comes to me and then I sit down and write it. But I sit down every day and I just write, and then how it works is some kind of magic that I don’t spend any time trying to figure out, like I was trying to figure it out. And at some point, I think she looked at me, the writing coach and she was like, “Is it working?” And I was like, “Sure.” She was like, “Then you don’t need any more information.”
Rachel: If it works, it works, right?
Aime: If it works, she’s like, “Leave it alone,” so that helps.
Joni: You’ve talked a little bit about how motherhood impacted your writing career. Is there anything you can tell us about? Like what was it like? How has it changed things for you, because it is a big change?
Aime: It changed things dramatically. I think the biggest mistake I made is I didn’t think it would change anything at all. So, for some reason, I thought I would just, I don’t know, have a baby and then just keep on trucking like the same way I had been before, and it was such a naïve thought. And actually my son asked me last night. We were, I don’t know, he likes to cuddle at night. He was like, “Did you expect motherhood to be this way?” And I thought, he’s 11, and I thought, “No.” And he said, “What did you not figure out?” I said, “I think I underestimated the time, like I just didn’t…”
So I wrote for…I’m trying to think how many years. I don’t know, maybe 10 years before he was born. And I was sort of publishing later but I was working on the first Casey Cort book for many years, took a long time to figure that out, how to write a book. And I thought I would have a baby, I don’t know, and he would nap and I would just like write a book. And then for the first two years after he was born, I didn’t write because I just didn’t…I was so exhausted and I didn’t have the time or apparently probably the brainpower to do both.
So, I was doing this, attachment parenting, it was nursing. We’re going to do this co-sleeping and all of that, but that meant like he slept in 90-minute increments and that’s not really… It’s fine. He doesn’t sleep that well now, but he’s older, so I don’t have to worry about it, but it’s just I didn’t anticipate that it would have an effect on my brain.
So, at one point, I don’t know, he was two or three and we were driving somewhere and I got a mile before I realized I hadn’t gotten in the car and drove off somewhere. And so I don’t think that my brain could pull together those disparate thoughts, and so I don’t think I’d started a Casey book, the second one, when I was pregnant. And then my mind wandered. I was nesting and doing all these other things and I think I went on vacation because that was my last vacation, you know, before I had a baby.
And then I looked up and a year and a half had passed before I finished the book. I just looked up one day, and I thought, “Oh, I haven’t written a book,” like, but it had not crossed my mind for a really long period of time.
Joni: I think that we don’t talk about this enough. Like, and I’m seeing it now, like Rachel and I don’t have kids, but a lot of our co-workers do. And there’s this expectation in COVID that, “Oh, you’ll work from home and your kids are also at home, and that’s just going to work out, like you’ll just do it.” And there’s all this, well, you don’t ask male writers about it. I’m like, well, because it’s not quite the same, like people are affected by this and we can’t ignore it, because then, like everyone’s kind of blind-sighted by it when they have a kid, and their whole life changes.
Aime: No, and I really wish, one of the things I was reading, especially in these books about trauma, they were talking about that children do better with multi-generational families. But so I’m going to be honest, I’m an only child and my parents are only children. So I didn’t… There are no babies around. And so I didn’t have a good idea of what was involved with babies.
And I think that if…I’m not advocating for multi-generational families, generally, but I think if we spent more time in less-isolated surroundings, we’d have a much better idea of what was involved with children. And COVID was sort of no joke. So, I was under the impression, because a lot of people said to me, “Oh, but you’ve always worked from home. So does it make any difference?”
And I was like, but I have a bouncing human being here who’s like, “Mommy, can you cut me an apple? Mommy, can you cut me a banana? Mommy, Zoom is not working. Mommy, can you plug this in?” You know, and there was a lot…it was really disruptive. So even last year, my writing took a hit. So, I usually write one book from beginning to end and it’s not a problem. And last year, I started three books. I just kept quitting halfway, because I couldn’t sit down to have a coherent thought to finish the plot.
And so it affects me more than I thought. And my writing only really got back on track when he went to nursery school, and then school, full-time. And it wasn’t ideal, because I’m not a morning person. I mean, I wake up in the morning, I do lots of things. I just don’t write in the morning, because my brain is not there yet. But I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments to write when he’s not here, because there is no alternative. I mean, I don’t know what the alternative would be, that I don’t have a good answer for that.
Joni: Yeah, truly, I can’t imagine trying to do my job now, as it is with like, a small kid around. Like, I don’t know how people are doing it and yet they’re expected to. Like, everyone’s just like, “Oh, this is your job, right? This is what you do.”
Aime: Right, and children…I mean children are no joke, and I don’t think… I mean, I have met authors who are more prolific than I, you know, the people who write like a book a month or whatever. And I’ve often asked them, and they’re like, “Well,” I mean, people have made compromises. “Well, I had to give him an iPad,” or, “I had to hire, you know, childcare, or they have to make some other arrangement, but children require an enormous amount of attention. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just what they require. But I don’t know if anything societal, at least, you know, like North America is set up for that.
Joni: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right.
Aime: It’s hard but…
Joni: But hey, you’re still writing 10 years later. You got back on track. So, all work turned around.
Aime: I did it back on track. I’m really happy about that and he’s only getting older. So, it actually gets easier because he’s much more self-contained. And my child’s not particularly self-contained, but he goes to school. And so he reads, so that’s like, “Oh, look, he’s reading. I have 40 minutes.” You know, or he’ll talk to his friends or do things like that, which give me pockets of time. And I understand when they’re teenagers, that from what I hear, in two years, he’ll be uninterested in me and I’ll have all the time in the world. But I don’t…
Joni: Yeah, I have three brothers and I will tell you that you won’t hear anything from him for like six years, and then he’ll emerge.
Aime: That’s what I hear. My friend’s like, goes in his room. He takes showers and then one day he comes out with like, too much Axe Body Spray, right. And I was like, “Okay,” but I don’t, I haven’t reached that stage yet. He’s still like, pretty intense. So, he’s like, “Can we have a hug? Can we cuddle? Can we play?” And he’s really into playing games right now, like board games. But for all of that I just had to, especially during COVID, I just had to make a choice, that I was going to spend this time with him and not feel too resentful about it.
There’s an author, I don’t know, if you, well, I’m sure you’ve read her. But Cora Seton who, like a couple of years ago, we were at a retreat. I think before RAM, but we were at a retreat. And she gave a talk about carving out time for writing ahead of time. So, she was, because I was under the impression I could write 365 days a year. And she was like, that is not realistic.
So, she had to sit down and do a chart, and it turns out, if you really block out the time that you can really write, let’s say it’s 200 days a year. But once I realized that that was more true than what I had believed to be true, a lot of the resentment went away, and I was much better able to plan my life realistically, instead of trying to juggle.
So once, like before COVID, like if he would come home sick, he’d want to sit and cuddle and watch movies or read or do whatever. And I would try to write at the same time and, you know, after talking to her I realized, “Okay, so I’m just going to block off this day. I’m not going to write. We’re going to sit and cuddle and do whatever, and then when he goes back to school or wherever, that I can go back to writing,” but juggling and multi-tasking is not necessarily effective. So, once I blocked out time to do one thing or the other, it made it a lot easier.
Joni: Right, so basically, whether it’s hanging with him or writing, that thing is getting your attention fully.
Aime: That one thing is getting my attention fully, and it works out a lot better for him, because he used to make fun of me, and it’s not great. But when he was two or three, he would sometimes sit at the laptop and pretend to type and go, “I’m working on something, give me a minute,” and he always say, “Well, you know, when you say give me a minute, you mean 20,” and I hadn’t realized like, I would just, you know, go into the zone and be lost. So that’s much better.
He still makes fun of me from that era, but it’s better now because when he says, like yesterday, he wanted to play. He’s all into these board games, some game called Quarto, and he said he want to play the game, I said, “Okay,” and I closed the laptop and I just walked away.
Rachel: So, now that COVID is, fingers aggressively crossed, starting to wind down what like… Do you have a plan to tackle those three books that you started? Like, what’s your writing looking like, moving forward?
Aime: Okay, so I did finish two this year. I sort of hunkered, well, it’s 2021, we have to, you know, it’s May. So, I mean, what I’m going to do.
Rachel: Time doesn’t exist.
Aime: I know. That’s it. You know, I looked up and I was like, “Oh, my God.” So, I finished two and I’m really happy. One is, I’m going to do a spin-off series of the Casey Cort. So, to be honest, the character in the last book, or the, well, the tenth book in the Casey Cort series, I want it to be the spin-off character, but I didn’t have sufficient knowledge of her. And this is like character building.
So, I sat down and wrote the first book in the next series, so I could figure out who she was, in order to write the last book in the Casey Cort series. So, that snarled my brain, to be frank. So, I had to finish the first book, that’s not coming out. I mean, it has like no release date, it has no plan, I have no covers, I’ve nothing. But I had to finish that and then I could write the tenth book, since I knew who she was, and then I could move forward.
The other book, I don’t know like, it’s halfway done and I haven’t worked on it. Like, I just opened the file and I haven’t worked on it in seven or eight months. And so I’d have to reread it and start, not start all over again, but familiarize myself, and that’s a whole thing. So, I don’t know. Maybe in the second half of this year, I would like to finish that book. I’ll say that.
Joni: So, this other book that you wrote, where you were kind of exploring the character, is that right? Are you going to release that? Is it going to be a kind of bonus material? Like…
Aime: You have a good question. I was discussing with an author friend yesterday, and I don’t have an answer. So, I will say this, at some point, I wrote the fourth book in the Casey Cort series, and it was just going to be a bonus material. And then one day, somebody said, “Why don’t you put it for sale?” And I said, “Okay,” because a lot of readers were like, “I don’t want to subscribe to your newsletter. I don’t want to do that. I just want the book,” and I said, “Okay.” And then I looked up like several months later, and it was outselling the other books, and I was like…
Joni: Yeah, I think it’s kind of like peek into an author’s brain is cool though, especially if it’s something that you really only just wrote for you. I think that’s really cool.
Aime: And that’s interesting. So ultimately, the answer is probably yes. And I think, so it’ll… I have the title. I just haven’t done anything with it. It’s been edited. It’s sitting on my computer, edited in theory. I’d have to look at that. So, I think so. But it’s more her…her name is Nicole Long. She’s an attorney. She’s an alcoholic. She has a lot of issues. And it’s more her backstory in the sort of scope of what I was talking about earlier. She’s a mess. I mean, she’s a mess.
So she appeared in earlier Casey Cort books. She like lost cases, people are like, “What’s wrong with her?” She’s just really eloquent, like amazing attorney, but she can’t get it together. And it’s only by the grace of, I don’t know what, that the prosecutor’s office didn’t fire her. But when you learn her backstory, it becomes more what happened to her, because everybody’s like, “Why is Nicole Long this mess?”
She’s eloquent. She gives these great speeches, you know, opening and closing statements. She majored in religion. She can put the Bible like, perfectly for like particular circumstances. Why can’t she get it together? And in this book that I wrote, you learn why she can’t get it together, because what happened to her is pretty tragic. And she has done nothing to manage her trauma, except drink, which is not compatible with practicing law, it turns out.
Joni: That’s so thorough. I love that you wrote a whole book to sort of get your own head around how this character was and why they became the way they are.
Aime: I liked the idea as well, but it slowed down the pace of the book that came out. The book that readers are emailing me about. I mean, you know, you get those emails and you’re like…
Joni: Okay, not ideal.
Aime: I get the emails all the time, and one of my readers, just like, she’s like, “You know, I’ve been reading you for years and years and I’m just waiting.” And I’m just like, “I know, I’m sorry.” And I actually did explain to her…
Joni: And you publish pretty quickly too.
Aime: Not quick enough for her.
Aime: It’s never quick enough for them, because I do write other things in between. So it slows it down. And I also publish more slowly than I write, because I got to build in a buffer of time for all the things, that’s like raising kids and traveling and all that. I really got to build in a buffer. So, I write in spurts. Like, I write more in the summer than I do in the winter. And so I try to even it out release-wise.
Joni: And when it came to publishing, did you always plan to publish independently or did that just happen along the way?
Aime: No, not at all. So, well, okay, so there’s two stories. Basically the first book in the Casey Cort series, I finished in, I don’t know 2000 maybe, and I got an agent who, she does okay. She has really great client, really great client roster. So, I’m super excited. This is so long ago. She, like FedEx, is like the agent agreement. I was like, “My world is going to change.” You know, I sign it and FedEx it back, and they couldn’t sell it. People were not interested in crime fiction, they told me with protagonists of color. I mean, they were quite honest. I mean, that’s fine.
Joni: They told you that?
Aime: Well, yeah. I mean, I found people to be quite frank, and I’m from New York. So I can’t take it personally because what am I going to do? So, I shelved the book. And so growing up, honestly primarily, but my primary fiction reading was romance. So, I decided to write romance under a different pen name and those were picked up by a publisher. And the publishing experience was not ideal. Romance, you know, is a high volume thing.
This is before independent publishing. Well, not before, like 2011/2012. And so the experience wasn’t ideal. And I think I got the first royalty statement. It was $55, and I was like, “Okay, so this is not going to work.” But because…look, I mean, this is literally not going, I can’t, I’ve quit practicing law, I can’t live on $55.
So, but I live in Southern California and I attended RWA meetings for both Los Angeles and Orange County, and there are several authors who are early successful, like Deborah Holland, and people like that, who were like, this is what you need to do. And you know, it took me a year, but it was only after like, publishing two books with a publisher that I was like, okay, so if they’re not going to promote me, and it’s hard, I don’t know, maybe it would have worked out in the long haul because a lot of romance authors after the tenth book, then they move to like single title, and then they move to… But that’s a lot of capital that you have to put in and hope that you are the person that’s picked by the publisher. There’s a lot of issues with that.
And so I looked up and I was like, “Okay, so I’ll try independent publishing.” It took me months to get it together, I got my rights back and I got emails from readers. So like, I thought you had published this book, but I looked on like all the retailers and it’s not there. And I was like, “Oh, I guess I need to like, you know, do this,” but I felt bad. I just felt bad. And I didn’t know… it’s not that I didn’t know how to do it. It just felt daunting and it felt like with no support.
Joni: It is daunting. It’s a lot of work.
Aime: And it was 20 whatever. I mean, formatting was a whole different thing. There was no Vellum. It was much different. And I put the books up and I think in the first day, I made like $55. And I was like, “Oh, okay, okay.” Like, it was like, “I got it.” But there was a lot of stigma earlier on because I think I’ve published my first independent book, maybe 2013. I want to say that seems about right.
And I felt bad. I’m going to frank, I felt bad. A lot of my friends had stayed with a publisher before that particular line closed. You know, they’re going in and out. And they’re like, “Well, you know, you can step out, but you know, what are you going to do without publisher support?” And I had to like, leave a lot of those groups and sort of join other independent authors and move forward. And it got a lot better. It was just really daunting to make that decision first.
A lot of authors I’ve met now, just independently published first, but I had an agent, and then I sold on my own, and I had gone through all these hoops. And I was looking for that validation. And I had to let go of that. But it wasn’t the easiest leap of faith to take.
Joni: Yeah, I bet. How do you feel about it now? Are you glad that that’s how it went?
Aime: Now, yes. All these years later, yes. Well, because now I can see, I mean, you know, it’s like the past, you can see. But I can reach more readers. I never would have thought this, but I’ve reached more readers publishing independently than I ever did with the publisher, because I could go where they were, or follow a trend, or whatever that is.
So, I think I looked up one day, and maybe the first Casey Cort book, you guys interviewed, like Skye Warren, but after her first RAM, or maybe right before that, I was talking to her one day. It’s in some form, and she was like, “You really need to sit down and figure out how many books you’ve sold and then, you know, market to your readers, and all that.”
And I was like, “Okay,” and when I realized it sold like 10 or 15,000 of the first Casey Cort book, I was like, “Oh.” Like, I’ve reached people. Like I was looking for something, and I had already had it. But you know, when you’re counting every day, and like just doing the grind, I didn’t spend a lot of time tallying. It was just, well, today, I’m going to do this and tomorrow I’m going to do that.
And it was, it felt pretty validating and especially, I get a lot of reader emails, maybe because of the topics. But every day, there’s some reader email, and they’re talking to me about whatever, yesterday was about authors or what did…he asked me something. But it’s just having direct contact with readers. I think I realized more how much you reach them. And so I’m perfectly fine with the decisions going forward. It’s been fine.
Joni: That’s great.
Rachel: Just kind of like bouncing off to reaching your readers. You’ve relatively recently started your own podcast, just kind of switching gears a little bit. I was just wondering if you could tell us a little bit about like, why you decided to start a podcast and what that experience has been like for you?
Aime: So, one of the issues we were just discussing during COVID is that I felt like I didn’t have a creative outlet. And also, no offense to independent publishing, but everything you do sort of tied to a dollar. So, it’s like, “Am I going to do? Am I going to write this book? How many is it going to sell,” and getting up some days and thinking about that? “Well, if I write this book about this topic, is it going to sell as well as this book about this other topic?” And that’s a little, I don’t want to say kills the muse, because I don’t really have that problem.
But it sort of limits creativity, or I felt that way. I don’t know if that’s true, but I felt that way in 2020, but it may have been a general malaise of 2020 as well. So, I can’t speak on that. And you know, I’m sitting around like in May or June, and I love podcasts. I listen to them religiously, not as many last year, because I do it mainly while driving in Los Angeles, which is a lot of time in my car.
And one of the things I love, the podcast I like the most are long-form conversations, because I think people are fascinating. But I can only meet so many people and talk to them so much in my life. So, one of the things I decided to do was, like have like long form conversations with creative women. Like to be honest, it’s like the best thing I did last year. Like, it’s been a true joy.
So I mean, like, the last interview I did was Mia Hopkins, who’s an author who writes romance. She’s got the, oh my god, Eastside Brewery series, and then she also wrote cowboy romances before. So, I’d see her from time to time. I stopped by her house, but she’s got a child and a dog. I mean, you know, like, and so our conversations are usually limited by all of the outside circumstances. And it was the first time I was ever able to sit down for like, a solid hour and talk to her just about her creative process.
And it’s amazing, like all the things she talked about, I thought were amazing, and the influences that led to that book. But I’ve also interviewed other people I’ve met along the way, like I interviewed an artist, who’s a painter. Actually, her painting’s in my, in this room, and I’ve known her for 16 years, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation, like a dedicated conversation about her art. And it was the most amazing like hour. I mean, I visited her like, well, right before COVID at her latest exhibit, and she was like on the cover of like the gallery exhibition.
So it’s like, I was really proud of it. It was amazing. It was a pleasure to talk to her and find it like she was untutored in art. She had never taken formal art classes, but she’s this amazing painter. And it’s just an interesting time to have these conversations. The month before, I interviewed Evelyn Adams, who’s The New York Times bestselling author of romance. And she talked about like, what romance meant to her, and it meant something completely different to me.
So, it was just fascinating to talk to somebody about what she believes romance is, and she talks about being seen and all of these things that I’m just like, these women are so amazing, and so smart, and so talented. And it’s lovely to bring those conversations to people. And so the feedback I’ve gotten has been amazing. And it’s actually opened up different conversations. Somebody asked me the other day about a podcast, and we ended up having like a much more in-depth conversation than we may have had about books, authors, writing, and creativity.
Rachel: That’s so cool, and it is a great podcast, I listened to an episode this morning on my run, and it was great. The format’s really good and it’s just, it seems like a really, like almost casual conversation, but there’s so much depth to it. So, I mean, you’re doing a great job. It’s really interesting
Aime: I love talking, and so I have them scheduled now. And it’s just, I’m so looking forward to it. It’s so amazing to talk to people. And a lot of authors, it’s interesting, like one author emailed me yesterday, who does quite well. And she emailed me and she’s like, “Do you think I have anything interesting to talk about?” I’m like, “I have had conversations with you. You’re like the most amazing person. What would you… Of course, we have a lot to talk about.”
Joni: It’s true. Like, we’ve done so many of these interviews and there is always something interesting to talk about, like no matter what, it’s really…
Aime: There is. I think every person has a story. And not everybody writes the story down. So I’m more than happy to talk with you and listen to you and elicit that story. I find it fascinating and it’s deeply fulfilling, to be honest, as a creator. And I don’t have to worry about what it earns.
Joni: What are your favorite podcasts? I just want to know.
Aime: Oh. Okay, so I listen to a podcast, but I’m going to be honest. Okay. My favorite one right now is a podcast called “The Honeydew.” It’s a comedian named Ryan Sickler. He’s here in LA. But he talks about… He calls highlighting the low light. And he talks to famous people, mostly about their trauma in a really humorous way, which it doesn’t always land for everyone. So, I think I was standing in my kitchen and somebody was talking about some abuse story, but the way they were telling it was just so funny. And you know, I’m like, falling off of my chair laughing. And a friend of mine walks in and he’s like, “Okay,” and I was like, “I don’t know how to explain it to you. It’s just sort of funny.”
I listened to that. And then I listened to Marc Maron WTF for a long time because he also interviews creative people, and their long-form conversations. So people’s lives are just sort of fascinating, from how they get from point A to point B, because it’s never, won’t ever, it’s never clear. But meeting people socially, that’s not always clear, but listening to an hour of like their life story, it’s amazing to me.
Joni: Have you listened to the Louis Theroux one? He and Marc Maron are best buds. So he’s on his… He did a podcast during lockdown, which was really interesting as well. Yeah, I also love podcasts.
Aime: I listened to a few episodes, but I have been listening less often because it really was a drive time thing. So, now that my son’s back in school, I have more time. So, I listen to them. I’ve been listening to them a lot more lately, but I find them. I just find long-form conversations fascinating. I don’t listen to news or anything else, not in a podcast form.
Joni: Yeah, there’s so many good ones out there. I feel like COVID was a good year for it too, because everyone was like, I might as well do a podcast, and so now that everyone’s back in their cars and walking to work, and we’ll have a wealth of content.
Aime: No, it’s great. It’s actually, it’s great. I was biking the other day on the beach and I was like, “I’m so excited because it’s so great, and I can just listen to this.”
Joni: All right, I’m conscious that we’re taking up a lot of your time. Oh, yeah. One more question that we wanted to ask was that you recently rebranded the Casey Cort series, right? New covers, new copy. Can you walk us through how that was and why you decided to do it?
Aime: Okay, I’m going to be, okay, so I’ll be honest. So there’s an author. Okay, so a year or two ago, after one of the RAM conferences, an author Marina Maddix, she’s a New York Times bestselling author of paranormal romance. She’s my accountability partner. So we have a conversation every week to like, as a kick in the pants, because otherwise I would knit and she would garden. And she also knits and I also garden, but we would do a lot of other things that are not involved with writing and like advancing the writing business.
And we were sitting around and I was talking about the series, when she said, “Can I say something?” And I was like, “Sure, go ahead.” She was like, “I think that your titles are not serving you, and I think that your covers are old.” So, the first cover was developed in 2014 by an artist. It was great, it was timely. But she had done all of the successive covers in the same vein, and I looked up and it was 2021 and 2014, seven years ago, and I just had not thought about it. And so, you know, I got a K-lytics report. I spent a lot of time looking at the top books in thriller categories, especially those of female protagonists, and I realized that my covers were out of staff, and I needed to rebrand them.
And in terms of retitling, which I don’t think is always a good idea, I have my issues with it, because it’s very difficult to manage. The titles were not harmonious. And they weren’t, it wasn’t always clear. You know, you guys talk to Skye Warren. One of the things that she said to me is that people need to know what the book is about from the title. Like nobody’s like…people are not spending their time to kind of like, look at your double entendre or look at your BD title and figure out what it’s about.
So with that in mind, and knowing that the titles were not even harmonious, because what the first one was titled by like my agent. I mean, you know what I’m saying, so it was not that much of a thought-out process. I sat down and brainstormed actually with my son, because he loves to do this, just the titles. And I was like, “Okay, what I’m going to do is I’m going to have harmonious titles, and they’re going be one word, and it’s going to be what it’s about.”
So, for instance, like, the book that’s coming out is called Poisoned, and it’s about contaminated water affecting children, and possibly causing childhood cancer in this small town. And the book that I just finished is “Abuse,” which is about domestic abuse and intimate partner violence. So, it’s clear from what it’s about, from the covers. Now, it’s clear that one of the protagonists is highlighted. And they’re much more in vein with how books look now in 2021, and not how books looked in 2014.
Joni: I think that’s a really difficult decision to take. Like, that’s some tough love from your friend, but it’s… Sometimes it needs to be done.
Aime: No, and I told her. She said, “Are you going to be okay?” And I said, “I don’t take it personally and I will take your advice,” like, I heard her, and I did it. And I have no regrets. And the books have started selling better than they were previously. So, it’s fine. It’s just, it was not easy and changing the titles, audiobooks in the whole ISBN. And it’s a lot of metadata stuff that’s not enjoyable. And I had to just be okay with it not being perfect from the beginning. So, some reader, I don’t like these emails, I take them so personally, and the reader didn’t mean it this way, but I got.
I woke up one morning, and there’s an email from a reader who said, “I was on Audible and your titles don’t match your covers.” And I was like, “I know, but I can’t make the metadata switch magically, and it’s just going to be how it is.” And it’s fixed now. I have to go look, but it was fixed. But my audiobooks appear to be proper and like on Kobo, like Tara helped me last week or the week before, and it’s all fixed.
Aime: Yay, exactly.
Joni: Worth it in the end.
Aime: But yeah, I mean, it’s very much worth it.
Joni: I’ve definitely talked to a few authors who’ve done this and it is like it’s a huge task. But if you are publishing for what 10, 12 years like, things change and time moves on and you kind of need to stick to keep things…
Aime: Time marches on surpassing you and you start looking at the bestsellers and you’re like, “Oh my God, I’m out of step.” But it feels like it happened so gradually and you’re always looking forward to go back and look and you’re okay. So, I did it for a lot of books this year. It was a huge project, but it’s actually something that was easier to do during COVID because it didn’t require long stretches of concentration, you know, typing in new titles much shorter than trying to write a book and keep the story in your head.
Joni: Awesome. Okay, we want to finish off with some rapid-fire book questions. Rachel, do you want to kick it off? Do you want to start?
Rachel: I would love to. So first up, what was the last book you read and enjoyed?
Aime: Actually, it was a reread. So I did a podcast. There’s an author named Julie Strauss, who has a podcast called the “Best Book Ever.” And she asked me to be on it and I emailed her right away with the best book was. It’s a book called “What Came Before He Shot Her” by Elizabeth George. It’s a book I love.
What I didn’t realize when I emailed her is that I hadn’t read the book in like 15 years. So I couldn’t go on the podcast, apparently 15-year-old knowledge because, and I reread it and I still enjoyed it. I still think it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. And I still think Elizabeth George is a spectacular author who does a better job than I do at melding crime and social commentary.
Joni: Okay, do you have a favorite book that you consider a guilty pleasure? Or that you’re like a tiny bit embarrassed about?
Aime: Would I say those out loud? Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think so. I mean, I’m pretty open about the books I read. I think that I enjoy. I don’t even know. I don’t think so. I don’t think so.
Joni: Fair enough. You know, if you’re open about your books.
Aime: I’m open about my books. I mean the romance authors I enjoy most right now are like Sarina Bowen and Sarah Mayberry who sort of write like angsty romance. And there’s no guilt, just pleasure.
Joni: Good. A great answer.
Rachel: Is there a book that either made you want to become a writer or that has influenced how you write your books?
Aime: Oh, that’s so interesting.
Rachel: Or an author, it doesn’t have to be one book.
Aime: No, there’s an author. This is going to be the bizarrest thing. There’s an author named Barbara Delinsky. She writes women’s fiction now, but she had, this is the Harlequin era, she had many pen names. I think they were all like BD pen names, like Billy Douglas and all these other pen names, which as a kid, I figured out, I can’t read half of a page. You can see who writes this book. She wrote for like these Harlequin launch, wrote romance, and then she wrote women’s fiction.
There was something that was always deeply compelling about her characters, and she was heavily influential on my writing. I don’t know, when I read her books, I would get that feeling. I don’t even know how to get that feeling. But it was her and Victoria Doll. They both wrote books with, I don’t know, heroines who I found relatable. The heroines always had some, they weren’t perfect, and I like imperfect heroines. And there’s something about like men who can fall in love with imperfect women that I found, still find to be quite compelling.
Joni: And our final question, do you have a favorite fictional lawyer?
Aime: Oh, okay. I love Mickey Haller. So “The Lincoln Lawyer,” well, that’s the first book in that series. So Michael Connelly, too has a long-running police procedural series with a guy named Harry Bosch who’s now in his 70. So you know, that’s got to come to an end. He’s a Vietnam War veteran. Now, he’s got like a cane. And I was like, “This is coming.” Like, it’s getting hard to chase people.
So he did a spin-off series. Oh, my God, that’s probably 15 years old as well. I’d have to think about it. But when I first read “The Lincoln Lawyer,” I was like, “Oh, my God, he’s kind of not a nice guy, but I adore him,” because he believes in justice. I mean, he seems to have a lot of problem around women and a lot of problems around how he conducts his life, but I think he’s a great lawyer.
Joni: Awesome. And before we wrap it up, where can our listeners find you online, and what is the name of your podcast?
Aime: Oh, so the name of the podcast is called “The Time to Thrill,” and it’s everywhere you can find podcasts. On Instagram, @thrillerpod. And then that’s, yeah, the Casey Cort series is on Facebook. But I’m mostly on Instagram and I don’t have as much social media time as I would like, because that’s usually the last thing.
Joni: Awesome. We will link to your Instagram and your podcasts and your books. And when is your next book at?
Aime: May 24.
Joni: Perfect. Okay, so that’ll be out already. And after that you have another one on pre-order, right?
Aime: Yes, you’re right. I did put it up. The thing is the book is written and I have the dates, and then one day I look up and I go, then a reader will email me and ask me and I’m like, “Oh.” So then the book is called “Abused,” and it’s coming out in September. I don’t know the date off the top of my head, but it’s still by the pre-order. It’s the 10th book in the Casey Cort series, and I really, really love it, to be honest. It’s like, I finished the book and I thought, “Oh, I love how this book went.”
Joni: That’s awesome. So everyone, go ahead and pre-order it, please. And thank you so much for talking to us, Aime. This has been great.
Aime: Thank you so much for having me.
Rachel: Thank you for listening to the Kobo Writing Life podcast. If you are interested in picking up the Casey Cort legal thriller series, we will have links to Aime’s books on the blog, and we will also link to her podcast. You can check that out as well. And if you’re looking for more tips for growing your self-publishing business, check us out at kobowritinglife.com.
Joni: This episode was produced by Joni Di Placido and Rachel Wharton, editing is done by Kelly Robotham. Music is provided by Tearjerker, and big thanks to Aime for being a great guest.
Rachel: If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey today, sign up for free at kobowritinglife.com. Until next time, happy writing.