My Big Thrill Interview: Where I somehow end up discussing The Little Mermaid

It was definitely a big thrill to be interviewed for The Big Thrill–wonder how many authors have used that line. I apologize for all of us. One of the things I’ve been surprised about in doing this “new author” gig is how much I enjoy being interviewed. The questions are a way to start a conversation, and I’ve found, as an author, that’s really what I want. I’m interested in people’s opinions and perspectives. The interviewer on this piece, Karen Harper, did a wonderful job of asking questions that got me thinking. Thanks, Karen!!

I Am Justice by Diana Muñoz Stewart

By Karen Harper

It’s hard to imagine a timelier hook than the one at the heart of Diana Muñoz Stewart’s Band of Sisters novels. Each installment will center on a different protagonist, but the characters are united by their allegiance to the League of Warrior Women, a covert sisterhood of vigilantes who tackle crimes against women all over the world.

The series kicked off in May with I AM JUSTICE, which has earned rave reviews in Publishers Weekly and BookPage. Stewart recently took time out of her busy schedule to talk with The Big Thrill about her latest book, her writing process, and the inspiration behind the fierce women who populate her new series.

Please tell us what your new book I AM JUSTICE is about.

The novel is about a secret group of female vigilantes that attempt to take out a sex-trafficking ring in the Middle East. More specifically, it’s about one of the members of this vigilante group, Justice Parish, and her quest to take vengeance on the men who killed her sister.

What links your books in this Band of Sisters series?

The books center around a family of female vigilantes that travel the world righting wrongs against women. Each of the three novels in the Band of Sisters series tackles issues of injustice and intrigue. So there are a few connections there, but more specifically, these three books are tied by an event that happens at the end of book one, I AM JUSTICE. Without giving too much away, during the ending there is a dynamic fight scene that has lasting repercussions for the family. It’s the fallout from this event that helps to shape the other two novels and the main characters. So not only is this scene referenced in the other two books, but it’s shown in the points of view of these other characters.

What inspired the overarching idea for this series?

Anger. Frustration. I’d been reading a lot of disturbing articles about the treatment of women globally. In particular, I remember reading about a small-town Mexican mayor, María Santos Gorrostieta Salazar. Despite threats to her life, being beaten, and [the murder of her husband], she boldly took on the Mexican drug cartels. Sadly, she was eventually killed herself. Her story was one of many that made me long for a kick-ass group of vigilantes that travel the globe righting wrongs against women.

I love the tagline on your website: “Romantic suspense for the strong of heart.” That can be taken several ways. Besides being action-packed, what in this new series tugs at the heart?

Having worked for a strong marriage, I would hope the romance between each of the couples in the series presents something honest and heartfelt about relationships, about learning who the other person is, and loving them even when faced with overwhelming hardships. In general, I think the Band of Sisters series is in a good position to examine relationships between men and women and how they can work together to create a better world.

You live a very active life: weight lifting, kayaking, running, flying. How much of your own activity spills over into your characters?

This is a great question. And the perseverance of being active does take shape in my characters, but funny enough, it also works the other way around. I started flying because one of my characters, Gracie Parish, flies. So the boldness of these kick-ass heroines is an inspiration to me to try new things and to challenge myself despite fear or uncertainty.

You are the product of an MFA program. How did that experience help you to write this series?

Stonecoast is a low-residency program taught at the University of Southern Maine. Not only did it introduce me to lifelong friends and critique buddies, it taught me how to step outside of myself, to examine my writing with a critical—less attached—mindset. It taught me technique and writing skills for sure, but I still think the most relevant part of the experience was recognizing the tunnel vision of my own writing. It helped me open up, question, and improve my storytelling abilities. That’s pretty important since I want my writing to be enjoyed by more than just myself.

It seems counterintuitive that The Little Mermaid is your favorite Disney movie. We each find inspiration in different, personal things. Can you explain why that movie spoke to you?

I think, deep down, every writer is looking for his or her voice. We want to share our experiences, connect with others, give voice to what is inside us. To me, that’s what The Little Mermaid is about. The movie deals with the very real issue of women giving away power, their voice, trading away what is most unique in the hopes of winning acceptance.

And maybe the charming prince.

But it’s not just about the prince for Ariel. In the movie, Ariel wants to be on land. She wants to “be where the people are” and experience the world too. Find out how this ends! 

Yes, this The Little Mermaid answer goes on for some time. Not sure how I turned a mystery, thriller, suspense interview into an in-depth discussion about Disney, but, hey, it’s a skill. Thanks for stopping by. Remember, there’s one week left to sign up for my newsletter and be entered to win a $50 gift card. Good luck!!

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