Join me on Facebook, too!

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Greatest Challenge by V.S. Kemanis

Happy Holidays to you!

A simple prompt to explore the concept and reality of strong women has brought about not-so-simple explorations of lives and perspectives. My next guest, V.S. Kemanis, is a lawyer-turned-author (sound familiar?) with a perspective that hit close to home. I often struggled with the 'opportunity' that women could have it all. What did that mean when our legal careers took us into world seemingly intent upon keeping us from exactly that?

The Greatest Challenge by V.S. Kemanis

For any woman juggling family responsibilities and intellectual pursuits, the greatest challenge in life is to effectively manage and harmonize the many worlds she inhabits. At least, this has been true for me. In my professional career as a lawyer, I’ve been a prosecutor, civil litigator, and court attorney, while never letting go of my artistic passions—fiction writing, dance, and choreography—which I crammed into little corners of “spare” time. During the early part of my legal career, I was also tackling the toughest job of all, raising two children, trying to keep my priorities straight.

I went to law school in the late seventies, a time when the male/female student ratio was finally getting close to 50/50. It was an era when a well-entrenched women’s movement had laid down some imperatives. As a young woman struggling to find myself, I perceived a twofold message:  (1) women are capable of doing anything they wish to pursue, and (2) not only are women capable, they should do it all (and do everything well). This was my understanding, whether accurate or distorted. Now that I’m older and wiser, I look back and see the enormous pressure exerted by a culture of “we can have it all.” Supermoms. Superwomen. I’m not so sure what the message is for young women today. Every day, I’m trying to learn what the message is for my daughters, who are now young adults. The world offers so many choices, it’s difficult to know which direction to take.

Certainly, everything is possible. I feel blessed to have had the freedom to use my intellect for a rewarding career outside the home. I can’t imagine living in a society in which such pursuits are denied to women as they are, even now, in many parts of the world. I never had to break new ground, to go where women had never gone before, but I rode in on the tidal wave of female entrance into the legal profession. Even so, it was not easy. I remember many occasions feeling like the fifth wheel or the unwanted interloper in the old boys’ club. A few bad feelings and uncomfortable situations from the early years of my career will never fade from memory. There was an appellate judge who told me during oral argument in open court that I sounded like a “schoolteacher.” A boss who made jokes about not being able to get around me in the hallway when I was pregnant. A roomful of seasoned investigators explicitly discussing a woman’s body, unmindful of my presence.

But these indignities were insignificant in comparison to the challenges I faced in the casework itself. Nothing is so sweet as the resolution of a thorny problem after an exercise of mind-bending, exasperating effort.
Like every writer, my life experiences inform my prose. The women in my short stories have their own challenges to work through, and usually become stronger for it. If not stronger, enlightened, which is another form of strength. My collection Everyone But Us is devoted to tales of women from every walk of life.

My legal mystery series features a female prosecutor by the name of Dana Hargrove. The plan for the series is to take Dana through several stages of her life at six or seven-year intervals. In the first novel, Thursday’s List, Dana is a rookie prosecutor, and in the second, Homicide Chart, she is a young mother and an experienced trial attorney. In the third book, to be released in April 2016, Dana is a bureau chief at the DA’s office. An underlying theme in each story is the interplay between Dana’s professional and personal lives. She is a strong woman, but shows her vulnerabilities and internal dilemmas when her job conflicts with personal relationships. Apart from this theme, the novels are full of interesting legal conundrums, exciting courtroom scenes, details of police investigation, and all of the drama that crime stories evoke. For me, as a lawyer, criminal cases pose the most fascinating ethical and legal questions of the human condition.

Thank you, Connie, for inviting me to share these thoughts on strong women in everyday life and in the world of fiction!


V.S. Kemanis is the author of three award-winning story collections and the Dana Hargrove legal mystery novels, Thursday’s List and Homicide Chart. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Crooked Road Vol. 3 anthology, and noted literary journals. She is an attorney with years of experience in criminal law.

You may find her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.


FRIDAY FEATURES is a steady presence on Out of the Fog where I explore the concept of "strong women." Who are they? What makes them strong? How do we see them in writing and/or in business? If you're an author, what is their place in the world of thrillers of mysteries? If you're in business, how is the working environment impacted by the presence of a "strong woman" and how are they seen as leaders and team members? If you're an emerging strong woman, tell us about your journey. Have other questions you find compelling? Ask away and I'll post the answers here. 

If you have something to say about the topic of 

strong women, contact me on Twitter: