Blood Sucking Lawyers (For Real)

This Case is Gonna Kill Me Phillipa Bornikova

Written by Phillipa Bornikova

This month the first volume in my urban fantasy series, This Case is Gonna Kill Me, is going to land. Because of my training and background as a lawyer, I chose to set the action in an up-scale vampire-run law firm in New York. It’s an ideal setting to use to begin exploring questions about how the levers of power would be affected if vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures were actually in the world.

To further complicate power dynamics, I decided that there would be no female supernaturals. For reasons that go to the main plot—and I won’t get into here—it’s punishable by death for a vampire or a werewolf to turn a woman into one of their kind.

While the idea started as a plot device, I quickly realized that it allowed me to also explore issues of gender politics in workplaces, and differences in how men and women access power. I practiced law for about three years, and I was considered an oddity. Male lawyers literally came in from other firms to look at me, but that was some time ago, and I hope things have changed. There are a lot more women lawyers now.

After I walked away from the practice of law I began writing books, and then Hollywood called. I have written for both television and feature films. Despite Hollywood’s so-called liberal slant the town is not that open to allowing women access to positions of power. Female writers tended to end up on “soft” shows like Dr. Quinn or Touched By An Angel.

During my time in L.A., both when I was being tagged as a potential creator of television shows, and when I was a show runner, I learned that many of the decisions that affect what ends up on TV were being made at a very famous Tuesday night poker game. Players included some of the top network executives and show runners in the industry. Needless to say, there were no girls invited into that exclusive club.

Deals also got made and information exchanged in exclusive foursomes on golf courses scattered around the town. When I asked about getting into one of these I was told by a writer/producer friend— “Hey, that would be great, you can hook up with the girls,” suggesting that I play a round with the wives of the executives and producers. I’m sure these were lovely and talented women, but I needed to be where conversations about the industry were taking place.

While I was certainly literalizing the metaphor when it came to blood-sucking lawyers, I was also using a dramatic device to highlight how women can be subtly closed out of the top tiers of power. It’s no longer as bald and naked as hearing it openly said, “But women can’t be doctors, lawyers, astronauts, and so on,” but an air of “no girls in the club house” still permeates the workplace. It’s more insidious and harder to combat, but it still exists. By personifying these tendencies in mythological creatures, I could bring them to the fore in a more graceful way. And of course my heroine has the power to kick down the doors and upset the status quo. Not just because she has a plot device power but because she’s a very smart, very savvy attorney who can hold her own against the big boys.

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