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Inspirational Indie Author Interview. Maria Riegger: Lawyer Turns Childhood Trauma Into Parenting Books, Helps Indie Authors Navigate Legal Landscape

Inspirational Indie Author Interview. Maria Riegger: Lawyer Turns Childhood Trauma into Parenting Books, Helps Indie Authors Navigate Legal Landscape

My ALLi author guest this episode is Maria Riegger, who has many moving parts to her career, some of which might even seem at odds with one another. For example, she's a lawyer who is also very much into astrology. She also used her own childhood trauma to launch a series of parenting books so other children would not suffer the way she did. And she uses her legal expertise to help other indie publishers navigate issues like copyright law.

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Inspirational Indie Author Interview. Maria Riegger

On Inspirational Indie Authors, @howard_lovy features @RieggerM, a lawyer who turned her childhood trauma into parenting books. She also helps indie authors navigate the legal landscape. Click To Tweet

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Inspirational Indie Author Interview. Maria Riegger: About the Author

Maria RieggerMaria Riegger is based in the Washington, DC area. She is a banking/corporate attorney by day (but please don't hold that against her), and an author and practicing astrologer by night. A rocky childhood, including the death of a parent, led Maria to consider how to be a better parent in a crazy world. In short, more laughs and positive connections and less dictating and criticizing. Parents should parent with the child's particular needs in mind, rather than the parents' ego needs. An irreverent Gen X’er, in addition to parenting and astrology books, Maria writes gritty contemporary romance and romantic suspense, with plenty of sarcasm. You can find Maria on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

About the Host

Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Longreads. Find Howard at howardlovy.comLinkedIn and Twitter.


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Read the Transcripts: Inspirational Indie Author Interview. Maria Riegger

Howard Lovy: My guest this episode is Maria Riegger, who has many moving parts to her career, some of which might even seem at odds with one another. For example, she's a lawyer who is also very much into astrology. She also used her own childhood trauma to launch a series of parenting books so other children would not suffer the way she did, and she uses her legal expertise to help other indie publishers navigate issues like copyright law. I'll let Maria Riegger tell her own story.

Maria Riegger: Hi, I'm Maria Riegger, and many thanks to Howard for having me on today. I am an attorney by day and an author by night. I write fiction and non-fiction. For fiction, I write contemporary romance and romantic suspense, and for non-fiction, I actually write parenting books that incorporate spirituality and astrology. In addition to that, I also write books for self-published authors, particularly on legal help for self-published authors.

Howard Lovy: Maria grew up in Virginia. Her childhood was filled with a great deal of upheaval. So, from a young age, she would escape into the shelter of books.

Maria Riegger: My family is from Argentina, but I grew up in the US, but I very much grew up in an extended Latin family, and we travelled a lot as kids. I always remember reading magazines, books, anything, and living in a rural area and having a lot of upheaval in my life, like my father died and I was very young, and my mother remarried a couple of times, so we had a lot of chaos and upheaval in my early adolescent and then teenage life. So, because of that, and because we lived relatively isolated, I turned to reading and that was my big escape, and it still is my big escape, although now we have streaming and other stuff.

There was never a time that I was not reading, from the time I learned to read on, and I started writing stories from the time I was 12 or 13-years-old, and eventually as an adult, I had so many stories in my head, I had to get them out on paper. I just felt better when I got them out on paper, and then I had such a great amount of content, I thought, well, this would make a good book, so I'm going to see what I could do there.

So, that's how I got started with the fiction writing. It was always a creative outlet for me, because I'm a very logical, analytical person, that describes my day job very well, but it doesn't really give me the creative outlet. So, the fiction writing really gave me that creative escape, and it's been very fulfilling in that aspect.

Howard Lovy: But first, Maria exercised the logical part of her brain by going to law school.

Maria Riegger: I started an MBA, and when we started studying the business law courses, I immediately knew I was studying the wrong thing, like I wanted to do law as opposed to the MBA, and it's because I'm a very analytical person who likes to get into the details and parse out words and text, and studying law was a better fit for me because I didn't have to do all the schmoozing and extrovert stuff that you may have to do if you're working in an upper management position, because I'm a huge introvert.

So, law is something, I mean, there's various areas of law you can practice, most people don't litigate. When people think of a lawyer, they think of arguing in court. I don't litigate. It's a high-pressure job. I don't want that for my lifestyle, but there are other types of law you can practice, and the type of law I've practiced during the day lets you work in a solitary mode for the most part, and really get down in the details of what you're analysing and interpreting; and that's the part that I really enjoy about it.

Howard Lovy: Meanwhile, as she attended law school, there was always a creative writing project or two she was working on. She began a series of romances first.

Maria Riegger: It's more like a legal romance, coming of age series. The protagonist is in her thirties, so it's not an early coming of age novel, but she's learning about life and things and her own background, and then she obviously meets someone in law school. So, I thought, because I know about going to law school, it was a good setting for me to write about because I know about it.

Howard Lovy: Now, before we go further into Maria's career as an author, it's important to discover more about her interests. She is also very much into astrology, which could come as a surprise to those who knew her only as a lawyer.

Maria Riegger: Right. So, this is a very different side of me. It's very odd, because in my attorney circles, people would think of this as a very weird thing for me to be interested in. So, long story short, I had a lot of trauma in my early and later childhood, so when I became a parent, that's when my healing journey really started in earnest, because I did not want to perpetuate this general trauma with my kids.

So, I had always been interested in astrology, off and on, but at the time I was doing my healing work from trauma, I realized that there were patterns with zodiac energy. People who were born under certain signs or had certain energy in their birth charts, a birth chart represents the position of the planets at the moment of one's birth, those people tended to exhibit very similar characteristics or behave in similar ways.

So, long story short, I noticed a lot of patterns, and I came to the conclusion that studying this has some merit, even if we don't understand necessarily why it works scientifically, that it has some merit. So, when I started to study astrology more seriously, I saw the benefit of particularly studying your own birth chart if you're coming out of a place of childhood trauma where you're learning about yourself, because maybe you've had to suppress yourself in order to survive, now you're learning about yourself and the birth chart actually helps you learn about yourself, and there are many ways to do this. It's certainly not the only way. In addition to self-help books, psychotherapy, all these things, it was a useful tool.

So, I incorporate it when I write my parenting books. I incorporate it because I have spoken to so many parents that have found it useful when learning about their children and how best to parent their children, that I thought it was of value to incorporate when I talked about parenting, and I have a YouTube channel where I publish regular parenting and spirituality content, and I have a lot of people interested in this particular subject.

Howard Lovy: Astrology was part of Maria's own journey to recovery from a childhood filled with trauma.

Maria Riegger: It involved being a victim of narcissistic abuse. To people who have not experienced that, it's very difficult to articulate, because it's basically a long-term pattern of psychological and emotional trauma, gaslighting, and all these things. So, it's tough to heal from that because you're essentially undoing all the ways you were in which you were negatively conditioned as a child, and when you start to realize that you're just acting out those negative patterns in your adult life, it's when I decided, I need to stop this. What I'm doing is not psychologically healthy, in relationships or as a parent, and that you have to undo all that using neuroplasticity and therapy, and other things.

So, you're always healing from that. There's never a time when you think, oh, I'm totally healed from this. Healing is a lifelong journey. So, that's one of the reasons I'm so passionate about helping parents, because a lot of parents come to me and they don't know, they want to change their parenting, but they're not sure about how to do it. But the fact that they recognize that they're continuing negative patterns and they don't want to do that, that's huge. So, that's half the battle right there. So, that's very heartening to me. It breaks my heart when I hear about any kids experiencing any trauma, because they carry that with them psychologically, but that explains why I'm so passionate about the parenting stuff.

Howard Lovy: In her parenting books, Maria emphasizes natural consequences rather than punishment, and finding ways to boost children's sense of self-worth.

Maria Riegger: What you really want to focus on with the school and education is, are you learning the material that you're going to need to get you through life, and the bad grades are an indication that maybe you're not learning the material you need.

They should not be punished. I don't believe in punishing bad grades. I don't believe in punishing really at all, and more about learning through natural consequences is part of what I teach. But my point is, you want to teach kids that they're worthy individuals. The end. That worth is not based on anything extrinsic to them, like grades or achievement, and when you teach that, they carry that with them into adulthood and they will have better boundaries. They will recognize when someone is not treating them {inaudible} with their worth. They will overall be more emotionally healthy. So, that's a big part of what I teach.

Also, the fact that your child is a separate entity from you, they're not going to have the same likes, dislikes, preferences; they're not going to like to do the same activities. So, I see a lot of parents, pushing the kids to do, well, I like this, so you're going to like it too. Well, not necessarily. They may not like what you like to do, or they may not act in the same ways as you did, or have the same values as you, because they're different entities.

Howard Lovy: And when it came time to publisher books, there was no question about going indie.

Maria Riegger: I have not made any serious efforts to be traditionally published, and the reason is, I was very impatient. I didn't want to take the time to shop around and get multiple rejections and then find agents. I have author friends who have done this process for years, and I just did not have the patience to do that. So, that's largely why self-publish.

I like to have the creative control, and having talked to authors who have been both self-published and traditionally published, they've told me, you're still going to have to do your own marketing and your own audience building, even if you're traditionally published. So, if you're going to be doing that work anyway, why not have more control over the process and keep more of the profits? So, that's my main rationale for that decision.

Howard Lovy: And while she was self-publishing, Maria discovered that she could use her legal expertise to help other self-published authors.

Maria Riegger: I definitely saw that in the self-publishing community, there was a real need for legal help. I'm sure any self-published author who's on author of Facebook groups and whatnot, has seen several illegal questions. There are almost daily questions about copyright, defamation, other things, trademarks, other things, and I frankly, I've seen a lot of bad advice given on Facebook by non-attorneys. I'm not saying that you have to be an attorney to necessarily know about this stuff, but I just see a lot of bad advice, and I saw more importantly, that there was a real need for help in these areas, and this is one area that I can be of value to the self-publishing community.

So, that was the impetus to help self-publish authors. So, obviously I'm not qualified necessarily to speak about every single legal issue that could come up, but for the ones I do know about, I'm hoping to provide this value, this service to self-published authors so that they can relax a little more and hopefully focus more on writing than on the legal stuff.

Howard Lovy: Maria says some of the biggest misconceptions among authors in the United States involve copyright law.

Maria Riegger: One big one is, some authors think that, this is in the US, talking from a US perspective, some authors think that in order to have a copyright over your written work, you need to register it somehow, but when you create a written work such as a book, you automatically have a legal copyright over that work because you have created it. You don't have to do anything to have the copyright or to assert the copyright in the case of infringement. So, you don't need to do anything. There are good reasons why you should register the work with the US Copyright Office, but you don't need to in order to assert copyright over the book. So, that's a huge misconception that I come across repeatedly.

And others. So, there are a couple of misconceptions about setting up a limited liability company. So, it's a good idea to do that. I don't have time to go into the details as to why that's a good idea. That's my opinion. So, in the US, if you have a limited liability company where there's only one member, a sole member company, you still get the limited liability protection. I think there are some people I've have seen have said, or thought, that if you have a single member limited liability company, you do not get that limited liability protection. That's not true. Now, this is governed by state law. So, to know the precise details of the law regarding limited liability companies, you'd have to look to the State Corporation Commission. So, I cannot speak for all 50 states, but in almost all states, having a sole member LLC gets you the full limited liability protection.

Howard Lovy: Maria has had many moving parts in her career between her law practice, fiction, parenting, and legal books. Her advice for other authors is to protect your time and energy. Think hard before making other commitments. It's how Maria stays focused on the various dreams of her own career into the future.

Maria Riegger: As usual with me, I'm working on several projects at once, so I am working on my next novel, I am working on my next non-fiction book, and I am working on content for my parenting stuff.

So, that's basically how I'll continue for the moment. In November, I'll concentrate on just the novel, most likely, hopefully whip that out. Then as it gets closer to publication date for the novel, I'll just be working on the fiction end, but yeah, my hope is to continue publishing regular parenting content on YouTube and even offer some parenting courses. I've got a ton of people on my YouTube audience asking me for parenting courses and coaching. So, putting that together is probably going to be in the works. That's the plan for the future.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads.

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