Stacey Abrams tells a Supreme Court mystery in 'While Justice Sleeps'
In 2020, Stacey Abrams led a wave of Democratic voters back to the polls in Georgia, ultimately flipping the red state to blue. It was a political victory years in the making.
Her latest victory is also years in the making. “While Justice Sleeps” (Doubleday/Penguin Random House, $28), her first political thriller, started over lunch more than a decade ago. She’ll talk about the book Monday virtually at BookPeople, with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” star Sarah Michelle Gellar. (More later on that interview pairing.)
A fateful lunch conversation with a friend piqued Abrams’ interest in what might happen if a Supreme Court justice ever became incapacitated. She sketched out a scene that eventually became the scaffolding for “While Justice Sleeps,” which finds Supreme Court clerk Avery Keene investigating a mystery that kicks off with her boss, legendary Justice Howard Wynn, in a coma and Keene designated as his guardian.
Despite her previous success as a romance writer — Abrams authored eight novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery — she couldn’t get publishers interested.
“I was told that it was too complicated and that the president was too far-fetched — that it seemed absurd that we would have a president who was involved in international intrigue — and that nobody cared about the Supreme Court,” Abrams told the New York Times.
All that changed in 2019, when a Doubleday editor snapped up the manuscript.
And now Abrams’ literary fortunes are ascending, just like the recognition of her political acumen, honed over more than a decade in the Georgia House and her bid for Georgia governor. The infrastructure she helped build continues to support voting rights through the groups Fair Fight and the nonprofit Fair Count.
Working Title Television has acquired the adaptation rights to “While Justice Sleeps,” with Abrams signed on as an executive producer. The thriller follows her two nonfiction New York Times bestsellers, “Lead From the Outside” and “Our Time Is Now,” published earlier this year. In 2022, publishing house Berkley will reissue three of her romance novels in hardcover, including her debut, “Rules of Engagement,” written while she was still at Yale Law School. Another of her romance novels, “Never Tell,” is in development with CBS. She’s working on a children’s book and a “teenage superhero book.”
Let’s not forget “Buffy.”
Fans of the 1990s WB drama “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” swooned last year when Abrams tweeted out her post-election thoughts on the show’s love triangle: “To be fair, Angel was the right boyfriend for Buffy coming into her power. Spike was the right man to be with as she became the power.” Gellar, who played Buffy over the show’s seven seasons and is a self-dubbed Abrams “fangirl,” will interview her for the BookPeople appearance.
Abrams’ myriad of talents and interests serve her well in “While Justice Sleeps,” which over the course of a propulsive story spotlights Avery shepherding her troubled mother and deploying an eidetic memory as she puzzles over a merger between an American biotech firm and a genetics firm in India, and she grapples with political intrigue that spirals upward to the White House. She’s a smart woman battling an entrenched system of power.
Which might just describe Abrams, too.
If you go
Stacey Abrams will talk about “While Justice Sleeps” in a virtual BookPeople event at 5 p.m. Monday. Tickets begin at $33 and include a signed copy of the book, which will be mailed after the event. Information and ticket purchases at www.bookpeople.com/event.