Please welcome Lori Rader-Day, author of The Black Hour.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Any day where I get to write for a while, read for a while, spend time with my husband, and walk my dog is a pretty good day. If that day also included watching some Big Bang Theory reruns and some pizza, well, who am I to argue?
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I have to hit the pause button to say that I don’t like fragrances, especially those on people standing far enough away from me that I shouldn’t have to smell them. My signature color is sweatshirt gray. That should tell you just about everything you need to know about me, fashion-wise.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Well, The Black Hour is a dark book, so it couldn’t be any other chocolate but dark chocolate. But I like to think there are other ingredients in there, too—characters you like to be around, a story concerned with the human condition, humor. What ingredients are those? Caramel is the character you never mind hanging out with. Sea salt for the tears. Those funny little goji berries. Man, that sounds good, doesn’t it?
Do you listen to music when you write?
Not always, but a great deal of the time. I have noise-cancelling headphones, and I always have a few songs, a playlist if you like, that helps get me in the zone for the specific thing I’m writing. For The Black Hour, I listened to AWOLnation’s “Sail” over and over to get into the right frame of mind. For my next project, I’ve been listening to a lot of Lorde.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
The Black Hour’s story features violence on a fictional college campus, but really the book is about the aftermath of crime, about how we and the media treat crime victims. The first page of the book opens up with Amelia Emmet returning to work. It’s about her getting her life back after terrible things have happened, not about the terrible things themselves.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I find myself returning to the idea of regret and the loss of the person you might have been. The Black Hour spends time on this. Amelia wonders who she might have been if she hadn’t made some of the biggest decisions of her life, and then she wonders who she will be on the other side of her attack.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Turning right when she could have turned left. Seriously, one of The Black Hour’s main themes is that we all make decisions every day that take us this way instead of that, and after a few of these decisions, you could end up being an entirely different person than the one you meant to be. In Amelia’s case, she’s a little angry at having some of her decisions made for her. She’s touchy around the students she used to love to teach. She wonders if she’s made the worst mistake of her life giving up a relationship, and she’s facing all of what’s happening to her alone. She’s tough, but she’s got lots of doubts about herself.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I would like to say Jesus, Scarlett O’Hara and Harry Potter, because then I’d never have to worry about book sales. Honestly, though, Amelia is not any of those people. She’s someone like you or me, who gets caught up in something she doesn’t understand. She’s a whole lot less forgiving than Jesus, I can tell you that.
If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
OK, let’s not even mess around. If Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, and Mark Twain aren’t there, I’m not having the party. Then Dashiell Hammett, but someone will need to keep him away from the booze. Also Josephine Tey, because I love her books, but was she any fun? I get to meet a lot of current authors these days, especially mystery writers, but one person I haven’t met in person yet is Jincy Willett. I think she’d enjoy the company, too, and I would so love to read the book she’d write afterward.
What’s next for you?
My next novel, Little Pretty Things, will be released by Seventh Street Books on July 7. Little Pretty Things is about Juliet Townsend, a nearly-thirty woman working below her ambitions in her hometown at a roadside motel. When her estranged high school best friend/rival shows up for the first time in ten years only to be murdered at the motel, Juliet has to pull herself together to figure out what happened to her friend, and to the person she’d hoped to become.
Lori Rader-Day’s debut mystery, The Black Hour (Seventh Street Books, 2014), received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. Her short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. Her next book, the mystery Little Pretty Things, is out in 2015. She lives in Chicago.