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BLOOD ALWAYS TELLS is your first stand alone novel - and is considerably darker than your Lily Moore series, and also unlike Lily, there’s no international travel. What inspired your detour from Lily?
One of the things I never realized before I started writing a series is that, once you establish the ground rules of that world, you have to follow them. The reader knows that Lily and Jesse are never going to betray each other, for instance. They’re going to be thick as thieves forever, even if they fight. So a big part of the appeal of writing a stand-alone novel was that those rules went out the window. It was nerve-wracking, because anything could happen to anyone in the book, but it was also exciting for that same reason. The gloves came off.
Without giving too much away, I loved how the story was…divided into two different viewpoints (that vague enough?). What were the challenges and/or advantages of writing this way?
It was almost like writing two different books. The first part is told from the viewpoint of a woman named Dominique, who is livid as her longtime boyfriend for cheating on her. She has a plan to get even with him, but while that’s in progress, they’re kidnapped by someone else who has an ax to grind with the boyfriend. They’re held hostage at a ramshackle old house in the Poconos, and as grim as this section is, it has a sense of humor, simply because Dominique does.
The second part of the book is told through the eyes of her brother, Desmond, who comes looking for her and finds more trouble than he ever could’ve imagined. He’s a serious character, and this section reads like a hardboiled novel.
You’ve done a great job of keeping the book’s secrets, but I guess I can tell readers there’s a short third section, in which you see the story through the eyes of one of its criminals. But I can’t say anything about who that is!
This is your fourth novel, so you’re an expert now. If you could, what would you go back and do differently, or, what’s the one piece of advice you would give a debut author?
It’s funny, because I feel like I’m still fumbling around. I wish I could say it got easier to write books, but it hasn’t. Each one has been difficult in a different way. Advice for a debut author? Don’t ever lose your focus. By that, I mean, you’re a writer first and foremost. New authors are under constant pressure to build a platform via social media and to do all kinds of things that aren’t writing. Promotion can feel like a full-time job, but your real job is always writing.
Who are your noir inspirations?
There are so many! Jim Thompson and Patricia Highsmith are two classic noir authors that I particularly love. There’s a whole spectrum from suspense to hardboiled to noir that I admire. Some of my other favorites are Megan Abbott, Harlan Coben, Lisa Unger, Reed Farrel Coleman, Chris F. Holm, and Dennis Tafoya.
You’ve also made a name for yourself as a short story writer (see: THE BLACK WIDOW CLUB). What about short stories appeals to you? Any tips for the short story writers among us?
I love short stories because you can explore whatever crazy character, situation, or scheme pops into your head. It’s almost like having a playground to run free in. Novels can be heartbreaking, because you can write 20,000 words right down into a blind alley, and you have to throw them away and start over. I can do that, anyway. With a short story, there’s very little risk. I advise writers to be uninhibited in their short stories. There are a lot of crazy characters I wouldn’t want to spend a whole novel with, but a short story? Sure. I’ll go anywhere.
What’s coming next for you?
I’m working on another stand-alone novel now. Coming up soon, I’ve got a story in Ellery Queen called, “My Sweet Angel of Death.” It’s about a serial killer at work in the Andes, so you get a beautiful setting to go with some terrible crimes. I’ve also got a story in TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND: CRIME FICTION INSPIRED BY THE SONGS OF BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. Mine is called “Hungry Heart,” and it was truly inspired by the song.
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QUICKIES WITH HILARY:
Book she wishes she could read again for the first time: THE GRIFTERS by Jim Thompson.
What she's reading now: DOING THE DEVIL'S WORK by Bill Loehfelm.
Favorite sentence she's written: "Jess was washing bloodstains out of her husband's shirt when the police came knocking at her door." That's from a short story called "The Barnacle."
Writing ambience: Both. Messy but quiet.
Period in history she'd most like to visit: Ancient Rome, because so much of their culture and langauge shaped ours.
Favorite online resource: I don't have a green thumb, but I love www.botanical.com for its information about poisons!
Favorite independent bookstore: There are so many I love that I can't really choose! But the Poisoned Pen is special, because it's the only store I've visited on all of my book tours.
If shecould have one superpower: Pyrokinesis. But it's probably for the best that I can't walk around setting things on fire with my mind..
Favorite big or small screen detective: Robert B. Parker's Spenser.
If she could meet one of her characters: Jesse Robb. You know he'd be a lot of fun to hang out with.
If she could invite four people to a dinner party: Marcus Aurelius, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Madame Curie, and Edgar Allan Poe. I think that would be a hell of a party!