Writers@Work: An Interview with Mystery Author Lori Rader-Day
September 25, 2018
Note From Rochelle
Would you like more people to know about your work as a coach, speaker or consultant? A book can help. I talk about the 10 ways a book can support your business in my class, How a Book Can Boost Your Business. If you missed it, you can catch it on YouTube.
Today I am delighted to welcome Lori Rader-Day to the blog to talk about her brand new book, Under a Dark Sky. If you live in the Milwaukee area, you can meet Lori Rader-Day at Boswell Book Company on Wednesday, September 26 at 7:00 PM. She will be in conversation with Carole Barrowman, Alverno’s Director of Creative Writing Studies.
Writers@Work: An Interview with Mystery Author Lori Rader-Day
Welcome to the blog! I’ve been a fan of your books since I read your first novel, The Black Hour. Can you tell us a bit about your new novel, Under a Dark Sky?
Thank you! Under a Dark Sky is about a young widow, Eden Wallace, who finds in her husband’s things after he dies the paperwork for a reservation to visit a dark sky park. A dark sky park is a place where artificial light has been controlled so that visitors can see the night sky the way nature intended. Eden has actually developed a fear of the dark since Bix died, but she decides to go anyway, in the hopes she can get over her phobia and get on with her life. She’s picturing a getaway, a quiet place to face her demons—except when she arrives, there’s a group of twenty-somethings having a college reunion in the guesthouse that she is meant to share with them. She decides to go home the next day, but in the night, one of the friends is killed. It’s a bit of a locked room, strangers-stuck-together Agatha Christie thing.
Each of your books has a unique concept. Do you challenge yourself to try a new approach for each novel or do you just go with the idea that excites you the most or … ?
I do go with the idea that speaks to me most when it’s time to start something new. It’s always been, for me, about getting myself to the blank page. Back when I was writing books during my lunch hour at my very stressful day job, I needed the lure of a shiny new idea to get to the blank page. It’s not really different now. I write to find out what I want to say and to find out what happens. That said, I do set little challenges for myself, to stretch my own abilities, to figure out what I’m capable of. For Under a Dark Sky, I wanted to have a Christie-level of suspects and make them individual and real. There were times when I questioned the sanity of that. Every suspect you have is another story you’re obliged to tell.
I think you do such a good job with character creation and development. You write about people readers actually care about…and that makes your books so layered and interesting. What kind of research or preparation do you do before you write to create both rich characters and an interesting plot?
Sometimes I do research before I start writing—it depends on the book. For Under a Dark Sky, I wanted to visit the dark sky park in Michigan but couldn’t make the time to get that far north. I used Google Maps and YouTube videos to research the location until I could get there and figure out what I’d gotten wrong. In the case of characters, I don’t usually do that much research, but then again it matters which book we’re talking about. For The Day I Died, I wanted the protagonist’s job as a handwriting analyst to permeate who she was. What would she notice that other people wouldn’t, that kind of thing. So I had to do some research on handwriting analysis, and then put on that job to write her character. It’s a point of view exercise every time. What makes this character different than other people in the book or in my past work? What are her blind spots? What are her hang-ups? What does she get wrong? Especially with first-person narrators, there’s a lot of room for the protagonist to be wrong, and that’s the fun part for me.
Can you talk a bit about what the writing process is like for you?
My writing process is, in a word, haphazard. I wish I had it all figured out and just showed up at the page and spilled out the words, but I don’t. I usually have an idea that I like going on the back burner and then, when I have a few points on the map, I start writing and figure out the rest as I go along. This requires a lot of going back to the beginning and reading through, to see where I am, and obviously a lot of revision once I have a full draft. It’s a little painful at times, the uncertainty. But I think if I did know all there was to know before I started writing, I would never actually sit down and write it. There’s a lot of good TV out there right now, you know.
I don’t write every day, but I write more days than not, and sometimes when I’m not writing, I’m writing notes and working out things in a notebook so that I can get back to the activity that looks more like writing.
How do you juggle writing and platform building and all of the other tasks writers do?
For the writing and publishing and promoting of my first two books, I worked full-time. Not going to lie—that was tough. For the last couple of years, I’ve been a full-time writer, which has made it easier to do all the things I want to do, time-wise. One of the best platform-building activities I’ve found is really rather simple: get involved with the writing associations. Don’t just sign up as a member, but join and then engage, be useful. I have met so many people this way. It does take time, but I think it pays back with community and camaraderie.
What are some of the best books you’ve read this year?
I’m a little behind in reading in some ways, and then sometimes I’m ahead, because I’ve been asked to blurb an upcoming book, so forgive the mish-mash. I loved Catriona McPherson’s Go To My Grave, Kristen Lepionka’s What You Want to See, Mindy Mejia’s Leave No Trace, Clare O’Donohue’s Beyond the Pale, The Woman in the Camphor Trunk by Jennifer Kincheloe, Stephanie Gayle’s Idyll Hands, and Steven Cooper’s series that starts with Desert Remains. I finally read Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley and James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia this year, and there’s a reason these books are standing the test of time. I’ve also been reading a lot of true crime stuff lately, including of course I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara but also Lady Killers by Tori Telfer and True Crime Addict by James Renner. I really like being asked this question. Can you tell?
About the author: Lori Rader-Day is a three-time Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee, winning the award in 2016 for her second novel, Little Pretty Things. She is the author of Under a Dark Sky, and of The Black Hour, winner of the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, The Day I Died, a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, Thriller Award, Anthony Award, and Barry Award. She lives in Chicago, where she is active in Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and co-chairs the mystery conference Murder and Mayhem in Chicago. Visit her online at LoriRaderDay.com
If you want to read more from Lori Rader-Day, check out her previous appearances on the Write Now! Coach Blogs.
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Terrific interview, Rochelle! Thank you! Under the Dark Sky is one of my favorites of Lori’s books – oh, who am I kidding, I love every one of them differently:-)
I love them all, too, Julie! I can’t wait to read this one. 🙂
Thank you, Julie!