I first heard of Edwin Hill when we were both included (along with Dennis Lehane!) in a Strand Magazine piece on “Five Reinventions of the Boston Crime Novel,” calling us the heirs of George V. Higgins. From the description of his hard-hitting debut, Little Comfort, I expected someone a little scary. The man I finally met couldn’t have been more charming. Plus, he’s got a dog (named Edith Ann)! All the more reason I am thrilled to introduce him to you here today.
How does a book start for you?
I really love this question. For me, a book starts with a series of images or dramatic scenes, and I ruminate over those images for a while: many years, in the case of my first novel, Little Comfort [link to: ] or a few months in the case of my other novels. Once I’ve imagined the scenes, I start to build out an outline. For Little Comfort, which is inspired by the Clark Rockefeller case, the scene that got that novel started involved a man named Sam who was sitting at a bar on Beacon Hill in Boston contemplating leaving town. When I first imagined the scene, I knew that Sam had to leave town because he’d done something terrible to someone, but filling in the details of what those things were made up most of my creative process. I wound up cutting that scene from the final novel because it was really a means to the end!
Who in your latest book has surprised you most – and why?
My second novel is called The Missing Ones and will publish on August 27. I just turned over the final edits last week, so it is pretty fresh in my mind! Most of the action in this novel takes place on a small island off the coast of Maine that was inspired by Monhegan Island, and the plot involves two missing children and the opioid crisis (really light stuff!)
My main character is a woman named Hester Thursby, and anyone who read Little Comfort knows that I put her through quite a bit in that novel. While she’s tough and can take on pretty much anything that’s thrown at her, she also has a soft side that she doesn’t like to admit to. Without giving too much away, what surprised me most about this novel were some of the choices Hester makes, especially toward the end of the book. Her decisions around two characters in particular gave me a lot of insight into who she actually is – and I made her up! This was a particularly nice thing to happen as a writer of a series, since it’s important for ongoing characters to continue to grow.
On the lighter side, I was also surprised by a decision that Hester’s longtime partner Morgan makes regarding a dog named Trouble. Morgan, who is a veterinarian, has a big heart, and he makes sure that all creatures great and small lead their best lives.
When and/or where is your latest book set and is there a story behind that setting?
Hester and Morgan live in Somerville’s Union Square, and the action in the series takes place in the Boston area and New England. In Little Comfort, the action extends to the lake region in New Hampshire. As I mentioned above, the second book takes place in Maine. In the third book, which I’m working on right now, the action stays in Boston.
One very practical reason for choosing New England as a setting is that I know it well. I work a full-time job in addition to writing this series, so choosing a location that doesn’t involve having to invest time in research – or at least only involves day trips – is helpful. I also love New England: it’s beautiful, historic, and varied, which are all helpful when writing a story. In New England, you can go from urban to rural very quickly, and the landscape and challenges characters might face change quickly with it, which helps with dramatic storytelling.
What are you working on now?
The third book in the Hester Thursby series is tentatively called In the Blind. It’s about a family who runs a troubled for-profit university in the Boston area, and the story is inspired by some of the events surrounding the closing of Corinthian Colleges. The story also delves into Morgan’s childhood and we meet more of his family.
I am at the very beginning of drafting, so I’ll have more details in the coming months.
Which question didn’t I ask you that I should have?
A lot of people ask my why I write a series from a woman’s point of view! My answer is pretty simple: she’s the character who came to me as I created my first novel and took over the story. Originally, I didn’t know if Little Comfort would be a series or not, and at first the main character was Sam, the guy I mentioned above who was inspired by Clark Rockefeller. Once I decided I wanted to write a series, I realized Sam needed a foil, and Hester was born. I needed Hester to be strong and independent, and decided to model her (very loosely) on characters like Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor, women you don’t want to mess with. I hope you enjoy getting to know her!
When not writing, Edwin Hill currently serves as the vice president and editorial director for Bedford/St. Martin’s, a division of Macmillan Learning. A Duxbury, MA, native, he now lives in Roslindale, MA, with his partner Michael and his favorite reviewer, their lab Edith Ann, who likes his first drafts enough to eat them.