Looking for plot twists? New noir? Hilary Davidson is you’re gal. This Anthony Award winner switches between thrillers, short stories, and her new Shadows of New York series. A former journalist, she knows how to engage the reader – and she talks process and progress here with us today. Thanks, Hilary!
How does a book start for you?
It’s a crazy process that begins with me thinking about a character… and one day, lightning will strike. I know that sounds vague, but here’s what I mean: With my latest book, One Small Sacrifice,I knew that the main suspect, Alex Traynor, was a war photographer with PTSD and that his fiancée had vanished. But the Eureka!moment came when I read a news story about a woman who’d died in a fall from the roof of her building; she’d been up there with her boyfriend when her husband came home. It sounded like a classic love triangle and you thinkyou know what happened, but no one was ever charged with a crime. Something about that story haunted me. It inspired the backstory of the book, in which a friend of Alex’s died in a fall from his building. It’s not clear what happened that night, except that both Alex and his friend were high on ketamine. But he’s not just a troubled guy with a missing fiancée; he’s a man with a guilty conscience and holes in his memory. It makes the fact that he can’t remember the night his fiancée vanished even more ominous.
Who in your latest book has surprised you most – and why?
That would be NYPD Detective Sheryn Sterling. When I started writing One Small Sacrifice,I knew Alex Traynor’s story well, but all I knew about Sheryn was that she had investigated the death of Alex’s friend a year earlier, and that she believed Alex got away with murder on a technicality. I was aware that she was obsessed with the case, but as I wrote the book, I became obsessed with hercharacter. She had her own family history with PTSD — her father served in the military — and it gave her both compassion for Alex and a chilling awareness of what he’s capable of. She went from being a supporting character to the lead character in the book, and now the ongoing character in a series. Sheryn is full of surprises!
When and/or where is your latest book set and is there a story behind that setting?
Contemporary New York City, with much of the book’s action being set around Hell’s Kitchen. I love that neighborhood for many reasons, but particularly because there have been repeated attempts to gentrify it, and none of those plans has ever fully succeeded. It’s a gritty place, and the fact that the shiny new Hudson Yards development — a playground for plutocrats — is on its doorstep only increases the tension there.
What are you working on now?
I just finished the developmental edit of the second book in the series, Don’t Look Down,which will be out in February 2020 from Thomas & Mercer. It’s not a spoiler to say Detective Sterling will be back. The new case centers on a young female entrepreneur who’s being blackmailed about her past; in chapter one, she tries to pay off her blackmailer and everything goes to hell very quickly.
Which question didn’t I ask you that I should have?
When I’m not writing novels, I’m working on short stories. They remain my first love, because they allow me to explore an endless array of characters and narrative styles; they’re my playground. They’ve also given me the chance to work with some amazing people. Most recently, that’s included Lawrence Block, who edited At Home in the Dark; Holly West, who edited Murder-A-Go-Go’s; and Ed Aymar and Sarah M. Chen, who edited The Swamp Killers.
Hilary Davidson has won two Anthony Awards as well as the Derringer, Spinetingler, and Crimespree awards. She is the author of the Lily Moore series — which includes The Damage Done, The Next One to Fall, and Evil in All Its Disguises — the standalone thriller Blood Always Tells, and a short-story collection called The Black Widow Club. Her latest novel, One Small Sacrifice, was just published by Thomas & Mercer, and received a starred review from Library Journal, which said, “Fans of Karin Slaughter, Tana French, and Lisa Gardner will devour this new police procedural, which boasts a strong female detective and an intriguing antagonist. Sheryn [Sterling] will draw in readers, and Davidson’s complex storytelling will keep them wanting more.” Visit her online at https://www.hilarydavidson.com