Author of The Southern Spectral Series, The Feathers and The Irises
Interview with Author, Lori Rader-Day
Like a lot of wonderful Authors, I met Lori Rader-Day through various friends on Facebook. And this is why I love social media. It exposes me to so many lovely people who I might not meet otherwise. I read Day’s debut novel, The Black Hour (Seventh Street Books, 2014), and fell in love. For some reason, I adore mysteries and movies centering around suspicious and nefarious university settings. To implicate myself a little bit, one of my favorite horror films is House on Sorority Row, which oddly enough also features one of my favorite authors (when she was an actress), Harley Jane Kozak.
Lori Rader-Day’s book revolves around a female professor shot by a student for no apparent reason. She lives to tell about it and in the process, turns a prestigious university inside out. It’s a page turner with an unpredictable twist. Day’s short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. Thank you, Lori, for taking time out of your busy schedule for my interview. It was a pleasure!
CL: This novel was a page-turner. Tell me what inspired you to write it.
LRD: For The Black Hour, the idea that came first was that first day back on campus. Professor Amelia Emmet was the victim of an attack almost a year ago, so when she steps back on campus, she’s immediately the subject of gossip, curiosity, and complex emotions of those around her. The story is less about the act of violence—it happens before the book starts—and more about being forced into the role of victim. That’s an interesting topic to me, and when you’re writing in spare moments like most of us are, you have to keep yourself interested first.
CL: For some reason, university settings always hook me. I think it’s because there is potentially some dark secret going on in them. Why did you choose a university and what about that captured your imagination?
LRD: I work for a university so choosing that setting wasn’t too difficult—I was doing research every day. Universities are the perfect closed community for a murder mystery, but they’re also varied places with people who don’t always get along or have the same worldviews. They’re also like any other workplace, where people want to get ahead. Violence can occur anywhere. Better for us writers if it can happen somewhere that evokes memories and emotions in our readers.
CL: I love how the chapters switch back and forth between the two main characters. What kind of research did you do for both Amelia Emmet and Nathaniel Barber?
LRD: The only real research I did for the book was for Amelia’s profession. I’m not a professor, and I’ve only ever taken one course in sociology. I bought and read a textbook that might have been used for the class that Amelia teaches in the book. It was really helpful having that point of view, and actually I find sociology so interesting, this was pleasant research. Though I’m not a professor, I’ve worked for and studied at several universities over my life so far, so now I can count all that life experience as research.
CL: I was really intrigued by why Amelia was shot and knew there was something sinister behind it. I didn’t, however, see the ending coming. I liked the twist. Did you have that planned out from the beginning or is it something that came to you as you wrote the novel? (no spoilers!)
LRD: I’m what they call a “pantser.” The situation—professor, returning to campus after recovering from a violent attack—was all I started with. I wrote until I realized I needed a second voice, then realized I had a good candidate in Nathaniel, so gave him a shot and kept writing until I needed to figure out for myself what had actually happened. It’s not the smoothest way to produce a book, but I don’t think I can write a book with a fully detailed outline already plotted—there’s just no mystery left in it for me. But we each have to work the way we have to work. What works for me might be too slow for someone else. I’m jealous of writers who can plot out a book ahead of time. That seems so intentional and productive.
CL: What is your advice for authors working on their debut novel?
LRD: Keep writing. Anyone who’s finished a novel knows there are plenty of dark moments when the book-in-progress feels like it will never come together, never see the light of day. From what I’ve heard from other writers, I believe every book has that moment. Just keep writing. When you get done with the first draft, then you can work on making it better and making decisions about its future. Something like a quarter of the American population think they will write a novel “when they get time.” If you want to be the person who actually does write the novel, then make the time.
CL: What are you working on now? What can we expect from you next?
LRD: I’m working on revisions for next mystery, Little Pretty Things, out from Seventh Street Books on July 7, 2015. Juliet Townsend is ten years out of high school and stuck in life, working below her ambitions as a cleaner at motel in her home town. When her estranged best friend slash former high school rival returns to town and is murdered, Juliet pulls herself together to try and find out why. Aside from the murder mystery, Little Pretty Things is also about how girls and women are pitched into competition with one another, and how dangerous a place the world is for girls.