Please welcome the wonderful Hilary Davidson to the blog! Hilary is kind of an overachiever-she’s not only written 18 non fiction books, but Evil In All Its Disguises, the third in her suspense series featuring travel writer Lily Moore, just dropped in March. And she shows no signs of stopping, thankfully! Hilary was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, and she’s also got one copy of THE NEXT ONE TO FALL, and one copy of EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES up for grabs!
Check out the details of the giveaway after the interview, and good luck!
Hilary, you had an extensive career as a travel writer! What inspired you to write your first novel, The Damage Done (which won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel!!)?
It sounds kind of crazy to describe travel journalism as a stepping stone to writing novels, but it was for me. I always wanted to write fiction, but I never imagined anyone would publish what I wrote. But I knew I could make a career out of writing nonfiction books and articles, and I did that for more than a decade. Early on, I knew I was seeing and hearing things I couldn’t put into travel articles, which were always supposed to be happy, upbeat stories.
There was one press trip I did with a group of female journalists, where people ended up speaking very openly about why they wanted to be on the road, and it turned out that almost everyone was running away from something in their home life. That was when I really started picturing Lily Moore in my mind. When I knew what she was running away from — and what would drag her back home — I had the backbone of the plot of The Damage Done.
Did you celebrate when you found out you’d won the Anthony? Was there happy dancing?
There was happy dancing for a week! At the time, I couldn’t believe I won, and it still seems like a dream. Because I’m a bit superstitious, I didn’t prepare any kind of acceptance speech, so I have no idea what I said when I got on stage. But I do remember looking around the room and seeing so many incredible people who’ve been supportive of my work from the start. That memory still brings tears to my eyes.
Your brand new novel, Evil In All Its Disguises, is the third in the series to feature Lily Moore, who is also a travel writer. When you started the series, did you have any idea where it would go, or how many books you’d like to write?
For whatever reason, I think in threes, so I had the roughest of rough ideas about the first three Lily books. That makes it sound as if I knew the plots of the books, and I definitely didn’t, but I knew what the emotional arc of the character would be. My main fear, early on, was that there might only be two Lily books, since I had a two-book deal with my publisher, Tor/Forge. Fortunately, they signed me up for more. Evil in All Its Disguises brings a chapter in Lily’s life to a close — she’s stopped running from her past and has become a much stronger character, kind of like the hardboiled dames she admires from the old movies she loves so much. To me, she’s a more interesting character now than she was in The Damage Done. Of course, now I’ve got three more books featuring Lily that I want to write…
Will you tell us a bit about Lily? Has her character evolved in the way you first envisioned, or has it been an organic process?
It’s been a mix of the two. I definitely envisioned her becoming stronger and tougher, because I knew from the start she was more resilient than she ever gave herself credit for. She’s already survived so much before the books begin, but you only understand that as the books unfold — Lily’s not the kind of character who reveals all early on. But sometimes she surprises me. In Evil in All Its Disguises, she has to come to terms with her own desire for revenge, which I didn’t realize was there until I started writing. It’s ironic, because so much of the action in that book is motivated by vengeful feelings, and I didn’t understand how much that motivated Lily, too.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Pantser all the way. I’ve tried plotting, but my brain seems able to twist things around in more interesting directions while I’m writing, and I’ve learned to follow those impulses.
I imagine with your travel experience, your research is probably not as much as it normally might be. Did you have to do any research for Evil In All Its Disguises?
Evil is the first book that I’ve written that has its premise based in reality, so the research process was different. The book is about a journalist who goes missing while on a press trip, and that’s based on the disappearance of a Frommer’s editor on a press trip in 2000. It’s a story that haunts me and a lot of other female travel journalists, and I wanted to find out everything I could about it, especially how the investigation unfolded. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to tell the story about what really happened — the real-life journalist has never been found — but I wanted to explore why the story filled me with such a visceral sense of horror. I realized it wasn’t so much the journalist’s disappearance as its aftermath, especially the way the resort tried to pretend nothing was amiss. Then, when they couldn’t keep that up anymore, they trashed the journalist’s reputation. Evil takes place in a very compressed timeframe, but a lot of key details are the same.
The new book has a very “Old Hollywood” vibe to it, but although it doesn’t take place there, thought it does make references to classic film. What are a few of your favorite classic movies?
Lily is obsessed with Ava Gardner’s films, but my favorites feature Barbara Stanwyck. She was one of the best actresses of all time, and her body of work is impressively dark — think movies like Baby Face, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Double Indemnity, and Sorry, Wrong Number. I thought I knew a lot about old Hollywood, but I’ve had to watch a lot of films to see things the way Lily does. That kind of research is a lot of fun.
What, or who, has influenced you most in your writing?
I take inspiration wherever I can find it! I’m influenced by great books, compelling writing, fascinating films, smart conversations… it’s all over the map. There are a lot of writers who’ve influenced my work — including Dennis Lehane, Walter Mosley, Patricia Highsmith, Laura Lippman, Linda Fairstein, Ken Bruen… it’s a very long list. They’re not necessarily direct influences, but reading great novels makes me aim higher.
If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I read that book for the first time when I was twelve, which was the age of several of the characters in the story, but I wish I could experience it again for the first time.
When you’re not busy at work on your next project, how do you like to spend your free time?
Walking around New York and eavesdropping on people. Seriously, it’s like an open-air show running all day long here. I’m also a very passionate, but strictly amateur, photographer. I used to be hardcore old-school about it — using a manual Yashica camera from the 1960s, developing my own film — but I’ve given in to the lazy ease of digital. When I want to relax, I jump on a trampoline. Some people think I’m joking about owning one, but I’m not.
What’s next for you?
My next book, BLOOD ALWAYS TELLS, is a standalone that will be published be Tor/Forge in April 2014. A lot of people have asked me, “When are you going to write something that’s as dark as your short stories?” Now, I can finally tell them I have a novel for them to read!
**Ok, guys and girls, here’s the GIVEAWAY deets: Leave a comment or question for Hilary with your choice of book (THE NEXT ONE TO FALL or EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES), and I’ll pick 2 winners at random on 5/27/13 (US ONLY).**
About THE NEXT ONE TO FALL:
Travel writer Lily Moore has been persuaded by her closest friend, photographer Jesse Robb, to visit Peru with him. Jesse is convinced that the trip will lure Lily out of her dark mood, but Lily is still haunted by the death of her sister. At Machu Picchu, the famous Lost City of the Incas, they discover a woman clinging to life at the bottom of an ancient stone staircase. Just before the woman dies, she tells Lily the name of the man who pushed her.
When the local police investigate, the forensic evidence they find doesn’t match what Lily knows. Unable to accept the official ruling of accidental death, Lily hunts down the wealthy man who was the dead woman’s traveling companion and discovers a pattern of dead and missing women in his wake.
Obsessed with getting justice for these women, Lily sets in motion a violent chain of events that will have devastating consequences.
About EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES:
When travel writer Lily Moore joins a group of journalists for an all-expenses-paid press junket to Acapulco, Mexico, she expects sun, sand, and margaritas. Instead, she finds that the Mexican city, once the playground of Hollywood stars, is a place of faded glamour and rising crime. Even the luxurious Hotel Cerón, isolated from the rest of the town, seems disturbing to her, with its grand, empty rooms, ever-watchful staff, and armed guards patrolling the grounds.
Lily isn’t the only one who suspects something rotten under the hotel’s opulent facade. Skye McDermott, another journalist on the trip, asks Lily for help with an article she’s working on about fraud and corruption in the hotel industry. Skye claims she’s eager to write a piece of real journalism rather than the fluff she’s known for. But she also lets slip that she’s deeply upset at a lover who jilted her, and she plans to exact her revenge by exposing his company’s illegal activities.
After Skye disappears suddenly, Lily suspects that her friend is in grave danger. But the hotel’s staff insists that everything is fine and refuses to contact the police. Only after Lily tries—and fails—to leave the Hotel Cerón does she discover the truth: the journalists are prisoners in a gilded cage.
Too late, Lily realizes that she has been maneuvered into the role of bait in a vicious, vengeful plot. Faced with unthinkable choices, Lily must summon all her strength to survive, confront the past she’s still running from, and save other lives.