She’s baaaaaaaaaaaa-aaaaack. Please welcome back to the Ball Lori Rader-Day, who needs no introduction, but who I will give one to anyway. If you’re a regular Deb reader, you probably remember Lori and her amazing debut mystery THE BLACK HOUR from last year’s class. Her second book LITTLE PRETTY THINGS came out July 7 and caused Booklist to deem her “a deft manipulator of dark atmosphere, witty dialogue, and complex, charismatic characters.” But we already knew that.
Without further ado, Lori’s here to share more about her writing process, her strangest job and what’s next for her.
When you were a teenager, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer. I mean, I was a writer, then, and I wanted to be one professionally. I wrote stories and shared them with my friends, won a few student contests, but then I gave up on myself for about five years in early adulthood. I didn’t know I was giving up. Over time, though, I allowed days to turn into weeks and months without doing the thing I wanted to do.
In the mean time, I got a career. I have worked for twenty years in communications, which is to say I’m a different kind of writer than I thought I’d be, but I don’t have newspaper journalism’s terrible deadlines.
The idea for Little Pretty Things actually came from me wondering what would have become of me if I hadn’t been able to leave my small Indiana town and go to college. All I could do with any skill at the end of high school was solve algebraic proofs and put together a yearbook. These were not skills in high demand in my town, so I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to feed myself. I’m not one of those people who thinks a career is everything, but I’m interested in jobs. What other people do all day is a mystery that I’d like to put some effort into solving.
What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?
I worked at a couple of factories when I was just out of high school. One of them was making that fluffy, shiny garland for Christmas trees. There’s a special machine. I was the worst garland-maker in the history of garland-making.
The other factory made plastic spools for wire, some of them small, some of them huge. Eventually they let me use one of the machines to churn those babies out, but on my first day, they put me in the recycling area. The factory took in old spools, those big wooden ones college guys sometimes turn into tables, and recycled the parts. But to recycle the parts, you had to divide out the metal rods that held them together. They handed me a sledgehammer.
Tell us a secret about the main character in your novel—something that’s not even in your book.
I already have Juliet’s next three jobs figured out, if I decide to turn her into a series character.
I would love to write a series, but right now I keep myself interested in writing not with a series character but with the lure of a brand new story. A brand new story is so shiny after you’ve spent so much time finishing a book.
Do you have a regular first reader? If so, who is it and why that person?
I have a couple of early readers, friends who are willing to read the book in its first full-draft stage. Some of them are writers, but what I really value about them all is their ability to tell me when they’re excited to turn the page and when they get caught up or confused or, oh boy, bored. It’s my fault when something isn’t going well, so it’s great to get that first feedback while there’s time to fix things. For Little Pretty Things, which features much discussion of running and track team details, I asked another writer friend to read it for authenticity. She was a track runner in high school and I—well, I was not, let’s just leave it there.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Write as much as you can and find a few people to trade stories or pages with. You’ll learn more about your own work from telling other people what you like or don’t about their stories than you think possible. And of course read. Read as much as possible, as widely as possible. Find what you like and what you can’t stand, and let yourself imitate for a while until you get tired of that and figure out what your own voice sounds like. Write first. Don’t worry about the business side of writing until you have the book written.
What’s your next big thing?
I’m writing my third mystery now, about a handwriting analyst whose cleverly revised life starts to unravel when she gets involved with a kidnapping case. It will be published by Seventh Street Books next summer. I’m also thinking about my next project after that, because I need to do some research for it, and I have an idea for a young reader series that I would love to try.
GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by Noon (EST) on Friday, July 24th to win a copy of LITTLE PRETTY THINGS! Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck!
About Lori: Lori Rader-Day is the author of THE BLACK HOUR—a 2015 Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee, a Left Coast Crime Rosebud Award finalist for Best Debut Mystery, and a Lovey Award winner for Best First Novel — and her latest, LITTLE PRETTY THINGS. She lives in Chicago, where she is active in the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She teaches mystery writing at Story Studio Chicago.