It is such a pleasure to welcome back former Debutante Lori Rader-Day!! In honor of the release of her new book THE DAY I DIED, Lori will be our special guest today, giving us the scoop on her latest novel and much more!
THE DAY I DIED is the story of Anna Winger, a handwriting expert hired by corporations and the lovelorn who also occasionally works as a specialist with the FBI. When she’s asked to help out with a murder/kidnapping case in the small town where she and her son have just moved, the case gets under her skin, reminding her too much of the drastic things she’s done to rewrite her own life.
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) April 8, 2017
Or, you can enter by sharing the post on Facebook. We will select and contact the very lucky winner on Friday, April 14th at noon (US Only).
Welcome Back, Lori!!
The road to publication is twisty at best—tell us about some of your twists.
The biggest twist so far in my writing life is that the book that comes out this month, The Day I Died, is my third novel but also my first. I started writing this book as a short story in 2007, finished the draft after a couple of years, and then—put it away. It’s my “drawer” book. Not every drawer book should be rescued, but I decided to try. In between, I wrote and published two mystery novels (including my Deb Ball debut, The Black Hour!), so when I pulled this manuscript out after many years away, I was a better writer and much more able to see where I’d gone wrong. I rewrote the novel, auditioning every line, every word for the new draft, and now here it is, published ten years after I started writing it. When I put it away, I was sure it would never get published, but I’m very happy to be wrong.
The first twist was that I was a mystery writer. I was writing the draft of what has become The Day I Died at the time, but I didn’t know what I was doing. At all. I had the chance to have Terence Faherty read a few pages of my work-in-progress, and he pointed out that I was writing about a crime, which could mean I was writing mystery. Not necessarily, but maybe. By setting me straight, he saved me a lot of time and possibly my career.
What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?
I love this question, because I love writing characters with interesting (or tedious) jobs. I’ve written about sociology professors, cleaners at roadside motels, about people who are foundering in their careers and trying to find a new way. In The Day I Died, Anna has probably the most interesting job I’ve ever attempted to write: handwriting expert. I am sadly not one.
In real life I’ve done all kinds of jobs. Most recently I’ve worked in public relations for health care and higher education, but way back before I was qualified to hold down the career job, I worked as a busser in a restaurant (so greasy) and a fry-cook in a little camper at a family fun park (so much greasier). I ran a cash register in the camper, so then I got cashier jobs wherever I turned, but I also worked in two factories in the summers before and after my senior year in high school. All these jobs have informed my writing in some way, especially the hot and stinking ones, the ones I was most ill-equipped to do for any amount of time. All jobs are strange or have the capacity for strangeness, which make them worthy of being written about.
Have you ever met someone you idolized? What was it like?
One of the best parts about being in the mystery-writing community is that I get to meet idols all the time. When I first started going to mystery conferences, I got to host a breakfast at which Mary Higgins Clark spoke. I sat next to her during the meal, and I was so nervous. I wanted her to know how much she had meant to me as a young reader (younger than I should have been, reading Mary Higgins Clark books!) and how excited I was to be (almost) a colleague. Just a few years later I won the Mary Higgins Clark Award, but she wasn’t available to hand out the prize. I wrote her a note and got a very nice one back.
I was also pleased to meet Lois Duncan before she died. I’m very grateful I got to tell her how much I had loved her work, growing up. Now I just need to meet Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume…
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Find your people. Writing can be a very lonely gig, but it doesn’t have to be. And finding other writers isn’t just for friendship and commiseration—it can really speed up your networking and maybe even your career. When I wandered into my first mystery conference, I knew only one person in a building stuffed with 1800, but I also found the Mystery Writers of America table and signed up for membership. Within a year, I was sitting next to Mary Higgins Clark at that breakfast. I also met my agent through a connection in MWA. If you think writing is lonely, try publishing without having a community behind you. I can’t imagine it. In some ways, I think mystery writers have this part figured out better than any other genre, but no matter what you write, try to meet other people who write it, too.
What’s your next big thing?
I’m teaching at a few conferences this summer, including Yale Summer Writers’ Conference and Antioch Writers’ Workshop. In the fall, I’m a speaker at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Conference. In writing, I’ll be revising my next book, a mystery set in a dark sky park in Michigan that is slated to be published by Harper Collins in spring 2018, and, of course, trolling around for what I’ll write next.
Lori Rader-Day, author of The Day I Died, The Black Hour, and Little Pretty Things, is the recipient of the 2016 Mary Higgins Clark Award and the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Lori’s short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Good Housekeeping, and others. She lives in Chicago, where she teaches mystery writing at StoryStudio Chicago and is the president of the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter.
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