CONGRATULATIONS to author Lori Rader-Day, whose book, The Day I Died, is the 2018 winner of the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original! I’m so pleased to welcome Rader-Day back to the Debutante Ball. For those of you who’ve been following us for a while, she really needs no introduction. Rader-Day was a deb back in 2014, and we have since hosted her a few times, celebrating every new book. We’re so proud to have been a part of the starting point for such a fantastic career!
Lori Rader-Day is a three-time Mary Higgins Clark Award nominee, winning the award in 2016 for her second novel, Little Pretty Things. She is the author of Under a Dark Sky, and of The Black Hour, winner of the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, The Day I Died, a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark, Thriller, Anthony, and Barry Awards. She is active in Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. She lives with her husband and spoiled dog in Chicago, where she co-chairs the mystery conference Murder and Mayhem in Chicago. She spends far too much time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
You can connect with her at
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— The Debutante Ball Class of ‘22 (@DebutanteBall) September 15, 2018
Without further ado, here’s our interview:
Do you have any phobias?
I hate hate hate… caves. You would think that a (I shudder even saying the word) cave is the kind of thing you can avoid in your daily life, right? Wrong. Every time I go to New York, I ask the cabbie to take the bridge rather than the tunnel. They usually ignore me. I watch PBS a lot, and you would not believe how often the shows on PBS go under ground or into caves. Every. Show. Like, only British Baking doesn’t. Yet.
There’s no reason for my fear, and I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that I’ll get over by forcing myself to face it. In my new novel, Under a Dark Sky, the protagonist is afraid of the dark. So when she finds a reservation for the guest house at a dark sky park her recently deceased husband left behind, she doesn’t want to go. She decides, however, that it’s time to face her fear, get over it, and get back to the living. I’m interested in phobias and all the ways that people explain them away, face them, ignore them, and build their lives around them. Phobias are great fodder for psychological suspense novels because they feel irrational, and irrational behavior and ideas are fertile ground for stories.
Where do you love to be?
I like to be near a cool lake in summer. Parts of all my books have been written near water, usually in Wisconsin. Under a Dark Sky is set in Michigan, on the tippy top fingertips of the Lower Peninsula “mitten,” which is a lovely spot to visit. There’s plenty to see: the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, which I borrowed for my story, and the Mighty Mac, the long suspension bridge that might stir up phobias you didn’t know you had, and then of course Mackinac Island, a picturesque spot only a ferry ride away. I visited this area to research the book, and visited recently to promote this book. I’ll definitely be back.
Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
So many books have had an impact on me that it’s hard to sort them out. One book that had an impact on me and also had an unexpected influence on my current novel is Gene Weingarten’s The Fiddler in the Subway. It’s a collection of Weingarten’s pieces for the Washington Post, essays that run the gamut but always have something profound to say. I love essays normally but especially when I’m drafting fiction and want to read something else. I think essays also give pieces of themselves over time; if you re-read one, you’re likely to get something from it you didn’t get last time. One of the essays in Weingarten’s book, which I read years ago, sneaked into Under a Dark Sky. A man Weingarten writes about, a very confident man who thinks he’s right about everything, is revealed in one short sentence to be afraid of the dark. I always remembered that line, because, for me, it told me everything I needed to know about that man’s blustering confidence. When I stumbled upon the dark sky park as a novel setting and started thinking about which character would visit the park, I remembered that Weingarten essay.
What time of day do you love best?
The golden hour. That’s the photographer’s term for the time right after sunrise and right before sunset when the sun’s rays are at a stark angle and the light is golden and lovely. A photographer I once worked with in my career job told me that everything and everyone is beautiful in the light of the golden hour—and he’s right. I’ve always been interested in photography, which is one of the reasons why I wanted Eden Wallace, the protagonist of Under a Dark Sky, to be a photographer. Working in public relations, my favorite duty was photo shoot day, the time spent with photographers to get the exact right shot for my publications. Photographers have a great way of looking out at the world, and they’re always looking.
The golden hour moves with the seasons. You can find the specific time for your location here.
Tell us a secret about the main character in your novel—something that’s not even in your book.
I’m not the kind of writer who leaves a lot on the cutting-room floor, so to speak. In Under a Dark Sky, Eden is a first-person narrator, which means that the reader gets her most intimate thoughts, even the ones she would rather not have. Also as a first-person narrator, Eden has blind spots and biases. You can definitely leave out certain kinds of details when you’re writing a first-person narrator in the middle of an urgent situation. You don’t have a lot of time for dwelling on the past or on musing about topics that don’t fit the urgent narrative of the book. If Eden didn’t get plunked into the middle of a murder and its investigation, I would have liked to see what she spent more time on, where she found images she wanted to capture with her camera. I would have liked to have sent her to Mackinac Island for some fudge and sight-seeing. She doesn’t get a lot of leisure time in this book, though.
What’s your next big thing?
My next thing is book tour. I’m writing this in a Starbucks in …Rushville, Indiana? I think? As for fiction, I’m still writing what will be my fifth novel, so it’s too early to talk specifics. I’ll say only that it is a novel but has a true crime element to it that has sent me researching in a way I’ve never done before. After that, I’m hoping to work on a project I’ve been thinking about for years, something really different. There’s all this talk of “brand,” but I want my brand to encompass lots of different kinds of stories.
About Under a Dark Sky
Only in the dark can she find the truth . . .
Since her husband died, Eden Wallace’s life has diminished down to a tiny pinprick, like a far-off star in the night sky. She doesn’t work, has given up on her love of photography, and is so plagued by night terrors that she can’t sleep without the lights on. Everyone, including her family, has grown weary of her grief. So when she finds paperwork in her husband’s effects indicating that he reserved a week at a dark sky park, she goes. She’s ready to shed her fear and return to the living, even if it means facing her paralyzing phobia of the dark.
But when she arrives at the park, the guest suite she thought was a private retreat is teeming with a group of twenty-somethings, all stuck in the orbit of their old college friendships. Horrified that her get-away has been taken over, Eden decides to head home the next day. But then a scream wakes the house in the middle of the night. One of the friends has been murdered. Now everyone—including Eden—is a suspect.
Everyone is keeping secrets, but only one is a murderer. As mishaps continue to befall the group, Eden must make sense of the chaos and lies to evade a ruthless killer—and she’ll have to do it before dark falls…
If you haven’t already, be sure to pick up a copy of Under a Dark Sky today! You can also enter to win a copy by retweeting on Twitter or sharing this post on Facebook. We will contact the winner on Friday, September 21st at noon (US only).
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