Interview with Lori Rader-Day, The Black Hour
Recently I read Lori Rader-Day’s debut novel The Black Hour and reviewed it on the site. I loved the book if you couldn’t tell in my review, and I (with the help of WPR’s lovely PR Manger/Senior Editor, Ryan) got the opportunity to do an email interview with Lori, which gives some insight into Lori and her incredible debut (as well as a few fun facts about her – cake AND pie? YES!). The Black Hour is a novel about a woman who survived an attack on a university campus and her current graduate assistant who wants to write about it, but it is also about making it through life’s most difficult challenges and surviving. It is suspenseful, funny (yep, funny), thrilling, and fantastic. Enjoy!
Make sure you order your own copy of The Black Hour
over on Amazon.
First, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Lori Rader-Day: I’m from Indiana originally, live in Chicago. I love dogs, mysteries, The Big Bang Theory, Jane Austen, and reading. If I didn’t write or work or do anything at all, I would just read all the time. The Black Hour is my debut novel.
What inspired you to write The Black Hour?
LRD: The first thing I knew about the book was that the professor, a woman, would be coming back to campus after surviving an attack in which the attacker died. The book isn’t as much about violence on college campuses as about how victims come through that violence—that’s one of the reasons the violence happens off the page in The Black Hour.
How long did it take to write the novel? How long to get published?
LRD: I took about 2.5 years to write, revise, and pitch it to find an agent. At one point I had a draft but I just wanted to make sure it was as good as I could make it, so I took almost another year to revise it further.
Did you make up the idea of “the black hour” or was that something you’d heard of somewhere?
LRD: That was all fiction. With such touchy subjects, I didn’t want to do too much research into what really happens in suicide hotlines or after university-set crimes. I wanted to make sure it was fiction. But I think it’s probably true that people are more depressed after the bars close, for instance. That’s a guess, but it makes sense.
Are any of the events or characters in the book based on you or someone you know? Can you tell us?
LRD: None of the characters are based on people I know, but most of them are probably me, a little. Even the people you don’t like, because even the bad motivations in the book had to make sense to me, to make them plausible.
Were there any challenges in bringing Amelia and Nathaniel to life?
LRD: Dueling first-person narratives isn’t the easiest assignment in the world. I hesitated to attempt it because the trick is making sure that the reader can tell which narrator is speaking if they put down the book for an hour and then come back to it. In the end, having two protagonists turned into an opportunity to tell the story in a way that allowed the reader to know more than each character individually.
Which books have influenced you the most? Authors?
LRD: In the summer of 2009 I read two books that really helped me see what kind of book I wanted to write. They were The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters and Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (her book before Gone Girl). I’m also a huge fan of the writing book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I discovered Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark at the perfect time of my life, about age twelve, and Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett much later. Oh, and Josephine Tey—she’s amazing. Today I love everything from Tana French’s dark police procedurals to M.C. Beaton’s frothy cozy mysteries.
How did your interest in writing start?
LRD: When I was in second grade, I realized these stories I loved were being created by someone, and therefore I could create stories, too. I didn’t start finishing things until much later. Finishing things is very key. I started taking writing seriously only a few years ago. I did a degree in creative writing to force myself to take it seriously, but you don’t have to do that. You do have to spend the time, though. The only way to be a writer is to write, a lot.
Tell us about your writing process.
LRD: It’s a little haphazard right now. I wrote The Black Hour during a lot of lunch hours, weekends, vacations. I wrote 10,000 words of it on a cruise ship. I write a pretty good first draft by going over what I’ve written the day before and starting to plot out what will happen once I’ve wandered around for a while. The wandering around is part of my process. I don’t think writing would be very fun for me without the writing surprising me a little, so I allow for that. And then much much much revision, and then I send the draft to a few close friends who can show me where I’m not getting it right.
Do you have any other projects you’re working on? (I hope so! I can’t wait to read more by you!)
LRD: Thank you! My next book is tentatively titled Little Pretty Things, which should be out from Seventh Street Books next summer. It’s about a woman about ten years out of high school who’s stuck in life, and then her old bestie/rival comes back to town and gets killed.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
LRD: I work at a university in public relations, and I read as much as I can. I walk my dog a lot. I wouldn’t call that a hobby, but she’s completely spoiled and that takes time.
What do you think makes a good story?
LRD: I like things to happen to characters, not a lot of navel-gazing, but having said that, I will read just about anything if the character is someone I want to spend time with. So: fantastic characters, ideally with senses of humor.
What book are you currently reading?
LRD: I just read Megan Abbott’s The Fever on a plane. It’s excellent. I would also recommend anything by Catriona McPherson, Clare O’Donohue, Lynne Raimondo, and Terry Shames.
FUN QUESTION TIME: Do your prefer tea or coffee?
LRD: Tea only. I don’t even like tiramisu or coffee ice cream because coffee bleh.
What’s your favorite color?
LRD: I’ve always loved heather gray, but I also like the whole range of blue.
Would you rather have cake or pie?
LRD: Don’t limit yourself, you know? Have both. But probably pie, peach pie.
Do you have an author crush?
LRD: I get very crushy of other authors’ characters, like Terry Shames’ Samuel Craddock or Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver. That’s probably called jealousy, actually. Authors that I have been very excited to meet? Michael Chabon, Annie Proulx, T.C. Boyle. If I met Anne Lamott, you’d have to pick me off the floor. I got to meet Louise Penny last year and was such a nerd about it. The thing about mystery authors is that they are very welcoming and not that difficult to meet for the most part, so they cannot be held apart as crushes. They end up being your friends.
Who is your favorite fictional villain?
LRD: I really like what the BBC’s Sherlock did with Moriarity. I like villains to be unexpected.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
LRD: I really appreciate how enthusiastic you are about the book, Stefani! Thank you for saying you laughed—people don’t expect a book with a campus shooting to be funny, but I like to think it is.
I’m a mismatched socks, overflowing bookshelves, pot of coffee a day, Sonic Screwdriver, paint all over my fingers, rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock kind of girl with alopecia. I am a huge bibliophile. For more reviews, visit my book blog at caughtreadhanded.wordpress.com.