-- Talking about it with its lively and puckish author!
It is impossible to summarize all the fun we had with Lori Rader-Day when she came to talk with us about her Anthony-award winning first novel: The Black Hour. From the minute we introduced her and started asking her about both the book, and how she came to write it, Lori had the group at ease, laughing – and fascinated.
She has always been a writer, but segued into working in academia after college. She worked as a university administrator at Northwestern University until recently. As we all had thought, there is more than a touch of Northwestern about “Rothbert University”, but other college experiences and news stories also influenced Lori while writing this book.
The timing of the release of the book, written at least a year before publishing, was entirely separate from the incident at Northwestern that occurred around the release of the book. Lori had actually used a much older incident that did involve a Northwestern professor being shot in the parking lot of the school. He survived, and still teaches there, but what intrigued Lori was that from her first day on campus, there were people who felt she should hear the story about this shooting. The shooter was not a student, but someone who had worked for the professor. (For more information on this shooting, click here.)
As for the development of the plot, Lori informed us that she is a “pantser”. (A term used among writers of all genres to indicate the author “writes by the seat of their pants”.) She eschews outlining, character sketches, etc. and just sits down and writes. She doesn’t develop the story in a particular order, just going with whatever scene occurs to her. This keeps the spontaneity high, but can lead to many rewrites! As both she and Luisa said however, the refining, and fleshing out of the initial draft is one of their favorite parts of the writing process.
We told Lori how much we enjoyed the alternating points of view between Amelia and Nath, and how we particularly admired how authentic her young, male grad student felt. She went on to tell us about working with college students, and how she immersed herself in their speech patterns and issues for this book. One of our members countered with how much he liked her use of a phrase he tracks from the 1970’s and got a laugh of his own!
We were impressed that, coming from Indiana originally, Lori was so knowledgeable about sailing. She proudly told us of the couple of ventures she’s had on Lake Michigan – and that the rest came from research in books. (There’s a reason why librarians love Lori…)
*Note: Lori's Trace Evidence page, with the Cast of Character for this book -- among other things -- will be up on the blog soon!
Finding writing time while working full-time has been challenging, but Lori has been disciplined enough to use her lunch hours, and weekend “free time” to do the bulk of her writing. What we’ve been hearing now from different writers, is that the time of day really doesn’t matter: it’s fitting the writing into whatever time of day you are most productive at, or developing the discipline to write when there’s a window for it with one’s other daily responsibilities.
When Lori walked into the room we greeted her with a special banner: congratulating her on (once again!) being nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark award, presented at the Edgar banquet. We asked her if she had her speech ready if she should win, and mentioned seeing her win the Anthony at Bouchercon (World Crime Convention) this year. She had members in stiches talking about the out-of-body experience she had trying to make that speech, and that she is also rooting for other nominees in her category who are writing buddies of hers.
After answering anything and everything we could ask her, we had Lori pose for her best “Stake the Cake” picture. (Click here to see other authors at it!) This is a tradition our group started back when Zoe Sharp had her first visit with us. She had done a self-defense demonstration using a (fake) military command-type knife, which she then pretended to cut the cake we had for her with. I think Lori’s take on it, a very worthy addition to the “Staked” collection…
*Note: Lori's Trace Evidence page (with The Black Hour's Cast of Characters among other things!) will be up on the blog soon.