Sunday 21 November 2010

Dancing With Myself: HILARY DAVIDSON interviews HILARY DAVIDSON

It's a very good day for me. I'm off to see Ian Rankin later on at the Lennoxlove Book Festival which is good.

I've got a story of mine up at Beat To A Pulp about the school at which I work (not really) and it's also the day I get to post Hilary Davidson's DANCING WITH MYSELF interview.

A ten out of ten day.

Here goes:

Q: Thanks for stopping by. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. I’ve heard about your debut novel, THE DAMAGE DONE. What can you tell us about it?

A: Hold it right there. Are you trying to pretend you don’t know me? Because that’s just sad. This is supposed to be me interviewing myself. I think you can acknowledge that you know about my book. You wrote it after all. Or we did.

Q: Listen, pal, I know all about you. For 12 years, you’ve been a freelance journalist, asking people doofus questions like the one I just asked you. How does it feel to be in the hot seat, huh? Now answer the damn question.

A: I don’t think you learned your interview techniques from me, Torquemada. But if that’s how you want to play it… THE DAMAGE DONE is about a travel writer named Lily Moore, who’s called home to New York when she’s told that her sister, Claudia, has died. But when Lily goes to the morgue to identify the body, she discovers that the corpse belongs to a woman who'd stolen her sister's identity and that her sister is missing. Since Claudia is an addict and con artist, Lily can’t tell whether she’s committed a crime or if she’s in trouble, but Lily becomes determined to find her before the police do.

Q: So, you’re a travel writer and your main character is a travel writer? That can’t just be a coincidence. What else do you two have in common?

A: Our careers are similar, but Lily’s is more glamorous than mine. I’ve visited Spain a few times, but she’s lived there. Lily is someone who’s very comfortable living out of a suitcase — actually, it’s easier for her to be on the road than to deal with her personal problems. I love to travel, but I’m happiest when I come home. We also love old movies and vintage clothing. That’s where the similarities end, I think. Lily has a tortured on-again, off-again relationship with her former fiancĂ©; I’ve been married for a decade.

Q: So, how does your sister feel about how you’ve represented her in the book?

A: Your question gets a D-minus, and you need to pick up some interviewing tips from Jen Forbus and Keith Rawson. You know I don’t have a sister. I have two brothers, and they don’t pay much attention to what I write. One of them likes to be helpful with research, though, so he’s taken me to a gun range and taught me to shoot. I don’t have great aim with a Glock, but I’m an excellent shot with a .38.

Q: The thought of you with a gun is going to disturb a lot of people. Why don’t you brag about some of the other weird things you’ve done in the name of research?

A: For the novel, or for articles I’ve written? Because going to the morgue in New York City was nowhere near as crazy as swimming with sharks in the Bahamas. Sure, they were only reef sharks, otherwise known as the wimps of the shark world, and they all swam away from me when I got into the water. Worse was scuba diving in the St. Lawrence River. That’s probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, for so many reasons: I hate swimming, the water was painfully cold, and the only creatures that live in the river seem to be eels. Worst of all, I lost my diving buddy underwater. It’s comical in retrospect — she was carried about a mile downriver by the current, and ended up at another dive boat — but at the time, it was harrowing. We were exploring the hull of a shipwreck, and she was out of my line of sight for maybe 20 seconds. Then she was gone. I went deeper, looking for her. Then I started to panic. It’s one of those moments that’s frozen in my mind, when I felt true terror. It’s a place I go back to sometimes when I’m writing.

Q: Really? I don’t remember any stories of yours that take place underwater.

A: It’s rare for me to directly channel something I’ve experienced onto the page in a literal way, but that doesn’t mean I don’t draw on it. One of the things you discover as you read THE DAMAGE DONE is that Lily is claustrophobic. I’m not, but when I was panicking underwater I experienced a lot of what Lily goes through when she’s trapped inside a locked room.

Q: You live in New York, so there’s no excuse for you not getting the psychotherapy you obviously need. Are your short stories also based on your, um, issues?

A: Steve Weddle once referred to them as the “crazies in your brainz,” which is how I think of them. He may have suggested that I need help, too. Of course, Weddle’s the same guy who claimed I led people on a Death March through Philadelphia at NoirCon, so you can’t trust him. My brain likes to play with scenarios, so when I overhear a bit of conversation on a train or read an article or see an intriguing photograph, it takes on a life of its own in my mind, and the stories spin out of that. It’s tough to explain because I don’t understand the process well myself. Sometimes I can trace a story back to its roots. For example, “Good Bones,” which ran in CrimeFactory, came out of a new story about a baby’s skeleton being found inside the wall of an old house. “Insatiable,” which won a Spinetingler Award and is in the new BEAT TO A PULP ROUND ONE ANTHOLOGY, is tougher to explain: I had an image of an old, ugly, wealthy man watching his much-younger wife trolling for other men. I can’t trace that back to an event, but I live in Manhattan, so I probably see some variant of this scene every other day.

Q: That sounded like a swipe at New York. I thought you loved your city?

A: Sometimes we ridicule those we love. New York is my favorite city in the world, and it’s been home to me for the past nine years, but I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t full of crazy people. That’s a big part of the reason I love it. I fit right in!

Q: Yes, you do. So, what are you reading these days?

A: Right now it’s BORROWED TROUBLE by Eric Beetner and JB Kohl; it’s the sequel to ONE TOO MANY BLOWS TO THE HEAD and it’s fantastic. Recently, I read Chris F. Holm’s incredible short story collection,8 POUNDS , which I cannot recommend highly enough. I loved BEAT TO A PULP: ROUND ONE, not because I’m in it, but because of the insanely great writing from Sophie Littlefield, Jed Ayres, Patti Abbott, Glenn Gray, Anonymous 9, and Ed Gorman. Mr. Holm has a great story in it, too. I just picked up DISCOUNT NOIR which Steve Weddle and Patti Abbott put together; I’m really looking forward to that, and to the upcoming CrimeFactory anthology edited by Keith Rawson and Cameron Ashley. I’m a glutton for great short stories. Fighting for top place in my TBR pile: THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD by Dave Zeltserman and FACES OF THE GONE by Brad Parks. I think they’ll have to duke that one out.

Q: Time to wrap it up. Single best moment since getting your book deal with Forge?

A: You know there’s no single moment. I feel insanely lucky to be doing what I’m doing. The best thing about this year has been meeting amazing people in the mystery and crime fiction community, both in person and online. If you’re reading this, let me strongly suggest that you register for BOUCHERON 2011 in St. Louis. I already have!


  1. I always knew she was mental.Great writer.

  2. Now tell me how nice a woman is this. And she can write too.

  3. Wow - that's one tough interviewer. It's obvious these two don't get along at all. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall for the tense exchange following the official interview...

  4. One of the finest writers on the scene.

  5. And such a frisky looking creature she is, too.

  6. Great read this, Hilary. And good to see your career going from strength to strength.

  7. Gracious, funny, and brilliant -- and from Hilary, I'd expect nothing less. Every one of us'll be proud to say we knew her when...

  8. Wow, this was a great interview. I wish I had a chance to talk to one of you when you came to our table at the Mummer's Museum at Noircon (not that anyone really knew me well enough to introduce us.) Oh and I had my car so I could have driven some of you guys back to the hotel on my way home... Of course, then we wouldn't have your great Death March story.

  9. Gracious, funny, brilliant and slapped a headlock on Lee Child at Bouchercon that impressed Ashley no end. Writes one helluva story also. I can sympathize with losing your dive buddy, scary situation. You spend your frantically looking for them time thinking, "What am I going to tell her/his family?" Neat look into one of the nicest people in the industry.

  10. Good thing you 2 don't tangle more often, could get nasty. Fun and insightful chat from two of the Dark side's best.

  11. My thanks to Nigel for asking me to dance, and to everyone who stopped by, especially the very kind people who left comments. My interviewer may have been demented, but this was a lot of fun!

  12. Heh. Doofus questions. Nicely done.

    Looking forward to the sequel. To the book. Not to the death march.

  13. AJ, I wish I could claim to have put Lee Child in a headlock at Bouchercon, but that honor belongs to the amazing Jimmy Callaway! I believe the resulting photo will be available soon...

    Chuck, I'm sorry I didn't get to meet you at Noircon. Too bad you had your car with you, because you missed out on a great Death March!

  14. Terrific interview by a terrific writer.

  15. Hilary, you're so creative! This was funny...and fun!

  16. One of the best interviews I've read lately. Great fun!