A Wednesday welcome to Hilary Davidson as she talks about becoming a crime novelist, the Death Trap in her writing space and a few books she’s recently read and loved.
WN: Your career started in journalism in 1998 and you transitioned to a full-time crime writer in 2010. What was the transition like?
DAVIDSON: It was harder than I expected! When I started writing crime fiction, it took me about the same amount of time to write a 2,000-word nonfiction piece as it did to write 500 words of fiction. That was because I knew how to structure magazine articles, and I’d already done my research. With fiction, I wasn’t sure where I was going, and I’d stop to research things and fall down the rabbit hole of the Internet for hours. Also, the transition to writing fiction meant having to say no to some paying assignments, and that was tough for a freelancer.
WN: Lily Moore is the protagonist in your series. What is Lily’s fatal flaw?
DAVIDSON: If there’s trouble, Lily’s instinct is to run away from it. She’s even managed to parlay that trait into a career by becoming a travel writer. In the first book in the series, The Damage Done, Lily’s history of running away — from her troubled family, and from a difficult relationship with her fiancé — catches up with her. She comes home to New York when she’s told her sister has died, only to discover that it’s not her sister who’s dead, but a woman who’d stolen her sister’s identity. Lily had basically cut off contact with her sister, who’s a drug addict and occasional con artist. Searching for her sister is painful, because it brings back so many memories and issues that Lily wants to escape. That’s a recurring pattern in her life. In the second book, The Next One to Fall, Lily’s still running away from a lot of things, but in the third book, Evil in All Its Disguises, running isn’t an option. In that book, a journalist disappears on a press trip to Acapulco, and Lily and the other journalists become prisoners in their hotel. It was interesting to write about what happens to Lily when the option to flee is taken away from her. She’s a lot stronger than the image she projects.
WN: What’s next for you?
DAVIDSON: My fourth novel, Blood Always Tells, will be published by Tor/Forge in April 2014. It’s my first standalone novel, and it’s a huge departure from the Lily Moore series. I just released a short-story collection called The Black Widow Club: Nine Tales of Obsession and Murder. All of the stories were previously published by crime zines such as Thuglit, Beat to a Pulp, the Feral Pages, and Needle. For a long time, I didn’t see the point of putting together a collection, since most of these stories could be found online, but most of the old archives have been taken down, making my stories homeless. Now I’m glad to have them together in one place. They’re like a bunch of misfits who’ve found a home.
WN: Tell us about your writing space. What do you consider essential for starting out your session?
DAVIDSON: I wouldn’t wish my writing space on anyone! My husband, Dan, and I live in a one-bedroom New York apartment, and I have a desk in the corner of our living room. It’s surrounded by a screen and tall piles of books. Dan affectionately refers to it as the Death Trap. I have no rituals to get into writing, but I keep to a pretty steady schedule with it. That’s where years of writing full-time really help. I’d take discipline over inspiration any day.
WN: Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice you’d like to share?
DAVIDSON: My grandmother had a saying I love: “If you’re going to sin, sin big.” I take it to mean that whatever you decide to do, you should go for it with your whole heart.
WN: What question did WN not ask, that you really would love to be asked?
DAVIDSON: What have I read recently and loved? A few favorites: His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal, The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay, Junkie Love by Joe Clifford, The Big Reap by Chris F. Holm, Death Angel by Linda Fairstein, The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig, and Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives by Sarah Weinman.