WRITERS TELL ALL
Lori Rader-Day on THE BLACK HOUR and LITTLE PRETTY THINGS, now on Audiobook! (And you better get a copy!)
A brief note: Whether you realize that my origins are in crime literature, or you recognize how much I love the works of specific authors (usually female) you know that I have an affinity for crime fiction written by women. In this case, one of my very favorite authors, Lori Rader-Day, is finally having her first two books, THE BLACK HOUR and LITTLE PRETTY THINGS issued on audiobook. Please do yourself a favor and purchase an audio or hard copy if you haven't already (or re-purchase them, I can vouch and say the audio versions add to the text too!). Also, don't forget who two most recent books, THE DAY I DIED and UNDER A DARK SKY. I got to sit down with Lori, very briefly, to discuss her older books and what it means to have them released as audiobooks. Here you go:
Matthew Turbeville: Lori, as always, it’s an honor and a pleasure to talk to you. Can you start off by talking about your first two books, now on audiobook for everyone to enjoy? How did they come to be and how long did they take to become what they are today, both in print and in audio form? Of all of your books, which are you most proud of?
LR-D: I’m proud of all my books. Wow, that sounds like I’ve written 27 of them. I have four novels, but I’m proud of at the moment is that they are all now available in audiobook format, from HarperAudio, with outstanding readers giving them voice. The first two, The Black Hourand Little Pretty Things, were not in audio until recently, four and five years after they were first published in paper and ebook. The Black Hourtook me about two and half years to write and revise, and then Little Pretty Thingstook about two years. Proof that I am getting faster.
MT: It’s very clear that the old saying about how a writer gets better as she writes is true. But that does not mean by any means that your earlier work should be ignored. It’s brilliant. Award-winning, even. Can you talk about how your work and writing style has evolved, as well as how your writing process has changed, and anything else you might think is of note?
LR-D: My writing process changed during the revision of my third novel, The Day I Died, in that I became a full-time writer. I no longer have to compress writing time into my lunch hour during my crazy full-time job. However. I should say that I had a lot of discipline during the writing of my first books because I only had that one hour a day. If I didn’t work during that hour, no work got done that day. Now that I have far more flexibility...I can waste a lotof time. The process of the actual writing hasn’t changed much, though. I’m definitely on the writing-by-the-seat-of-my-pants end of the spectrum of plotting. As in, I don’t. (Or I didn’t. My process has been evolving lately as I write my fifth novel.) I started with a few points on the math for both of these first novels and wrote my way into the story and then back out, relying a lot on revision to bring all the threads of the stories together. I am a big believer in revision. I do get tired of it, but it’s the best tool in the writer’s toolbox: revision and time.
MT: When you first began trying to get published and establish a name for yourself, how did you do so? And how did organizations like Sisters in Crime help shape your work too? You have referenced elsewhere being influenced by Lois Duncan, Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark but which authors and books most influenced your work as you were starting to publish?
LR-D: I did join Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, and as soon as I could, International Thriller Writers, but more than that, I got involved with these groups. I volunteered to do things I could do (newsletter editor? Right here!) so that I could talk to other members, have something to talk to other members about, have a role and a place in the community instead of standing against the wall, waiting to be noticed. I don’t know if I can say that the organizations shaped my work, exactly. They shaped my role in the community, and they shape my weekly work load, because of how much time I’ve devoted to volunteering for them. (I write this to you from the position of national vice-president/president-elect of Sisters in Crime.) I never have a lack of people to read, though, because I’m always playing catch up with all the great books being released, just by friends.
As I was starting to publish, my greatest influences were Sarah Waters and Gillian Flynn, because I read a book by each of them back-to-back and knew I was sniffing out the kind of books I wanted to write. I had been told the story I was working on was a crime novel, but I didn’t understand how books were categorized and sub-categorized, so it was helpful to find a pair of novels that showed me the direction I could strive for. The books: The Little Stranger(Waters) and Dark Places(Flynn). I was also greatly influenced by reading widely in the genre once I knew I was in the right place.Little Pretty Thingsis my straight-up Nancy Drew attempt to get mystery people to like me. (The Black Hourwasn’t immediately recognizable as a “mystery” by some.)
MT: I know that until recently, for the longest time, I felt like I was writing a book by a favorite of my authors. It wasn’t until recently that I felt like the book I wrote was all my own. Did you ever face that issue, or any other issues, similar or different, that growing and learning writers might feel they are alone in?
LR-D: This is a pretty big question. I have written short stories that were not yet in my own voice, so I think I know what you mean. The novel I put away in the drawer for years, the first novel I ever finished writing, was in some other voice. That was part of its problems, but not all. When I started writing The Black Hour, the writing felt easier somehow than the labored writing I had been attempting with that failed novel, and I think part of it was that I had decided to write a story the way I would tell myself. When I eventually took that failed book out of the drawer and rewrote it, it was easier to see why it had not worked, and part of that was I could see where I was trying to be a different writer than I turned out to be. I needed to give myself time. The biggest issue with a beginning writer is that they have a lot of questions (like this one you’re asking me) that could so easily be answered if they could talk to other writers. That’s why I always send people to join the associations of their genre (MWA and Sisters for ours) or to find a writing group or to start one. Maybe there are people who don’t need other writers as they write, but good for them. The rest of us do.
MT: Lori, I won’t keep you much longer, but what do you think it means that these books are published in audio form for the blind or near blind or just people who have hard times concentrating on books that aren’t audio, etc? What do you think is the importance in telling stories in all their forms?
LR-D: The audiobooks are important for me, because my grandmother was legally blind, but she kept reading by listening to audiobooks. They were on cassette tapes (!) then, and the library brought them out to her. She kept her own house, had lots of friends and activities, but she wanted to listen to stories, and so the audiobooks helped her have a bigger life and more enjoyment from it, which is what everyone wants. We all deserve stories available to us that crack open the world for us—that’s what #ownvoices is about, for starters. But then it helps if the stories are available in all the formats so that people can arrive at them where they need to. Large print (Under a Dark Skyis my first large print!), ebook where you can dial up the font size, audio. More than visual impairment or focus, audiobooks also bring stories to people who have long commutes or travel a lot for work—these are the people who are making audiobooks so hot right now, I think. They can do their chores or drive the kids around or commute home on the L and still keep up with all the stories they want. Working adults have so little time for things they only wantto do but don’t haveto do. If they can chisel some reading time out of a commute, that’s great. And their demand for audiobooks ensures they are available in that format for those who really require that format. Good news for everyone.