Interview with Lori Rader-Day (author of The Black Hour)
Hi Lori, welcome to Thrillerbooksjournal.com. Our first question is very easy: who is Lori Rader-Day as a person and as a writer?
I actually found this question difficult to answer, so I let my husband answer it: “Lori Rader-Day is the single most amazing person I’ve ever met. She is a shining beacon on the hill.” I guess that’s why we get along.
I’m a crime fiction writer originally from Indiana. Now I live in Chicago with that wordsmith up there and our dog. I work in higher education. I have an MFA in creative writing from Roosevelt University in Chicago and before that I studied journalism. I’ve always been a voracious reader and a fiction writer, but I only started taking writing seriously a few years ago, so I’m viciously impatient with myself.
As a writer, though, it’s true: I’m slow. But I think my novel wouldn’t be the same book if I’d written it more quickly.I like suspense and twists more than blood and violence on the page, but I truly like to put my characters through the wringer.
Where did you get the idea for The Black Hour?
The Black Hour is about the aftermath of a college campus shooting. I was thinking about these kinds of events, and how the survivors are never the same afterward. I’ve worked on a college campus most of my professional career, so I don’t think about this kind of thing lightly. What if the shooter died, but the victim, who had no idea why she’d been targeted, lived? I wondered what the victim’s first day back on campus felt like. We’d like to think that a victim of violence would be treated compassionately, but we have plenty of examples in real life to show us the worst-case scenario. I borrowed Lake Michigan from the campus I work on. It was inspiring to my book to drive to work every day.
Can you briefly summarize it (without telling us too much, of course)?
I like how Booklist summed it up: “After 10 months spent recovering from a gunshot wound, sociology professor Amelia Emmet returns to the classroom, delivering lectures on her now disturbingly familiar specialty: the sociology of violence. But Amelia’s welcomes are laced with an undercurrent of suspicion about her role in the shooting. How could the shooter, a troubled student who committed suicide at the scene, have been a stranger to her? The truth is, Amelia doesn’t know. Nathaniel, a new graduate student hoping to share Amelia’s dark area of study, snags his dream job as her graduate assistant. Amelia’s erratic behavior and battle to manage her pain make her a challenging boss, but he’s dedicated to her, especially since he secretly plans to study her shooting for his graduate thesis. Separately, Amelia and Nathan seek answers about her attacker’s motivation.” They also called it an accomplished, “unputdownable” debut, so maybe that’s why I like their version of the synopsis.
Why would readers like it? Is there anything they might find difficult to accept in the book?
Difficult to accept like, say, it’s about a campus shooting? Also, a suicide hotline figures prominently. The Black Hour has dark topics and dark themes, but honestly I wouldn’t have been able to spend as much time with it as I did (four years!) if it was a depressing read. I think that interesting characters with senses of humor can pull a reader through any story. That’s what I like to read, so that’s what I wrote. I’ve had people of both genders say they had crushes on the two protagonists, which is so flattering. I wanted readers to love these people, so they could follow them no matter where they went.
Is the Amelia Emmet character based on someone you really know?
Not at all. I know plenty of professors but I think I managed to keep Amelia from reminding me too much of any of them. In fact, I’ve hard a hard time picturing what she looks like in detail. Someone asked me the other day which actress would play Amelia in a (theoretical) film of The Black Hour. I have no idea. I didn’t describe her very well in the book, because I truly like to avoid that moment where the heroine looks in the mirror and describes herself. That sort of thing feels lazy, and it’s not really necessary. Readers will get their own picture, as long as you give them a few parameters. She’s 38, she’s got long hair, she walks with a cane because she was shot. You’ll recognize when you see her on the street. I imagine she has a very forthright stare, daring you say anything about the cane.
Are you already working on a new book?
My next book, tentatively titled Little Pretty Things, will be published by Seventh Street Books in July 2015. I’m still working on it, and then as soon as it’s put away, I’ll have to figure out my nextnext project. I have some ideas.
The Black Hour is available in e-book and paperback edition. What’s your opinion regarding e-books and traditional books?
I read everything. I read hardcover, paperback, e-books. I buy new and used and use the library. I think readers are readers and will get to books any way they can. I’m not sure if this version of e-books will be around forever, but it is certainly convincing to have piles of new books on one device for travel. Of course, I’m a book hoarder in real life as well as on my reader, so I’m trying to be smarter about buying only things that I can get to right away. This is difficult. I love books so much and I keep meeting new writers I want to read and support.The Black Hour is a paperback original and an e-book. I’m happy about that arrangement, because it keeps the prices down. I’m a debut author, after all. I need to convince people to take a chance on me. [See “unputdownable” above.]
A suggestion to wannabe writers?A suggestion to passionate readers?
Don’t “wannabe.” Just write, and then you’re just a writer. Write a lot and read a lot. You can research agents later; just write the book.
Passionate readers, I want to write you a love letter. We know you’re out there because most writers start out as passionate readers. I guess our books are our love letters. Speaking of love letters: If you love something you’ve read, try to tell the author. Maybe some people get this all the time and are too busy to answer your note, but some writers do what they do in relative obscurity. They would love to hear a reader loved their work.
Would you like to say hello to our readers?
Hello there. You’re all quite attractive. Thanks for reading books.
Thanks for having accepted our invitation, Lori: it’s been a pleasure having you.