When I first heard the premise of Hilary Davidson's debut novel, THE DAMAGE DONE, I knew it would be at the top of my "To Be Read" pile as soon as it released. Unfortunately, I had to wait like 6 months for it to happen.
Here's the premise: Lily Moore is a travel writer who has moved to Spain to escape her troubled sister, Claudia. But when Claudia is found dead in her bathtub, Lily returns to NYC to deal with the aftermath, only to find that the dead woman in the tub isn't her sister, and that her sister has disappeared.
Pretty good, huh? Yeah, I thought so too.
Turns out, the novel was worth the wait. In THE DAMAGE DONE, Hilary creates a truly compelling portrait of two troubled sisters and their dysfunctional history, enticing the reader to care deeply about the outcome of Lily's search for her sister. Combined with the romantic backdrop of its Manhattan setting, this book was one of my favorites this year.
I've been fortunate enough to get to know Hilary over the past year, and it's been an even greater pleasure than reading her book. She was kind enough to answer some of my questions for this post:
1) Much of your career has been spent writing non-fiction (travel). Apart from the fact that in fiction you're "making stuff up," how is writing fiction different from writing non-fiction?
The level of intensity is much greater. With nonfiction, I would usually write one draft of an article and turn it in. With fiction, I'm obsessive. I write and rewrite and carry the story with me wherever I go. My husband jokes about me walking into traffic, because my brain just keeps twisting the story around and around, and the real world recedes, bit by bit. It makes me feel like Mr. Magoo.
2) Your debut novel, THE DAMAGE DONE, has received (deservedly) many accolades. Is being a published fiction author different than you thought it would be?
First, that is really kind of you to say. Thank you. Things are different from what I imagined, even though I thought I knew something about the publishing business. I expected to handle my own publicity for the book, but I never used to think about issues like how books end up in stores. I mean, isn't that automatic? Doesn’t the publisher handle everything? Um, no, actually. I've been on a steep learning curve for the past year, and it has given me such a deep appreciation for independent bookstores. There are some — The Mystery Bookstore, the Poisoned Pen, Murder by the Book, Sleuth of Baker Street, and Mystery Lovers Bookshop all come to mind — that have played a huge role in getting my book in front of people. I assumed that it was my publisher’s job to deal directly with indie bookstores, but now I’m glad that it’s mine.
3) Writing aside, what inspires you?
I love just walking around New York and observing people. Even when I’m in one of my Mr. Magoo fugue states, that inspires me and fires up my imagination. Museums, too — I love photography exhibits, because I’ve gotten some of my wildest ideas looking at photos and telling myself a story about what’s really going on inside the frame.
4) Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what?
I like quiet when I’m writing a first draft, but I often listen to music when I’m editing and rewriting. I made a playlist for THE DAMAGE DONE. It had a lot of songs by Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, because that’s what Lily, the main character, listens to. But there were songs I added for the other characters, too. “The Needle and the Damage Done” by Neil Young was on it, and that eventually inspired the book’s title.
5) Any hints as to what's next for you or Lily (or ideally, both)?
Well, I can tell you that Lily will be back. My second novel is called THE NEXT ONE TO FALL, and it’s set in Peru three months after the end of THE DAMAGE DONE. Forge is publishing it in late 2011 or early 2012. I have a third book with Lily that I want to write, and I also have a standalone that I’m working on now. On the short-fiction front, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine is publishing a story of mine this spring, and I have a story in the upcoming CRIMEFACTORY anthology.
Thanks, Hilary! I'm so happy about the success of THE DAMAGE DONE, and I can't wait to read the next Lily Moore book.
If you're buying books as gifts this holiday season, please consider purchasing from your local independent bookshop. The level of customer service you'll receive is unmatched, you'll have the added benefit of making new friends of the staff, and you'll help support a local business.
Books featured in this post can be purchased from the Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles (firstname.lastname@example.org).