Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Damage is Done

Today on 7 Criminal Minds w'ere hosting the talented author Hilary Davidson. No, it's not a cheap attempt by me to get out of answering the question, it's because Hilary's critically-acclaimed debut novel, The Damage Done, comes out today! Publisher's Weekly called it "A razor sharp mystery debut...offers a great portrait of sisterly love, despite a dysfunctional past, as well as a highly satisfying mystery." It's winning high marks from every reviewer I've seen and I can't wait to get my hands on a signed copy (Bouchercon, maybe?).

Thanks for joining us today, Hilary!


The question for Hilary was: Which fictional character would you leave your spouse or significant other for?

My first thought when I saw this question was, I must be reading the wrong books. There are characters in books that might be worth leaving my flesh-and-blood husband for? I closed my eyes and considered the ones I’d encountered in novels recently…

The Prospects: Ray and his sidekick Manny (from Dope Thief by Dennis Tafoya)

Pros: Ray is kind to his stepmother and clearly has a good heart, and Manny can be pretty funny.

Cons: For starters, they are actually cons. Their racket involves shaking down low-level drug dealers by pretending to be cops. That gets them points for creativity, but loses more points for ethics. Also, they’re both heroin addicts so that’s an instant strikeout. I know I’ll never find a fictional boyfriend if I’m too picky, but a girl has to have some standards.

The Prospect: Paul Cole (from Memory by Donald Westlake)

Pros: He’s handsome — the man was an actor, after all — and as the book goes on, he gets very fit from all the manual labor he does.

Cons: He’s doing that manual labor because he’s lost most of his memory thanks to a beating he got for sleeping with another man’s wife. So, when he had his memory, he was a cad; after he lost it, he’s just lost. Next.

The Prospect: Kyle Nevin (from Pariah by Dave Zeltserman)

Pros: Superficial charm that allows him to seduce his victims.

Cons: The book is called Pariah for a reason. That reason is Kyle.

That’s when I set the books aside. If Dr. Phil saw what I was reading, he’d tell me I was making my own problems. How was I going to be seduced by a fictional hero if all I did was hang out with fictional lowlifes? I needed leading men… which I would find in the movies! Whoever came up with the question didn’t say fictional character in a book, did they? So a fictional character from a movie should do just as well. In fact, there was a very attractive man in the last movie I watched…

The Prospect: Charlie Oakley (from Shadow of a Doubt, played by Joseph Cotten)

Pros: Sweet to his sister and her children. In fact, gives them generous gifts of jewelry engraved with curious inscriptions. A handsome charmer who’s very good at getting his way.

Cons: Only visits his sister and her family when police start closing in on him for suspicion of murder. Seems to have a temper. Hands twitch strangely near certain women’s throats.

Okay, maybe the movies weren’t the way to go for me, either. Deep down, I know the real problem is with what I’m writing, because that’s affecting what I read and watch. When I was working my first novel, The Damage Done, I pictured the main character, Lily Moore, as a fan of classic film noir. After watching The Killers, I decided she looked like Ava Gardner. It fit in a funny way, because Lily had fled the US for Spain, just as Ava had. Their reasons were different — Ava was partying with bullfighters, Lily was writing books about Spain — but something felt right about the pairing. I put a photo of Ava up on my desk to keep me company while I wrote, and after a while I started to read about her. That was when I discovered Ava’s father had died when she was 13, just as Lily’s had. But that was a detail I’d written about in chapter one, before I’d thought about what Lily looked like. Suddenly the connection felt slightly spooky. Then I read about Ava’s tumultuous love life and realized she and Lily had even more in common.

In The Damage Done, Lily is called home from Spain to New York when she’s told her sister, Claudia, has died, only to discover that the corpse belongs to a woman who’d stolen her sister’s identity and that Claudia is missing. While Lily searches for her sister, she finds clues that suggest her former fiancĂ©, Martin — whom she jilted before she ran off to Spain — had a closer relationship with Claudia than he’s willing to admit. Lily’s love life starts to look as complicated as Ava’s, which is really saying something.

Even though I’ve been immersed in fictitious love triangles and hanging out with imaginary con artists, I realize that there is some part of me that must have been yearning for a perfect man. I say this, because there is one character in The Damage Done who could make me swoon. His name is Jesse, and he’s a Gregory Peck-lookalike who mixes a mean cocktail and is a great shot. He’s fond of quoting Will Rogers, loves 1940s film noir, and appreciates vintage glamour. He’s not like my husband, who rolls his eyes when I try to show him my latest thrift-shop find. “Oh, look. Another dress,” is about as much of a reaction as I get from him. Jesse would never do that. Not only would he admire my taste, he’d probably go shopping with me. Now that’s a fictional character I could fall for.

There’s just one little problem. Jesse wouldn’t be interested in me as anything but a friend. My husband, on the other hand, would be just his type.

Thanks again, Hilary! And good luck out there with The Damage Done! Happy Launch Day!

Here's a wee bit more here about The Damage Done:

Lily Moore, a successful travel writer, fled to Spain to get away from her troubled, drug-addicted younger sister, Claudia. But when Claudia is found dead in a bathtub on the anniversary of their mother’s suicide, Lily must return to New York to deal with the aftermath.

The situation shifts from tragic to baffling when the body at the morgue turns out to be a stranger’s. The dead woman had been using Claudia’s identity for months. The real Claudia had vanished, reappearing briefly on the day her impostor died. As Claudia transforms from victim to suspect in the eyes of the police, Lily becomes determined to find her before they do.

Is Claudia actually missing, or is she playing an elaborate con game? And who’s responsible for the body that was found in the bathtub? An obsessive ex-lover? An emotionally disturbed young man with a rich and powerful father? Or Lily’s own former fiancĂ©, who turns out to be more deeply involved with Claudia than he admits?

As Lily searches for answers, a shadowy figure stalks her and the danger to her grows. Determined to learn the truth at any cost, she is unprepared for the terrible toll it will take on her and those she loves.

14 comments:

Gabi said...

Hilary,
Congratulations and welcome. You're right. Noir doesn't really lend itself to drooling without mace and any hero whose more likely to hit on your husband probably wouldn't do it for me either. You need some brain candy. Or maybe just stick with the one who actually takes out the trash. Good luck on your debut.
Gabi

Paul D. Brazill said...

Oh, Uncle Charlie Oakley, he's the lad! Smashing post!

Shane Gericke said...

Congrats on the release, Hilary. Hope you sell a jillion!

Gabi's take is spot-on: Noir doesn't lend itself to drooling without mace. Or novocaine. But Ava Gardner isn't too shabby. Ditto Eva St. Marie in North by Northwest. A sexier scene in cinema doesn't exist than her seduction of Cary Grant in the dining car. Unless it's the hilarious plunging-into-the-tunnel at the end. Laughter is erotic!

Thanks for hangin' with us today, and again, congratulations on the new book.

Shane Gericke said...

Don't worry, we still miss ya, Rebecca. Come back soon!

Jen Forbus said...

Ha! Hilary, this was so much fun. I love your analysis of each character. And it all makes me think that Dan must be one heck of a catch if he passed the scrutiny! :-)

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Thanks for 7 Criminal Minds for hosting the lovely and talented Hilary Davidson.
What a fabulous post, Hilary ~ I thoroughly enjoyed it. Congrats on the release and I look forward to attending the book launch tonight!

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for celebrating your book release with us today, Hilary! Love your pro/con lists for each of the characters in the books you're reading...

TracyK said...

Great post, Hillary! I loved Joseph Cotton too, but then I found Cary Grant and never looked back.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Congratulations, Hilary!

Loved the post. I'm not sure where to go for good fictional men (aren't they all married or gay?). I like Joseph Cotten too, but the earnest and outmatched Joseph Cotten from "The Third Man" and even there I'm kinda partial to the British guy.

Good luck on your release!

Ann Marie Gamble said...

Oh holy wow, that picture of Gregory Peck . . . that's why people do stupid things, right there.

Congrats on the release and I hope it sells like hotcakes!

Hilary Davidson said...

Thanks for all of your wonderful comments! I really appreciate them, and I'm especially grateful to Rebecca for inviting me to blog here today. This neighborhood is *much* nicer than that noir one I've been hanging out in!

Kelli Stanley said...

Congratulations on release day, Hil, and thanks to Becky for bringing you on CM!! :)

Shadow of a Doubt is my favorite Hitch ... Joseph Cotton was never more charming, and the subtle eroticism between Uncle Charlie and Young Charlie is still intensely creepy and disturbing.

As for Ava ... well, the Killers is in my top-tier list of noirs, if only for the spectacle of a young Ava (her first film) and a young Burt Lancaster in heat. I don't think the screen has ever seen a more pulchritudinous and combustible pair. In other words, they're hot! ;)

Can't wait to see you at Bouchercon, sweetie, and thanks again for joining CM for a day! :)

xoxo

Kelli Stanley said...

Congratulations on release day, Hil, and thanks to Becky for bringing you on CM!! :)

Shadow of a Doubt is my favorite Hitch ... Joseph Cotton was never more charming, and the subtle eroticism between Uncle Charlie and Young Charlie is still intensely creepy and disturbing.

As for Ava ... well, the Killers is in my top-tier list of noirs, if only for the spectacle of a young Ava (her first film) and a young Burt Lancaster in heat. I don't think the screen has ever seen a more pulchritudinous and combustible pair. In other words, they're hot! ;)

Can't wait to see you at Bouchercon, sweetie, and thanks again for joining CM for a day! :)

xoxo

Anonymous said...

Great post (and thanks for the shout-out)!

Dennis