It's hard for me to imagine Lily Moore infiltrating a cult. If you've read The Damage Done, you know that Lily is fiercely independent, willful, and wary. She's a travel writer who has chosen to live in Spain so she could sidestep the emotional entanglements she left behind in New York. She's trusting of people to a point, but she's also aware that the people closest to her — especially her sister and her former fiancé — try to manipulate her. Unless someone creates a cult to venerate Ava Gardner and vintage clothing, Lily probably won’t be much of a joiner.
But Lily does have a talent for blending in while she's on the road, which is a necessary skill for a travel writer. I speak from experience, because I've traveled around the world, too. Travel makes people vulnerable for a variety of reasons: jet lag and sleep deprivation take a physical toll; lack of fluency in the local language limits who you can talk to and what you can tell them; lack of knowledge about local customs makes you a mark to hustlers and con artists. Speaking generally, the less you stand out in a foreign setting, the better.
In my second novel, The Next One to Fall (which will be published by Forge on February 14, 2012), Lily travels to Peru with her best friend, Jesse, a photographer. Peru is an incredibly beautiful country, but it’s also a poor one, and Lily has left her glamorous armor at home. She hasn’t even brought along her beloved silver bracelet. Emotionally, she’s very raw, and that comes through in her appearance. This isn’t the same Lily who self-consciously donned a low-cut sweater and pencil skirt to distract a cop in The Damage Done. Early on in The Next One to Fall, Jesse tries to take a picture of her at Machu Picchu after days of hiking the Inca Trail.
“Not another photo.” I looked at Jesse. “This is my fourth day in these clothes.”“It’s only day two for that shirt. I’m pretty sure you changed yesterday.” Jesse tousled my hair. “You’re always so glamorous. It’s kinda fun to see you roughin’ it. Like Ava Gardner in Mogambo — you know, that scene where she tries to feed the baby elephant and gets mud all over her.”
Working on the second book made me think about just how much Lily relies on external appearances to get other people to see her a certain way. It’s no accident that, as the book opens, she’s hollow-eyed from sleeplessness and she’s let appearances go to hell (though there is that little sliver of vanity that makes her unwilling to let Jesse take a photo of her). At one point in The Damage Done, Lily says, "When in distress, distract." As The Next One to Fall begins, Lily is both distressed and distracted. Where does she go from there? That's where things get interesting.
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Please wish me luck: Bouchercon is just over a week away, and The Damage Done is up for an Anthony Award and a Macavity Award for best first novel. I'm on a couple of panels and I'll be taking part in other events, too. Also, on Wednesday, September 14th — the night before Bouchercon begins — I'll have the pleasure of sharing the stage with Duane Swierczynski, Glenn Gray, John Rector, and Anonymous-9 in the infamous Noir at the Bar reading series. If you're in St. Louis that night, please come — and if you're at Bouchercon, please stop by and say hi. My website will tell you where to find me. Looking forward to seeing my fellow criminal minds!