Friday, February 3, 2012

It's a......Character!!

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Yes, most birth announcements generally specify gender, but today's guest is Anthony-Award winning novelist Hilary Davidson and she tells us how she, um...gave birth to her main character..


HILARY DAVIDSON: Recently, someone asked me where I’d gotten the idea for the character of Lily Moore, and I was stuck for an answer. It’s not that she’s an obscure character. Lily is at the center of my first novel, The Damage Done, and of my new book, The Next One to Fall, which will be out on Valentine’s Day. Part of me wanted to admit that she’s my imaginary friend, but I always worry that answers like that will just be fodder for the men in white coats with butterfly nets who will lock me up one day

The truth is, I have a really hard time explaining where characters come from — even Lily, with whom I have a lot in common. We’re both travel writers, and we’ve visited many of the same places, so that’s an obvious parallel. We both love vintage clothes and movies and music, though with Lily, it’s a bit more like an obsession.
She’s originally from New York, and while the city isn’t my hometown (that would be Toronto), I’ve lived here for more than a decade, long enough to feel that it’s mine. There are some notable ways that Lily and I are different, though. For starters, she’s single, and I’m married. Her family relationships are the source of a lot of pain for her; mine have been a source of strength for me. When she travels, it’s an escape from so many things that she dreads, and she hates going home. As much as I love exploring new places, I’m always so grateful to return home after a trip.
That last difference is one of the things that really made Lily come into focus in my mind. I remember being on a press trip a few years ago with a small group of female journalists. There were only five of us, and one night while we were up late, drinking in the hotel’s lounge, someone started talking about the real reason she’d become a travel writer, which was to escape her family life, which she hated but felt she couldn’t break free of. I was riveted by what she said. There was something incredibly compelling and yet very sad about having a family life that you couldn’t cope with and creating this professional escape hatch so you could survive it. Lily had been hanging out at the edges of my brain, and when I heard this story, I realized that Lily was doing exactly what this journalist was doing.

There are so many things that go into creating a fully fleshed-out character, and so many of them are found by accident — at least, that’s been true in my case with Lily. Even her affinity for Ava Gardner was something that I discovered along the way, while I was in the middle of writing the first book. I pictured her looking a bit like Ava — or Vivien Leigh, or Gene Tierney (not that those actresses are interchangeable, but they have certain similarities). It was only when I read about the actresses and discovered an eerie parallel with Ava — her father died when she was 13, as Lily’s had — that I started to connect the two of them more closely.

I’m fascinated when other writers tell me that they knew their main character from the start. With Lily, it’s been more of a gradual reveal. In some ways, she’s a different person in The Next One to Fall than she was in the first book — and the fact that she’s still evolving is one of the reasons she still fascinates me.

Hilary Davidson won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel for The Damage Done. That book also earned a Crimespree Award and was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis and Macavity awards. Her second novel, The Next One to Fall, is a mystery set in Peru (Forge Feb. 14, 2012.) Hilary has also written 18 nonfiction books as well as short stories for Ellery Queen, Beat to a Pulp, and Thuglit.
Find Hilary here...
Website: http://www.hilarydavidson.com
Blog: http://blog.hilarydavidson.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/hilarydavidson
The Next One to Fall: http://blog.hilarydavidson.com/the-next-one-to-fall/

41 comments:

LMcLendon said...

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her"

Lesa said...

And, Hilary, the fact that Lily is still evolving is one reasons your fans will continue to come back. We're not looking for static characters that never learn or change. Looking forward to the book, and your visit to Velma Teague!

Sue Brandes said...

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her"
You are a new author to me. Will be adding your books to my reading.
Sue B
stevebrandes(at)gmail(dot)com

marybelle said...

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her"

It's wonderful to be here today.

marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Rembr said...

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her"

Chris F said...

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her"

MNealon said...

I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her.

I love your blogs! Thank you, ladies.
Maryellen

Lucy Burdette said...

Wow, Hilary, such an interesting story. I would love to know about the travel writer who was escaping her family and how much of that you borrowed for Lily.

My new character also is evolving--it's hard to imagine knowing everything about a protagonist at the beginning of a series. But on the other hand, she can't change so much that readers find her unrecognizable--a challenge!

Thanks for visiting Jungle Red--I have a new book to put on my TBR pile!

Rosemary Harris said...

Welcome Hilary...
World traveler Hilary is a little under the weather - she picked up a bug on her latest exotic trip -but she'll be checking in later to say hello. .
In the meantime how does this sound
The Damage Done ...under the sheets.
Check back tomorrow for the names of the winners of Deb's latest, No Mark Upon Her and a visit from Elaine Viets who tell us about her latest non-book project.

MaryC said...

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her"

Joni said...

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her"

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, Hilary, feel better...you and I had just been comparing crazy schedules, and think you won...Hilary's chaos is international!

Julia said...

I agree with Lesa. The very best characters are the ones who grow, change, and who continue to reveal themselves to their authors and readers.

And count me among those waiting for the launch of THE NEXT ONE TO FALL. I think Hilary hits that perfect "soft-boiled" balance of amateur sleuth, character-focused writing, edgy plot and weighty mystery.

Meljprincess said...

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her"

Hilary Davidson said...

Thanks so much for the wonderful, warm reception! I'm thrilled to be visiting Jungle Reds today (even if I am still fighting off that pesky bug I picked up while I was in Israel).

I love that so many of you find the idea of an evolving character appealing. I know that some crime and thriller writers debate this (and I've heard Lee Child make an interesting argument about why your character shouldn't change). To my mind, it was impossible for Lily to go through what she did in The Damage Done without being deeply affected by that experience. I know that means she's traveling with more (emotional) baggage now, but it was impossible to think of her not carrying it with her.

Also, I'm going to get Hank's words stenciled on something. "Hilary's chaos is international" is my new motto!

Doreen said...

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her"

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

I love getting these behind the scenes view into how an author's character(s)evolved. Loved The Damage done, and look forward to reading the new one, and cool release date BTW.

Sheila said...

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's "No Mark Upon Her".

KarenM said...

Hilary,
You are a new to me author, and I am sure I will now be more aware of you and your books in future mystery reading discussions. I will try our your first book (since I am compulsive that way) and all the best on the current release.
Also, "I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her"

Deb said...

Hilary, you books sound wonderful. More for the TBR pile, which we've just been discussing over on FB. I'm totally with you on the evolving characters, not only from a reader's viewpoint, but as I writer, I can't imagine it continuing to fun to write characters that don't evolve. Very interested in what Lee Child and others have had to say about that.

debbi said...

i want to curl up with Deborah crombies no mark upon her" too

Linda Rodriguez said...

Hi, Hilary! *waves*

I, too, am waiting eagerly for THE NEXT ONE TO FALL (under the sheets, anyone?). I think your main character has to change, grow, develop as the books of a series move along. I do believe that's what readers look for in a series, in spite of what Lee Child says.

What chutzpah! Not-yet published novelist opposes multi-bestseller! I am a reader of long standing, however, and I think readers look for characters who grow.

Get better, Hilary! And a big fat welcome to Jungle Reds!

(And who wouldn't want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's NO MARK UPON HER?)

hotcha12 said...

OH, I DO HOPE I CAN READ YOUR BOOK AS YOU ARE NEW TO ME!!

WANT TO CURL UP WITH KAT MARTIN'S AGAINST THE STORM!

lindarb49@hotmail.com

Robin said...

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her". I am always looking for new authors and Deborah Crombie's new book sounds great.

bison61 said...

I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her"

tiramisu392 (at) yahoo.com

Connie said...

Hi! I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's"No Mark Upon Her". :)

aliasgirl1976@yahoo.com

Heather said...

I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her!

Jan Brogan said...

Hilary, Lily sounds awesome!

Congrats on both your and her obvious success!

Deb Romano said...

Welcome, Hilary!

I enjoyed your contribution today. I am getting a much better understanding of what writers mean when they mention in an interview that they are struggling with a character who wants to do something that seems "out of character" for that person. It makes sense, because all of us change, and who of us has NOT done something "out of character" for us at one time or another? It might be a prelude to growing in a different direction, or having our eyes opened to something that we had not formerly acknowledged, etc. I like the idea of characters in a series evolving in one way or another.

I am looking forward to reading your books!

Deb Romano

Jean P said...

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her"

skpetal at hotmail dot com

Hilary Davidson said...

Thanks for all of your lovely, thoughtful comments! I think Deb Romano raises an excellent point. Sometimes your main character will act "out of character" — but that's a very human thing to do. I used to find it funny when writers talked about how their characters did things that surprised them. I mean, if you're the writer, how surprised can you be? But sometimes we surprise ourselves, and in certain ways, characters can take on a life of their own!

hugbandit7 said...

I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her - it sounds like a wonderful book!

Leslie
hugbandit7 (at) gmail (dot) com

Anonymous said...

I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her

Joyce B said...

I want to curlup with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her

Joyce Best

Lora in Florida said...

Hi Hilary! Welcome!

Am looking forward to reading you; your Lily sounds quite fascinating. Am Amazoning your books right now!

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her", too!

pennyt said...

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her"
and thanks for introducing me to a new author!!
pennyt at hotmail dot com

Mar (aka mar annabelle jacob) said...

I love your site Ladies! Always interesting and fun articles/comments

Mar

kmccandle at yahoo dot com said...

I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her.

Kai W.

Ollie said...

"I want to curl up with Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her"

Thank you,

Ollie Moss

ollimo91@aol.com

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