Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Edwin Hill

Edwin Hill is the Edgar- and Agatha-award nominated author of Little Comfort, The Missing Ones, and Watch Her.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title for my latest novel, Watch Her, came from the text. I noticed the phrase reappearing in the prose, and that it had different meanings depending on where it was being used. The story is about long-held secrets and the power we have over those who trust us. There’s a character who appears to be stalking an ex-girlfriend. There’s another character who’s entrusted with watching over a child in danger. I thought it was evocative of the overall story, too. Thankfully, my editor agreed!

What's in a name?

I name characters very, very quickly, especially when I’m in the early stages of drafting, otherwise I can lose an afternoon on a baby naming web site looking for the perfect name. Some of the names stick, and others get changed as I get to know the characters better.

Hester Thursby is the main character in my series, and she was named Hester from the very start. When I conceived her, I knew very little about her – only that she was 36-years-old woman responsible for a small child. I quickly named her Hester and the child Pearl after the main characters in The Scarlet Letter. That was too pretentious to keep in the final novel, so I changed Pearl to Kate, but Hester somehow stuck!

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

When I was a teenager, I wanted to write traditional mysteries, like Agatha Christie. I think I’d be surprised by the psychological nature of my writing. I also think I’d be surprised by how much I lean into sexuality and identity.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

The answer here really depends on the book! For Watch Her, the beginning came very easily. My first draft of the prologue is very similar to what wound up in the final book. Sometimes I begin a book and see a very clear ending, one that I simply have to work toward as I draft. Not so, with Watch Her! I changed the end a number of times, including who the murderer is.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I would say that all the characters are me, and at the same time none of them are. I write my novels from multiple points of view and will sometimes borrow aspects of my own personality or experience to help build the characters. For example, in Watch Her, one of the point-of-view characters, Maxine Pawlikowski, is an executive at a for-profit college. To make my life easier, I made Maxine my own age so that I would understand her cultural references and wouldn’t have to figure out where she was and what she was doing at various times in her life. I also worked as an executive at a large organization, and while it wasn’t a for-profit college, I could pull from my experiences as a manager.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Hester Thursby is a librarian at Harvard’s Widener Library where she serves as the Americana expert, and she loves entertainment like vaudeville, movies, and television. I try to work pop culture references into each book, and in Watch Her, the ‘70s cop show Police Woman plays an important part in the plot.
Learn more about the book and author at Edwin Hill’s website.

My Book, The Movie: Little Comfort.

--Marshal Zeringue