Monday, July 26, 2021

Hilary Davidson

Hilary Davidson was a journalist before she turned to the dark side and started writing crime fiction. Her novels include the Lily Moore series—The Damage Done, The Next One to Fall, and Evil in All Its Disguises—the bestselling Shadows of New York series—One Small Sacrifice and Don’t Look Down—and the standalone novels Blood Always Tells and Her Last Breath.

My Q&A with the author:

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

I think the phrase “her last breath” immediately suggests the idea of a dying declaration or a person’s last words, and that sets up the book really well. In chapter one of Her Last Breath, the reader meets Deirdre, who is at her sister’s funeral. It’s especially painful for her because they’d had a troubled relationship and had gone through periods of estrangement. By the end of the chapter, Deirdre has received a message her sister wrote the morning she died, warning that her husband was going to kill her and revealing that her husband had killed his first wife. The message sets Deirdre on a quest for justice, but it also turns her world upside down because she’s left with so many questions about who her sister really was and what else she was hiding.

What's in a name?

The main character’s name is Deirdre Crawley, and it was chosen very deliberately. Deirdre’s parents are from Ireland and “Deirdre of the Sorrows” is a famous story from the Ulster Cycle of mythology. It’s not meant in any way to mirror the situation, but both Deirdres have a life that’s marked by pain. Crawley was meant to sound like a lowly creature, which Deirdre is in the eyes of the wealthy family that her sister married into. That family’s surname is Thraxton, which I chose because it reminded me of anthrax; it’s not quite an anagram, but it’s close. The Thraxtons are a toxic clan, so it fit.

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

My teenage self would never believe that I write for a living. I was the first person in my family to go to college, so author was not something I considered as a realistic career path. This is exactly the kind of book I loved to read back then, though — twisted family secrets always intrigued me.

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

I know exactly where my story begins when I start writing. There might be some fine-tuning that happens later, but it normally stays true to my original vision. Endings are so much harder! Usually I have some murky idea of where I’m going with the story, but my endings evolve with each draft of my books. My normal practice is to write three drafts before anyone else sees the book, and the ending has likely changed each time.

With Her Last Breath, the real challenge was creating a sense of closure for Deirdre, and the reader, with her sister. How do you reconcile with a dead character? Several people have told me the ending made them cry, and I have to confess that writing it made me cry, too.

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

When I started writing novels, I was self-conscious about whether I should put in any details that connected me with my main characters. My first three books were about a travel writer named Lily Moore, and because I’d been a travel writer myself, I wondered if people would confuse me with my character, especially because she had such a troubled personal life. I remember one interviewer asking me what my sister thought of the book — because Lily's sister was a heroin addict and petty criminal — and having to explain that I don’t have a sister.

I don’t really worry about that anymore, maybe because Her Last Breath is my seventh novel. Now I kind of enjoy inserting something from my life into my character’s. It comes as a surprise to a lot of people that Deirdre’s dedication to martial arts is something we share, and that we both started studying karate as children. But Deirdre wants you to know she can kick your ass while I prefer to keep those talents under wraps. I love Deirdre but she is not subtle at all.
Learn more about the book and the author at the official Hilary Davidson site.

The Page 69 Test: The Damage Done.

The Page 69 Test: Blood Always Tells.

The Page 69 Test: One Small Sacrifice.

The Page 69 Test: Don't Look Down.

The Page 69 Test: Her Last Breath.

--Marshal Zeringue