Monday, September 20, 2010

A Noir Education - Hilary Davidson

I am absolutely thrilled to have Hilary Davidson guest blogging today and talking about her debut novel THE DAMAGE DONE. If you missed it, I reviewed THE DAMAGE DONE last week and it will be available next Tuesday. Hilary has written in many different formats throughout her career. She's worked as a copy editor, a freelance writer; she's been a restaurant reviewer and a travel writer. Hilary is also responsible for the Gluten-Free Guidebook, a website dedicated to helping people find gluten-free places to eat all over the world.

In 2006 she decided to try something she'd always wanted to do...write fiction. And boy did she prove she could do it. Ever since, Hilary has been writing amazing short stories, forcing folks to take notice. Now she is set to release her first novel.

My friend, Pop Culture Nerd, talks about people deserving of being shoved down the stairs. These are people who are blessed in too many ways to be real. Well Hilary is talented, funny, beautiful and one of the nicest people I've ever met. Plus, she's been able to travel all over the world! I think she qualifies for that category! But I know that Hilary's real - next week I'll get to meet her and prove it - and I couldn't be happier for her success.

I am very honored to host her today. She's written a beautiful piece to share here about her grandmother and her grandmother's influence on THE DAMAGE DONE. Please help me in welcoming Hilary Davidson to Jen's Book Thoughts. And everyone mark this day because I know in my heart of hearts we're all going to be looking back in a few years saying, "I knew Hilary when she first started out. And now she's taking over the book world."

Here's Hilary with A NOIR EDUCATION

It’s 8 days until my first novel, THE DAMAGE DONE, comes out, and I’m thrilled to kick off my blog tour at Jen’s Book Thoughts. It’s a bit like a homecoming, since Jen started telling people about me early on. Just after Forge bought my book last year, Jen e-mailed, asking if I would take part in her famous Six-Word Memoir series. After I recovered from my shock, this is how I summed myself up:

Thought small sins pointless. Dreamed big.

I wondered whether Jen might decide I was too crazy to be mentioned on her blog, but she ran my mini-memoir with a lovely intro about my short stories and travel guidebooks. I’d intended to explain my six rather provocative words at some point: they are rooted in a saying of my grandmother’s. Recently, people have been asking where my interest in crime writing comes from, and that has its origins with my grandmother, too. In fact, I think she’s the reason I’m writing crime.

(Hilary's mother and grandmother)

My grandmother was quite the dame. Her name was Maude and when I was growing up, I took for granted her red lipstick and varnished nails, her sharp suits and high heels. Her hair was dyed black and always perfectly set, and she never lost the Northern Irish accent she brought with her when she immigrated to Canada.

She made my friends’ grandmothers seem odd. Other grandmothers baked cookies; mine liked to knit, but she did so while watching pro wrestling. Other grandmothers didn’t tell stories about the time they punched out a guy on a street corner for making an obnoxious remark, and how the guy had gone to the cops, and the cops had laughed at him for getting beaten up by a woman. My grandmother was a voracious reader who bought me armloads of books, including a complete set of Nancy Drews from the 1930s, with blue cloth covers and pen-and-ink drawings inside. She also passed along issues of The National Enquirer, and introduced me to film noir.

She had very firm opinions on movies, just as she had with everything else in life. As far as she was concerned, Barbara Stanwyck was the greatest actress who ever lived. Her favorite actor was Tyrone Power, whom she had a crush on for decades. The classic movies we both loved were shown on television late in the evening. Sometimes we would snap them up on videotape. We would often debate the merits of a movie’s ending. The classic Double Indemnity was a favorite, though we both took issue with the femme fatale suddenly going soft at the very end. (My grandmother’s cynical explanation is still the best: “That’s what you get with men making movies. They always think the woman goes swooning for the man in the end. Good luck to them.”)

My grandmother passed away almost 12 years ago, but there’s not a day that I don’t think about her. That was especially true when I was writing THE DAMAGE DONE. For reasons that are hard to explain, my grandmother’s love of film noir found a home in the heart of Lily Moore, the book’s main character. When Lily was growing up, movies were her primary form of escape from a troubled family life, and in the book, they serve as an important point of reference. (Just like my grandmother, Lily has a crush on Tyrone Power, and it’s no coincidence that her former fiancé looks like him.) Lily is drawn to vintage clothes and mid-century music (Ella, Billie, Sarah), and she has my grandmother’s black hair, fair skin, red lips, and sense of style. Even the shiny black rotary-dial phone in her old New York apartment was borrowed from my grandmother’s place in Toronto.

There was something else of my grandmother’s I gave to Lily, too. My grandmother had a saying, If you’re going to sin, sin big. She believed that you had to put your heart and soul into whatever you did, because once you went off on your own path—in a big way or a small way—you were going to face the consequences for it. That motto could be Lily’s, because she’s willing to plunge headfirst into an adventure (moving to Spain, like her hero, Ava Gardner) or into a mission such as finding her missing sister. It is my motto, and it’s what I based my Six-Word Memoir on. The noir education I got from my grandmother has been passed on, in turn, to Lily.

You can read more about Hilary at her website. She also has a blog for her crime fiction writing called Dark Voyage. And you can check out The Gluten-Free Guidebook here. THE DAMAGE DONE will be released next Tuesday. Hilary has a slew of signing events scheduled; you can check them out here. If you can't make one in person, you can pre-order a signed copy from Mystery Lovers Bookshop, The Mystery Bookstore, The Poison Pen or Murder by the Book.

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kathy d. September 20, 2010 at 4:49 AM  

Omigod, I love her grandmother. There should be a biography of her published.

That quote about men making movies and thinking women swoon for men at the end is priceless.

I could read a lot more about her.

Thanks for this guest blog. It is wonderful.

Paul D Brazill September 20, 2010 at 5:15 AM  

Great stuff! Tyrone Power was the business! Nightmare Alley!

Dan Ames September 20, 2010 at 7:15 AM  

Great stuff, Hilary!

Jenn's Bookshelves September 20, 2010 at 9:41 AM  

What a wonderful tribute to her grandmother. What a wonderful post, Jen!

Chris September 20, 2010 at 9:47 AM  

Fantastic insight into one of the most anticipated releases of the year for me. Well done.

Anonymous September 20, 2010 at 10:04 AM  

I'm really excited about reading THE DAMAGE DONE and have it set to show up on my Kindle. Very nice guest post and I look forward to hearing more about Hilary. Good luck, Hilary, next week with your launch! Your grandmother would be proud I'm sure!

Dorte H September 20, 2010 at 12:27 PM  

What a cool grandmother!

So was my father´s mother, though in different ways. She was the first person who gave me a crime novel (A Lord Peter Wimsey story), and if she knew I was trying to sell my own crime manuscripts today, she would do all she could to encourage me.

Eric Beetner September 20, 2010 at 1:09 PM  

Great insight, Hilary. Rooting fictional characters in reality always makes them read true on the page. So looking forward to The Damage Done!

Kathleen A. Ryan September 20, 2010 at 1:33 PM  

Thanks, Jen, for having Hilary guest blog today. I so enjoyed reading about her mom and grandmother. I am so excited for Hilary! I will be attending her book launch next week in NYC at Partners & Crime Mystery Booksellers ( and can't wait to buy my own copy of THE DAMAGE DONE.

I agree with Eric about rooting the characters in reality ~ they ring so true. How much fun it must have been to transfer Maude's interests, passions, and features to Lily. Maude lives on in Lily!

I was influenced by my Irish grandmother, an armchair detective, as well. I wish I had her a lot longer, though; she died when I was 13. I ache to have an adult conversation with her. If she only knew that I became a cop and what I've accomplished since, concerning a case that baffled her for almost 20 years (although I have a feeling she already does know), she'd be extremely proud.

Let's hear it for grandmothers!

Congrats, Hilary! Wishing you all the best!

Hilary Davidson September 20, 2010 at 3:27 PM  

My mother just told me what a kick my grandmother would have gotten out of this post. I know my grandmother would have laughed about it — she had the most wonderful, warm, wicked laugh.

I'm so grateful to Jen for having me guest on her blog, and to everyone who's taken the time to read the post. Thanks for all of your wonderful comments. I really appreciate them!

Pop Culture Nerd September 20, 2010 at 3:48 PM  

This is just gorgeous all the way around. Grandma sounds like an amazing lady. I second kathy d.'s suggestion of Hilary writing a biography of Maude, complete with beautiful pictures.

le0pard13 September 20, 2010 at 4:29 PM  

Great post! Thanks to Hilary and Jen for this.

p.s., I know now what I'll be doing the evening of Oct 19th!

Sophie Littlefield September 20, 2010 at 5:25 PM  

i love getting this little bit of insight about from whence our darling hilary sprung. (not sure that was grammatically correct, but whatever.) HD, you're one of a kind xo

great job Jen - you've got taste!

Naomi Johnson September 21, 2010 at 12:49 AM  

It occurred to me, after seeing the photograph of Hilary's mother and grandmother, that Hilary would be even more beautiful photographed in black & white, like one of those fabulous old photographs George Hurrell took.

There's another reason to push her down the stairs.

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