In Rader-Day’s debut, The Black Hour , a sociology professor at a university outside Chicago struggles with the effects of an inexplicable crime.
What do you find interesting about the academic milieu?
I’ve worked at three universities and have also held a couple of corporate jobs. I borrowed something from all these experiences to write The Black Hour, but what I find interesting about the academic setting is a college’s community-within-a-community status. From the writing perspective, a university campus is a good place to get a diverse group of people closed in together, where they can cause problems and misunderstand one another.
What did you want to show about Amelia Emmet, your heroine?
One of the toughest parts of writing Amelia’s character was that she was the victim of a university shooting and is still injured, physically and otherwise. But who wants to read a story told by a whining character? I needed Amelia to be sympathetic and gaining the strength she would need to reclaim her life.
Did problems arise with the two very different points of view of Amelia and Nath, her teaching assistant?
When I realized that what I wanted to do was construct two parallel first-person stories, I knew I was making things difficult for myself. But I also gave myself some opportunities that I really enjoyed playing with: Amelia knows some things, Nath knows others, but they don’t always share information. This is not Holmes and Watson; Amelia and Nath strike out on their own, often working against each other and their own best interest. The reader, of course, gets the full picture in a way neither point-of-view character does. I had to make sure each had a voice that was recognizable to the reader, but in a lot of ways the difficult assignment ended up being a lot of fun.
Amelia studies violence in the Midwest. What can you say about how outsiders view the Midwest?
People who consider Chicago, where I live, as part of “the middle,” or the flyover area, tend to think of the Midwest as a charming cornfield where very little goes wrong. But some of us do get around to being terrible to one another, according to reports. In fictional crime, the important thing is that the crime is solved and the balance of justice is once again restored. In real life, with happenings such as the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, which is mentioned briefly in the book, there is no justice, even with time passing or time served. There’s no neat or tidy ending for the things we have to live with, and those things happen in the Midwest, too.