Hill’s debut, Little Comfort (Kensington, Sept.), introduces Hester Thursby, a Harvard librarian who finds lost people on the side.
How did you land on Hester as your protagonist?
Hester is the protagonist, but there are three main point-of-view characters. When I first started drafting, the story was about Sam Blaine (who’s named after my friend’s beagle), a sort of antihero protagonist like Tom Ripley. The other two characters, Hester and Gabe DiPursio, evolved as I wrote, and Hester wound up shoving Sam aside and taking over the story.
Have you known damaged people like Sam Blaine and Gabe DiPursio?
Hasn’t everyone had a friend like Sam who was incredibly good looking and charming and who could get away with anything? I have a friend who lives by a different set of rules than the rest of us. One day I got to imagining what it would be like if he was a sociopath, and the book was born. For me, the heart of Little Comfort is Gabe DiPursio, a deeply flawed young man who wants nothing but to belong. That desire both saves him and destroys him.
All your characters are trying in their own way to belong, to find family.
Family is central to everything I write, both the family that you are born with and the one you wind up creating. Hester’s entire journey through the series is about creating and defending a weird little family that she’s cobbled together. Hester’s biggest flaw is that she sometimes doesn’t know how to appreciate what she’s built for herself. That’s when she gets herself into the most trouble.
Did you set out to write a series when you began Little Comfort?
This was conceived as a series from the beginning. I love successful crime series, ones where the characters grow over time, and I hope readers will want to stick with Hester for the rest of the ride. In this novel, I wrote a story where each of Hester’s supports were cut away until she could only rely on herself. The decisions she makes will carry forward into future novels. It’s been fun working on the second book in the series, and to have an entire Hester Thursby universe to draw on as I draft.
How much did the New England location influence the plot?
In this novel, I played with class a lot, setting the action both on Beacon Hill in Boston and in Squam Lake in New Hampshire, where there’s a wide economic spectrum. New England, with its ruggedness and charm, is central to this series. I couldn’t imagine setting it anywhere else.