In Hall’s And Now She’s Gone (Forge, Sept.), rookie detective Gray Sykes tries to find out what happened to a missing woman who calls herself Isabel Lincoln.
Gray and Isabel, both African Americans, have lived under different names and identities. What does this reveal about them and society?
Especially for an African American, duality has always been a part of growing up. Really, for all of us who are of color. You have your public you, where you don’t drop the g’s and you speak very properly, and you don’t offend—and then you have the version that you save for people who are like you, and you drop those g’s and you say ain’t. So duality was always something that was going to find itself in everything I wrote. And then when it comes to women, we hide the person we are when we’re alone. And so I wanted to play with that too, and with the idea of lives of abused women, and how so many of them put on that other face when they’re in public, and you have no idea what’s going on with them. And then when they go home, they’re getting their asses kicked.
Gray’s background as someone who was raised in the foster care system comes back to haunt her.
Gray grew up in a hostile environment where you have to perform, and you have to hold your tongue. And it’s not so different for the lives of many women of color, where we’re constantly in these arenas where there are micro—or not so micro—aggressions, where people are being kind of nasty, and we try to get our swipes in. But you can’t swipe too much, because you might be out of a job—or someone may pull a gun. So you’re constantly guarding yourself and your soul just to get through it, just to get to that space where you can be alone, and you can recover.
How easy was it to structure the reveal about Gray’s abusive ex?
The structure was hard, but I kept thinking about how every story that I write I try to run it on parallel paths. For this novel, I wanted to do the onion thing, where you think you know what’s going on—but then you start peeling away and peeling away. It’s like when you turn on the news, and there’s this story about a guy who has killed his entire family. And you find out that the neighbor who thought he was a nice guy, just because he watched her dog that one time, was wrong. He did kill his wife or girlfriend, and not only did he kill her, he cut her up. And not only did he cut her up, he put her in oil bins around his worksite. I like the slow reveal.