HOW I CAME TO WRITE THIS BOOK: Hilary Davidson
Several years ago, I went to a travel writing conference and met a journalist who made a powerful impression on me. She had just come back from a cruise in China, and had been in Brazil, Argentina, and Australia the month before that. Over late-night drinks at the hotel bar, I told her that she was living my dream life, but that I’d tried doing it and hadn’t been able to put up with public relations people controlling my schedule, falling behind on my non-travel assignments, and the loneliness of being away from my husband for long stretches of time.
“If I had to stay home, I would kill myself,” she told me. Bits of her life spilled out: her difficult relationship with her husband, whom she hated but couldn’t imagine divorcing; the debt that was crushing them; her relatives and their nagging demands on her. Life on the road, moving from place to place, was the only thing keeping her life together, or at least that was how she felt about it.
That conversation came back to me when I started writing THE DAMAGE DONE. I knew that the novel’s main character, Lily, had a troubled past and a painful relationship with her sister. At the outset, I had Lily returning to New York after being away for months without explaining where she’d been or what she did for a living. I remembered that conversation, and realized travel writer would be a perfect fit. Lily is something of an overachieving “good girl,” and it’s tough for her to be completely honest, even with herself, about how much she hates being responsible for her sister, who has always been the wild one in the family.
The more I thought about Lily’s need to escape harsh realities, the more that desire fleshed out the character and her background. I wondered what her escape valve had been when she was growing up, and that was where old films came in. Lily wasn’t the kind of person who would run away from her troubled home, but I could picture her losing herself in old films and craving the glamour of the past. That, in turn, created Lily’s love of vintage clothing and style. It also shaped her romantic life to some extent, particularly her refusal to see certain men for what they are, especially if they fill the mold of hero that’s been cast in her mind. I started to see a pattern with Lily, where she would let herself be overburdened for a time, but then she would crack under the strain and need to escape. There’s a kind of restlessness in her that never lets her fully be in one place. Understanding that was key to writing the book.
Hilary Davidson is the author of THE DAMAGE DONE (Forge, 2010). Her second novel, THE NEXT ONE TO FALL, will be published by Forge later this year.