A chance reunion and a lost memory leads Lindsay to recollect the fateful night when her friend Edie committed suicide. Putting together clues and re-examining how the night unfolded has Lindsay wondering if her friend was actually murdered…and if she had something to do with it.
How have libraries influenced you as a writer?
When I was growing up, my mom took my sister and me to the local library every week, and we would run away packing our tote bags to the brim with books we couldn't wait to read. It was like Supermarket Sweep for books (and, sometimes, games and CDs). We had a basket in the living room where we'd dump our haul, and then throughout the week we would basically chain-read books before our next visit. I should also note that in The Lost Night, I made the main character's best friend and sidekick a librarian (specifically a university archivist), because one of my best friends does just that at the University of Minnesota, and she has always blown me away with what I call her "digital lock-picking skills." As a journalist, I think of myself as a pretty good researcher, but she blows me out of the water! So I knew my narrator, Lindsay, would need an awesome, smart, and highly skilled friend on this journey, and that had to be a librarian. Can you tell I love libraries?
What was your inspiration for The Lost Night?
I’ve always loved reading suspense set in close-knit, closed-door worlds (Tana French is the master of this), and looking back on my own time as a 20-something partying around Brooklyn, I realized the nerve center of that social scene, a factory-turned-artist-loft building in Brooklyn’s gritty Bushwick neighborhood, was the perfect setting for a mystery. What if, after a night of wandering between concerts and readings and dance parties and everything else, we’d come upon a dead body?
You draw from your experience as a Brooklynite in your 20s. What came first, plot or setting?
They came to me at the exact same time. The full plot line didn’t hit me like a bolt of lightning (and I’m so jealous when I hear about other authors experiencing that), but all at once I thought back to my own Friday nights in this bizarre, unsanctioned work/live studio space—the strange labyrinthine setting, all the memorable characters, the stories we still told of wild weekends—and overlaid it with a mysterious death. I hope it is a telling peek inside a particular moment and subculture for readers, but I’ve also been delighted to hear people who were nowhere near that age or location still relate and say it made them remember being a 20-something in ’90s LA. I just love that.
The main characters – Lindsay and Edie – are both deeply rendered and deeply flawed. Who posed the biggest challenge to create?
Edie was always the most challenging to pin down, largely because she could be different things for different people, and everyone thought they alone knew the “real” Edie. She’s also a difficult person, at times angsty and selfish and temperamental—the kind of person you find magnetic in your 20s, but by your 30s, you know better. But she also cares deeply and is doing her best, and I worked hard to make that come through so that readers wouldn’t just, you know, hate her. On the other hand, Lindsay, the narrator, was quite easy to write because we share so many traits. (Not the violence!) She is curious and self-aware, and eager to investigate and understand, and she takes a lot of pride in her intellect. Of course, because of her history, she is also insecure, self-sabotaging, and mired in deep shame. It was important to me that every character felt complex and flawed. I could have made Lindsay less “annoying,” but who wants to follow Little Miss Perfect along on this dark, twisted journey? Not me!
Technology plays an important role in the plot, specifically a flip cam. Did you choose that device specifically?
When I began writing The Lost Night in 2014, 2009 was only five years in the past—but I was struck by how much technology had changed. To give an example, in my first draft, the main character, Lindsay, receives a mysterious CD-ROM in the mail and goes through a whole rigmarole figuring out how to access it. A decade ago, we were using technology to document everything, and I’ve read studies showing that when you do so—say, by taking pictures of an event on your phone—you recall the experience or sight less clearly because you rely on the device to do the remembering for you. Now all our photos and videos are catalogued in one central spot, like on the iCloud. Back then your Flip cam didn’t “speak” with your flip phone, and you had to store all those old photos on a hard drive or memory card somewhere. I thought it would be interesting to explore what it would mean to reconstruct that era using the fractured bits of technology you could scrape together, highlighting how much has changed in 10 short years.
Your career as a travel and lifestyle writer has taken you all over the world. What was the appeal of sitting at a desk alone and working on a novel?
When I freelance-write features, I’m beholden to the truth—I dig for the facts and then try to present them in a compelling way. Writing fiction is both easier and harder because there are no rules: A character or location or detail doesn’t exist until I craft it on the page. It’s both overwhelming and freeing. Being a journalist means I’m used to writing and editing quickly, though, and comfortable working on a deadline. My editor was always shocked by how quickly I could turn around revisions!
Can you give us the scoop on your follow-up novel, The Herd?
I can’t say too much just yet, but I have just finished a draft and I’m incredibly excited about it. It’s also a mystery/thriller, and it delves deep into female friendships and society’s sky-high standards for women—and what happens when some high-achieving women’s perfect veneers begin to crack. It’s told from the alternating perspectives of two bright, close-knit sisters with very different worldviews, and like The Lost Night, it’s twisty and dark and—I hope—lots of fun.