Lori Rader-Day, Author of Under a Dark Sky  is this month’s featured author interview on WE Magazine for Women

How did your research and writing “Under A Dark Sky” differ from your previous award-winning novels “The Black Hour,” “The Day I Died” and “Little Pretty Things?”

Under a Dark Sky is my fourth book, the first novel I sold on the basis of absolutely no information—it was called Untitled #4 in my contract—and it is also the first book I wrote in a year. That shortened schedule is also probably why the research had to be different. This book was really focused on location, but I couldn’t make time to travel to the dark sky park in Michigan that I was using as the model for the setting of Under a Dark Sky. Instead, I relied on Google maps, YouTube videos, and other online tools to get the draft written. Eventually I was able to visit the location and do on-site research, which made a big difference in the final book.

What exactly is a Dark Sky preserve, and why is it so important for our country?

The International Dark-Sky Association’s conservation program recognizes a variety of “dark sky places” to encourage communities around the world to preserve and protect dark sites. There are residential dark sky communities, towns that choose their lighting to keep light pollution down, and there are more remote designations like dark sky preserves, parks, and sanctuaries. The space in the book is a dark sky park; I based the location I wrote about on a real dark sky park in Michigan, way up north on Lake Michigan near the Mackinac Bridge. These spaces are important in the fight against light pollution, which is harmful to human health and our wildlife and ecosystems. The 24/7 presence of light messes with a lot of the process of our bodies. Think about how cell phones are supposedly causing us sleep problems. It’s the same problem, but on a grand scale.

Your character forces herself to confront her fear of the dark. Has facing any of your own fears helped you write characters into such adrenaline-racing situations?

One of my greatest fears used to be public speaking. That’s not an unusual one; apparently 73 percent of the population fears speaking in public. More people fear speaking in public than death. But now that I’m an author, I’m required to put myself out in front of audiences all the time.

The premise of the book may especially appeal to fans of Agatha Christie, Clue and locked-room games. Were those an influence here?

I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie and the movie Clue! I don’t plan out precisely where a novel is going to go, plot-wise, so I don’t think I can say that I was looking to write a locked-room mystery or to emulate Agatha Christie. But And Then There Were None is an obvious influence for Under a Dark Sky; it’s one of my favorite Christie novels. The locked room aspect was an accident of the story. When I decided that Eden Wallace was afraid of the dark, it kept her inside and turned the novel claustrophobic. I love writing about a closed community, about seasoned relationships put through extraordinary circumstances.

You weave significant, and quite sensitive, topics into your mysteries. How do you manage something like domestic violence in your writing process?

As much as I manage anything when I’m drafting, which is to say that I don’t. I start with a few elements that I want to work with and build out the story as I write, and often that significant, sometimes sensitive, topic reveals itself over time. As I start to understand the book’s characters, the issue is revealed. In The Black Hour, for instance, I had to write the entire first draft before the issue of economic inequity became part of the story. There was also campus violence in that book, but that’s where the story started. The important thing to me is that the story isn’t “about” social issues so much as the characters deal with the social issues. These are novels, not manifestos.

Why is it so important to pen women-driven mystery novels?

It’s important to me because that’s what I like to read. There are plenty of writers out there taking care of stories that I am less equipped to write, that take place in locations I haven’t lived or haven’t visited, about the interior lives of men. I can only write the books that keep me coming back to the page, and I’m most interested in stories about the trouble regular women can get into, the damage they can live with and the damage they can cause. Women readers aren’t confined to stories in which they can recognize themselves, but they deserve them.

You can learn more about Lori here: LoriRaderDay.com

Grab her book on Amazon – Under a Dark Sky