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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, everyone. I thought I'd give you some background on STNOF. Readers always ask "Why did you write this novel?" The answer follows. I'm happy to answer questions about it -- or anything else -- starting August 1.

Especially 1968. That was the turning point in my political “coming of age.” I was in college in Philadelphia on April 4th when Martin Luther King was assassinated. I watched as riots consumed the inner cities. I was saddened and disappointed -- as a teenager growing up in Washington DC, I’d gone to plenty of concerts at the Howard theater where blacks and whites grooved to Motown artists together. I actually thought we were moving towards a color-blind society -- I was young and idealistic then). So the frustration and rage expressed through the riots was – in a way– confusing.

Two months later I understood. My college boyfriend had been tapped to head up the national “Youth for Bobby Kennedy” program. I was really excited; I planned on dropping out for a semester to work with him. For some reason I couldn’t sleep the night of June 5th and turned on my radio. Bobby had been shot just after winning the California Democratic primary. He died the next day. So much for the Youth for Kennedy campaign.

Sadness soon gave way to bitterness. The country was falling apart. Over the years some of our brightest lights had been snuffed out. Internationally our government seemed to be supporting the “bad guys.” And underlying it all was an unwinnable war that – perversely -- was escalating and risking the lives of my peers. I began to question why I should work through the system, especially when the system wasn’t working for us.

I wasn’t alone. Plenty of others yearned for change. Fundamental change that would rebuild our society and culture. The next few years were tumultuous and volatile, but in the final analysis, we failed. Maybe the task was impossible -- how many Utopias exist? Sure, there were cultural shifts. But political change, in the sense of what to expect from our leaders and our government? Not so much. The era left me with unresolved feelings. What should we have done differently? Are all progressive movements doomed to fail?

At this point you’re probably wondering what this has to do with writing a thriller. And you’d be right. It’s never been my intention to write a political screed. I am a storyteller whose stories, hopefully, you can’t put down. I realized that if I was going to write about the Sixties, I needed a premise that would hook readers in the present, regardless of how much they know or remembered about the Sixties.

I found that premise in a film. Do you remember SIGNS, starring Mel Gibson? It came out in 2002, and I thought the first half was the most riveting film I’d ever seen. Gibson’s family is being stalked, but they don’t know who and they don’t know why. The second half of the film, when we discover it’s just your garden variety aliens, was an enormous let down. Putting a face, an identity, on fear reduces its power. But NOT knowing who’s targeting you -- or why -- is the most frightening thing I can imagine.

So that’s what happens to Lila Hilliard, a thirty-something professional who’s come home to Chicago for the holidays. Someone has killed her family, and now they’re after her. She has no idea who or why. As she desperately tries to figure it out, she finds wisps of clues that lead back to her parents’ activities forty years ago. In the process she discovers that her parents were not the people she thought.

The relationship between the past and present, the consequences of events that occurred years ago fascinate me. I also love stories that plunge characters into danger and make them draw on resources they didn’t know they had. SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE was the way to combine all those themes. Writing the book was an exorcism of sorts, a way to make peace with the past. And while I enjoyed reliving the past, I loved putting it behind me even more. I’m finally ready to move on.



 

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;D  It's me again.  I just read this Story Behind the Story on your website.  And found the answer to a question I
could not find on SYKM.  How old were you in 1968?

You are 10 to 12 years younger than I.  Your student days that year, and perhaps my older age, may give a nice perspective
for this blog.  In 1971, my husband and I were at an army base in Virginia and partying with a recent Georgetown graduate
and his buddies still in college.  But they were Republicans and pacificists...............and we were all so young.

Jane
 

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;D  A comment.  I was particularly impressed by these remarks in The Story Behind the Story

"Putting a face, an identity, on fear reduces its power. But NOT knowing who’s targeting you -- or why -- is the most frightening thing I can imagine.

So that’s what happens to Lila Hilliard, a thirty-something professional who’s come home to Chicago for the holidays. Someone has killed her family, and now they’re after her. She has no idea who or why. As she desperately tries to figure it out, she finds wisps of clues that lead back to her parents’ activities forty years ago. In the process she discovers that her parents were not the people she thought.

The relationship between the past and present, the consequences of events that occurred years ago fascinate me. I also love stories that plunge characters into danger and make them draw on resources they didn’t know they had. SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE was the way to combine all those themes. Writing the book was an exorcism of sorts, a way to make peace with the past. And while I enjoyed reliving the past, I loved putting it behind me even more. I’m finally ready to move on."

Reminds me a bit about the conversation Jo Nesbo (Norwegian crime writer) had with his daughter after the recent bombings in Norway.
BE BRAVE.  MOVE ON.

Jane
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for your comments, Jane. I don't know about the Norwegian tragedy... it's still so raw. Look how long it took our country to bounce back from 9-11. I admire Jo Nesbo no end, and love his books (although they are REALLY REALLY dark), but I think people need time to grieve the loss of life, of innocence, of a culture that didnt prove to be resilient to terrorism.

My brother and sister were older than I. And my brother was 00 still is -- what they used to call a "Rockefeller Republican" -- conservative on fiscal issues, liberal on social. My father shared the same birthday as Richard Nixon... and was MORE conservative than him. My sister and I were always liberals. So I come from a "mixed marriage." It was funny -- my mother never declared herself until my father died. Then she came out of the closet as a raging liberal. Shoulda known.

The unknown and how terrifying it can be is the springboard for the second question of the discussion, which I'm posting today.
 

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I always love to know what prompted a particular story, and I know other readers and writers do, too. These significant moments in history shape us in ways we are not always aware of until later.
 

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Wow, Libby! What a story. I actually just recently downloaded Easy Innocence on my Kindle based on a recommendation. I thought it sounded very good, but now you've got me torn hearing about this book. BTW I do remember the chilling feeling I got watching that movie Signs!

Don't think I'll play catch up on this go around for the Book Klub, but I'll definitely check out STNOF when I'm done with your other book.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Lia

 
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