Today, we’re excited to be hosting the final stop on the official blog tour for The Last Good Day of the Year by Jessica Warman, a ripped-from-the-headlines style quiet thriller that’s in stores now. For today’s post, we have an exclusive Q&A with Jessica, plus your chance to win a copy of the book.
THE LAST GOOD DAY OF THE YEAR has an almost “ripped from the headlines” feel to it, since there have (sadly) been plenty of similar cases of child abduction & murder that have been highly publicized over the years. Did any real-life cases inspire the book?
I did tons of research into real-life cases throughout the whole process, and I think anyone with even a casual knowledge of the most famous kidnappings in the past thirty years or so will be able to spot those details. There’s even a minor storyline that lines up chronologically with the date of what is probably this country’s most infamous real-life unsolved murder, although you have to really be paying close attention to spot it. It’s sort of like an Easter Egg. It’s a creepy little detail that would be easy to miss, but I think it makes the whole story more compelling. So there wasn’t any single influence tied to reality, but it’s undeniably present.
There was a commercial a few years ago where a guy is sitting at his computer and the screen reads “you have reached the end of the internet. You have seen everything there is to see on the internet.” I’m not sure what the advertisers were trying to accomplish, because I think most people hope to God they’ll never have to see a majority of what’s available online. There’s some heinous stuff. I have a point, though: I got to a point with my research that I felt like I’d read about every major kidnapping in the past hundred years. My entire state of mind, for a good year or so, was saturated with a constant barrage of the most heartbreaking details you can imagine. It got to the point where I’d struggle to find new cases and information, which made me think of the commercial I mentioned earlier. I’ve always been interested in the macabre, but it’s become much harder for me to consume any true crime-related media now. These are real people’s lives, and it’s uncomfortable to think about being entertained by their suffering.
I think it’s interesting how the true crime writer plays such a quiet — and yet ultimately critical role in Sam’s uncovering of the truth. Do you think such books/authors — and media coverage in general — can help or hinder investigations, like the one in THE LAST GOOD DAY OF THE YEAR?
I think they can be helpful, sure. I think most people who write true crime books, folks who maintain websites devoted to unsolved crimes, and other armchair detectives have good intentions for the most part. The internet has made the world seem much smaller than ever before, and it has never been easier to spread information quickly. At first it seems like a no-brainer that more information about unsolved crimes or missing people can only help to spread awareness and eventually solve those cases. But there’s always some inevitable distortion of the facts as they’re spreading, and it can become like an enormous game of telephone; the more notorious a crime, the more garbled the facts can get. Even if they’re not deliberately warping their version of the story, most people – well-intentioned or not – have an agenda that ends up shaping their interpretation of things. A big part of what this book is likes to about is the idea that truth is more flexible than anyone admit. Every one of us is constantly filtering reality through our unique perspective that makes objectivity impossible… the more you think about it (and trust me, I have spent many afternoons and late nights going down the rabbit hole of this in my own head), the more nebulous any kind of “truth” becomes. But even in that downside, there’s an upside: it’s kind of why the “ask the audience” lifeline on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? works most of the time.
Obviously this book covers some very difficult subject matter. Tell us about the process of writing about something so dark — and how you balanced it with lighter elements.
Oh man, I hope I managed to balance the darkness with at least a few lighter notes. I’m proud of this book…. But there’s a reason why it took me two years to complete (which is way longer than it’s ever taken me to finish a book. Like, way longer; my publisher had to push back the release date more than once, even though it’s my shortest novel.): It is hella dark. Sometimes I’d read over my work for the day and I’d end up wracking my brain for hints of a repressed childhood trauma that could have sparked my interest in such bleak stories. It didn’t help that I moved from Pennsylvania to Texas with my husband and kids right around the time I started working on the first draft. I didn’t know a soul, so I sort of turned inward and kept my head down as much as possible for the first few months as I tried to finish the manuscript. There were multiple days in a row when I didn’t leave the house. Things got a little hairy, emotional health-wise. There’s humor in the book, but it was hard to gauge how much would make the story bearable by adding moments of breathing room, versus what might seem tone-deaf or jarring to readers. My real-life sense of humor is sarcastic and dry, and can be unsettlingly dark on my happiest of days, so it was a constant struggle to stay on track and keep myself from spiraling down the drain.
Pen or pencil?
Favorite piece of clothing?
My Jackie Onassis pink Chanel suit with a pillbox hat. I’ve never worn it in public (still waiting for an appropriate occasion), but sometimes I wear it while I’m puttering around my house and pretend that I’m Jackie Kennedy, folding laundry and doing dishes or whatever.
Song you can’t get out of your head right now?
“The Last Good Day of the Year,” by Cousteau! I listened to it multiple times each day while I was writing the book.
Most recent vacation?
I went to Eleuthera, Bahamas with my husband and kids over Christmas. It’s a tiny island, less than two miles across at its widest point and about 100 miles long. We spent the week in near-total seclusion, which is my definition of a dream vacation. And the sand was pink!
5 things that are always in your purse
Let me take a look. (Dumps purse onto desk):
- At least one book. Currently I have two: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankel, and The Art of Loving by Erich Fromme
- Dental floss. I floss at least 2-3 times daily. It’s starting to be kind of a problem.
- My wallet
- At least a few ponytail holders; usually a dozen or more
- My inhaler, for my asthma
A new powerful thriller from the globally-embraced author of Between.
Ten years ago, in the early hours of New Year’s Day, seven-year-old Samantha and her next door neighbor, Remy, watched as a man broke into Sam’s home and took her younger sister, Turtle, from her sleeping bag. Remy and Sam, too afraid to intervene at the time, later identified the man as Sam’s sister Gretchen’s much older ex-boyfriend, Steven, who was sent to prison for Turtle’s murder.
Now, Sam’s shattered family is returning to her childhood home in an effort to heal. As long-buried memories begin to surface, Sam wonders if she and Remy accurately registered everything they saw. The more they re-examine the events of that fateful night, the more questions they discover about what really happened to Turtle.
Master storyteller Jessica Warman keeps readers guessing in this arresting page-turner.
JESSICA WARMAN is the author of Breathless, Where the Truth Lies, Between, and Beautiful Lies, which have received seven starred reviews among them. Between was published in a total of twelve countries around the world. Jessica has an MA in creative writing and recently moved to Houston, Texas. Find her online at www.jessicawarman.com and on twitter @jkwarman.
BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE
- May 18th – Winterhaven Books
- May 19th – Gone with the Words
- May 20th – Itching For Books
- May 21st – Andi’s ABCs
- May 22nd – Dana Square
- May 25th – Lili’s Reflections
- May 26th – Mary Had A Little Book Blog
- May 27th – The Hardcover Lover
- May 28th – Happy Book Lovers
- May 29th – Novel Novice