Earlier this week I reviewed Hilary Davidson's second novel, THE NEXT ONE TO FALL, that is due out on Tuesday. And incidentally I also tag-team interviewed Hilary with Ruth Jordan in Issue #45 of CRIMESPREE Magazine. So if you don't subscribe give Murder by the Book a ring and get a copy! Hilary was kind enough to stop by and talk about the exotic locale of her book. And you just have to love a person who travels to Peru and thinks:
"This would be the perfect place to kill someone." - by Hilary Davidson
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that’s what I said just after I arrived at Machu Picchu. When I first got there, the rain and fog were so heavy that a gray shroud hid most of the Inca city from view. It was only when the rain stopped and the sun burned off the fog that I saw Machu Picchu in all its glory. I’m not sure what it says about me that I can visit a place, fall head-over-heels in love with it, and then decide to plot a murder there. A fictional murder, to be precise, but does that make it any better?
My new novel, THE NEXT ONE TO FALL, is set in Peru, a country I had the good fortune to visit for three weeks in the fall of 2007. It was love at first sight for me. When I travel, there are certain things that I gravitate to. One is ancient or historic sites. Another is beautiful scenery — especially when it includes adorable animals (you may already know of my llama obsession). Good food is a big attraction for me. I also love museums, especially small collections that focus on the work of local artists. Most of all, I love visiting a place where it’s easy to get into conversations with locals and with other travelers; some of the best discoveries I’ve made when I travel have come out of casual discussions like that.
Machu Picchu with a llama!
Peru got a perfect score on every front — and, in particular, the city of Cusco and the nearby “Sacred Valley” that leads to Machu Picchu. The combination of Inca and Spanish colonial history and sites caught my imagination. Even though the Inca Empire fell hundreds of years ago, the way that they reshaped the Peruvian landscape has stood the test of time. The Incas carved terraces onto the sides of mountains so they could grow crops there; when you stand in a place like the Sacred Valley or the Colca Canyon, all you see for miles are hundreds of terraces.
Cusco, the city that was the capital of the Inca Empire, is filled with colonial architecture, much of which is built on Inca foundations. The Cathedral and several churches and convents now double as art galleries, featuring work by the Cusco School (also called the Cuzco School) of the 17th and 18th centuries, which had European painters come to Cusco to teach local artists to paint in the European style. The results were beautiful, beatific, and occasionally bizarre. The indigenous artists converted to Catholicism, but they retained certain Inca ideas. For example, depicting Jesus in a loincloth was profoundly disrespectful in their eyes, so Jesus wears the knee-length linen skirt of the Inca nobility in scenes of the crucifixion.
Jesus in the linen skirt of Inca nobility
It’s incredibly exciting to me to get to share stories about a place I love, and it is doubly so to do it through fiction. I used to write guidebooks, so I know how people’s eyes glaze over when you recite a bunch of dates and descriptions to them. But having the opportunity to show people Peru through the eyes of Lily Moore and Jesse Robb is thrilling. Lily is, in some ways, going through what I did when I first arrived. I experienced altitude sickness, too (it takes a while to acclimatize to the thin Andean air — Cusco is 11,500 feet above sea level!). She’s seeing Peru for the first time, and even though she’s caught up in her own grief, it starts to intrigue her. Jesse has visited Peru again and again, falling in love with the place as I did. Some people who’ve read the book have said it makes them feel as if they’d visited Peru. The woman’s body on the stone steps at Machu Picchu? That’s fiction. But the magical beauty of Peru itself is entirely real.
Jesuit Church from 1668
Hilary has very graciously supplied the beautiful pictures from this post. Aren't they astounding? She has also donated a copy of her new book for me to give away to a lucky reader. She knows how I am - I'm not going to part with my own copy!
So, if you'd like to have a chance at winning THE NEXT ONE TO FALL, simply tell me in the comments where you think the perfect place for a murder might be. And be sure I have an email I can contact you at if you win! I'll take entries through next Friday. And the contest is open internationally!
In the meantime, you can find out more about Hilary at her website, check out all the locations she'll be visiting on her book tour. You can follow her on Twitter and you can hook up with her on Facebook. She's just omnipresent these days.
And since THE NEXT ONE TO FALL doesn't come out until Tuesday, you can whet your appetite with the first three chapters that are posted over at Criminal Element!