Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on September 13th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository
Bad things happen everywhere. Even in the land of sun and roses.
When Jude's best friend is found dead in a swimming pool, her family calls it an accident. Her friends call it suicide. But Jude calls it what it is: murder. And someone has to pay.
Now everyone is a suspect--family and friends alike. And Jude is digging up the past like bones from a shallow grave. Anything to get closer to the truth. But that's the thing about secrets. Once they start turning up, nothing is sacred. And Jude's got a few skeletons of her own.
Interview with Sherri L. Smith
1. What made you want to write YA Mystery?
Mysteries are awesome! They are the ultimate expression of curiosity—what happened, and why? Those are the questions that make you turn the page and keep tuning in. Add a life or death situation, and who could say no? I’ve actually tried my hand at writing mystery before, and it’s very easy to get lost in the twists and turns of the story. In the case of Pasadena, I set out to write a noir because I wondered if I could. My husband is a big film noir buff. He was watching a movie one night and I joined him for part of it. I went to film school, so noir was part of my education, and I said, “I wonder if I could write a noir.” And then I did. And I liked it. So here’s the book.
2. What were some of your inspirations for Pasadena?
Shortly after the above conversation, my husband said, “Noir is about damaged people. Everyone is damaged in some way.” I had just read a short story by Maile Meloy in her collection, Half in Love, that stuck in my craw. It’s about a girl on a camping trip with her father and his friends, and something uncomfortable happens when she is one of the last people awake. It bothered me quite a bit, and pointed out the darkness some teens live with. Which reminded me of some of the more damaged people I’ve known in my life (I say “more” because we’re all damaged to an extent). And then I had my victim, my detective, and my story.
The location came from a different quadrant. The city of Pasadena is a few miles from my house. It’s a lovely city with great bookstores, beautiful homes and a genteel air that speaks to my family’s southern roots. But there’s something eldritch and gothic about parts of the city. You get the feeling that stuff is going down in some of those big houses. And there are small, multi-lot parcels that just look tired. It’s like a silent movie star holding up her chin while THX takes the stage. In other words, it’s deliciously ripe from drama. And there’s nothing like history to give a place style.
3. Are any of the characters loosely based on you or people you know?
I usually don’t base my characters on any one person. They tend to be a mash up of my imagination and bits and pieces from here and there. The same holds true for Pasadena. Some of them are purely my imagination (fueled as it is from literature and pop culture, and years of experience), and some are homages to the darker parts of people I used to know.
4. What are the top things (snacks, drinks, music, etc.) you need in order to do some writing?
What a good question! Writing demands a good cup of tea, occasional buttered toast and good jam, lots of water, and something sweet at the end. Rinse. Repeat.
5. Where is your favorite spot to write and why?
That’s a tough one. I write anywhere and everywhere. In my car, on a bus, even in the bathroom if the idea strikes and a pen is handy (there’s usually paper). I do a lot of writing on my sofa in my living room. But, I suppose my favorite place is a sofa or overstuffed armchair with a view. I’ve sat on some good ones on Whidbey Island at Hedgebrook retreat, on a balcony overlooking the sea in Southern Italy, a day bed in Ojai, California, sofa in Anderson Valley, California. Views can be inspiring. And, when you are in your head for hours, staring at the laptop in front of you, it helps to look not just up, but out into the world, and see something beautiful. It’s something to come back to when you emerge from the book. That helps ease the transition, like astrally projecting, only to return to a warm bed and a waiting candle.
6. Do you have any advice for other writers?
I’ve said it many times—keep writing, and shut up about it. My freshman English teacher in high school said, “If it comes out of your mouth, it won’t come out on the page.” So stop sharing your ideas and start putting them down in writing. You can share them when you’re done.
7. What is your favorite genre to read?
Someone just asked me this and my answer is a bit of a cop out: I like just about everything. It depends on my mood, which changes all the time. I tend to go on binges—nothing but mysteries, nothing but non-fiction crime, nothing but historical, nothing but speculative. Right now I’m in a real mishmash of Hemingway, Yasunari Kawbata, and the wonderful Gary D. Schmidt. Is that a genre? Not that I can tell. Maybe a gender… but that changes, too. I just finished A.S. King’s Ask the Passengers, and before that it was Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap. And a book on feminist spiritualism in Victorian England. I am currently eating books like cookies. Yeah, don’t fence me in.
8. Where would your dream vacation be?
For a long time now, I’ve wanted to take a walking tour of Morocco. I’d like to wander the medinas of Fez and Marrakesh, ride camels in the desert, and brush up on my belly dancing skills. I would love a room in a pretty city overlooking the water, with mint tea, and maybe a songbird vendor outside so I could listen to the singing (and fret over their living conditions) while I write long hand on creamy sheets of imported Italian paper, stopping only to swim in the ocean, to try my hand at a cooking class, and to laugh over icy pieces of melon with someone I love. Wrapped up with a book and a nap in a hammock or day bed as the sun goes down. How’s that for a dream?
9. What is your favorite season?
On the East Coast, it’s fall, with her changing leaves and promise of Halloween. Here in California, it’s early spring, right at the tipping point when you can feels the days getting longer and longer, all the way up until Solstice. I love the light and crave it when it’s gone.