Christi Daugherty has covered crime and murder for years as a newspaper reporter and journalist in cities including Savannah, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans. After moving to England nearly 20 years ago, she wrote the internationally bestselling Night School series of thrillers for young adults under the name CJ Daugherty. Her latest, The Echo Killing, is her first novel for adults.
Recently, the author generously took the time to answer our questions about The Echo Killing, what she's currently reading, and what's next for her main character Harper McClain!
Describe The Echo Killing in 5 words.
Savannah reporter hunts cold-case killer. (I'm aware that's cheating slightly.)
What do you want readers to think or feel after finishing this book?
I hope they're longing to find out what happens next in Harper's life—most of all, I hope they're rooting for her.
What are you currently reading and/or what did you just finish?
I just finished reading The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor, which I absolutely loved—a suspenseful thriller set in both 1986 and modern day about a murderer who marked his kills with a chalk man. When the marks start appearing again, does it mean he's returned?
I'm currently reading Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris—so far, it's amazing!
Who are your favorite authors?
I love a classic private-eye novel. The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett is a book I return to over and over. His perfect balance of suspense and dark humor is everything to which I aspire.
I read all the Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone) books when I was young. I can remember waiting impatiently for the latest book to come out in paperback. Millhone is a flawed, driven main character making her way in a world dominated by men, and I love her struggle to be respected even as she's also solving crimes. I recently reread A is For Alibi, and it still stands up as a great detective novel.
The Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling Cormoran Strike books are my favorite new series. The first book, The Cuckoo's Calling, drew me in completely, and now I buy the new books in the series as soon as they come out. Rowling's character development is absolutely perfect—I feel like I know the two main characters personally. The setting is wonderfully evocative. The plots are tense and involve marvelous side characters. FYI: The BBC TV series made from these books is also amazing.
I've recently discovered the Anna Lee series by Liza Cody, although she wrote the books in the 1990s. Her first book, Dupe, has now become one of my all-time favorite detective novels. Cody strikes a lovely balance of suspense, quirkiness, and humor in all her books. And she makes London a character. Dupe was definitely in the back of my mind when I wrote The Echo Killing.
What's your favorite line from The Echo Killing and why?
“Some moments get imprinted on your mind so thoroughly every breath of it stays with you forever. Most of these are bad moments.”
One of the most important things about crime writing—and something that can get lost in the excitement of the story—is that every crime is the worst moment in someone's life. This line brings us closer to the worst day of Harper's life. If you understand her history, then you understand why she's so driven. Why she takes so many risks. Why she became a crime reporter in the first place. Her mother's murder is at the heart of everything.
What is something that readers would be surprised to learn about you?
I once got hopelessly lost in Number 10 Downing Street. Although I grew up in Texas, I moved to England nearly 20 years ago. And among the many jobs I held during that time, I worked for a department of the British government for a while. That is why I had a meeting in the Prime Minister's building one day. I know it looks small on TV, but trust me, the place is a LABYRINTH. It actually takes up a city block.
Anyway, I'd left the meeting to go to the ladies' room and then couldn't find my way back to where I'd started. A security guard found me roaming the halls and, with absolute British politeness, steered me back to the right place. It was hilarious/mortifying.
You're stranded on a desert island when you realize the three books you've brought with you have been stolen. Which sleuth do you hire to find them?
Jack Reacher. Because I want those thieves to PAY.
What kind of research did you conduct for The Echo Killing?
Because I was once a crime reporter in Savannah myself, my research was different than it might otherwise have been. I have walked the same streets and used the same methods that Harper uses. That said, I often write with a street map of Savannah open on my computer to keep me grounded where she is. I also often work while listening to the Savannah PD on my internet police scanner. Hearing the voices of the dispatcher and the police and ambulance crews helps me work on the authenticity of my dialogue. Although, this can backfire when the action on the scanner gets so exciting I forget to write.
What's next for Harper McClain?
Harper still has crimes to solve! I'm working on the second book in the series now, which opens when a woman is murdered on River Street, right at the heart of Savannah's tourism district. With its livelihood threatened, the city goes into panic mode. But Harper is focused on something else. The corpse has a familiar face.
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Christi Daugherty began covering murders at the age of 22 as a newspaper reporter. She worked as a journalist for years in cities including Savannah, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans. Her work eventually took her to England, where she wrote the internationally bestselling Night School series of thrillers for young adults under the name CJ Daugherty. The Echo Killing is her first adult novel.