Read this exclusive Q&A with Kelley Armstrong, author of City of the Lost, and then make sure you're signed in and comment for a chance to win an advanced copy of Kelley's first Casey Duncan thriller!
This isn’t the first time you’ve written a female investigator; how is homicide detective Casey Duncan different from police officer Nadia Stafford?
Like Casey, Nadia has a murder in her past. In her case, she didn’t get away with it—never even tried. She openly shot a serial killer and suffered the loss of her job, media attention, public shaming, etc.
In the novels, Nadia’s a part-time hitman struggling not to justify her actions with the label of vigilante. Casey is a much better detective—smarter, more skilled, and more methodical. Nadia is outwardly more personable, more friendly, but more deeply damaged.
When I create characters, I sometimes explore variations on a theme, and that’s what I did with Nadia and Casey—one seemingly similar moment in the past leading to two very different lives and characters.
In City of the Lost, Rockton is a place where people trying to escape their pasts can disappear. Can you tell us about what inspired Rockton?
I blame my agent. We were talking, and she mentioned hearing/reading that enough people go missing every year to populate a small town. That got me thinking, “What if there was an actual town where people went to disappear?”
What would be the hardest part about moving to Rockton for you?
Not having my laptop. Also, not having chocolate and decent coffee. I’d be fine with it overall. I’d just need a lot of empty journals to write in.
I know you’re a huge Shakespeare fan. Who do you think is one tragic character who could’ve gotten a happy (or, at least, less tragic ending) if they had moved to Rockton instead?
Tough question. So many of Shakespeare’s tragic characters were fighting to gain or keep power and position, and that need wouldn’t be satisfied in Rockton, where they could rise up and rule over…a town of two hundred people.
I’d say ship Romeo off to Rockton. Listen, kid, you obviously don’t have enough purpose in your life, falling in love with one girl after another, getting in duels, how about we send you to Rockton and get you chopping wood for a few years, see how that works out.
If you were stuck in an isolated town like Rockton, what books would you bring to keep you entertained?
I’m presuming my selection would be limited, so I’d want all new reads. I’d pick books that I’ve heard are very good and just haven’t had the time to read. Or, well, more accurately, books that I know are supposed to be very good, but that I haven’t been particularly inclined to read. Kind of like catching up on my literary homework.
What do you want your readers to walk away from this book thinking?
With any of my books, I want readers to walk away entertained—to feel it was a satisfying way to spend some time. If they find more to think about, that’s great, but the core purpose is entertainment.
Was there a specific album or playlist you listened to when writing City of the Lost?
I always write to silence. I feel a bit envious when other writers talk about coming up with playlists, but the only time I have music playing is as “white noise” in a café or on an airplane, so I can write instead of inadvertently eavesdropping on conversations!
We love your title. What do you think makes these people “lost”?
They’ve physically removed themselves from the world, but they also all have a reason for needing to do so, something they’ve “lost” in their own lives. For those like Casey or Will, Rockton is about more than hiding—it’s about finding what they’ve lost and getting back to themselves.
Regarding the title, though, when my Canadian editor decided they’d keep this one, I did comment that “City” isn’t entirely accurate for a place with only a couple hundred people. It should be Village of the Lost, but that sounds like a whole different genre!
You were co-authors with Melissa Marr on The Blackwell Pages. Who is one mystery writer you’d love you write a book with?
If I’m going with a fantasy pairing, I don’t have to restrict myself to living authors, right? My choice, then, would be Patricia Highsmith. I love working with morally and ethically questionable characters, and she wrote some of the best examples of that.
Did any other books inspire or influence this book?
No books, but there is a television inspiration, which is actually name-checked in the novel. Deadwood. I loved the show and always wanted to capture that Wild West vibe in a contemporary novel. I rewatched the full series while I was writing City of the Lost.
What would be your murder weapon of choice?
You know, I’ve never considered that. For me, it’s always about which weapon a character would choose to use or to carry. I suppose if I had to kill someone, I’d probably go with a bullet to the base of the skull, a CNS shot, as quick and painless as possible.
What are you currently binging on Netflix?
I just finished Jessica Jones. Thirteen episodes, which took me…two months to watch. For me, sadly, that is binging. I think the only show I’ve watched faster is Luther and only because the seasons are so short!
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Kelley Armstrong graduated with a degree in psychology and then studied computer programming. Now, she is a full-time writer and parent, and she lives with her husband and three children in rural Ontario, Canada.