Dark sky parks are Lori Rader-Day’s latest fascination.
The Chicago mystery author’s newest novel, “Under a Dark Sky,” is inspired by the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City, Michigan. Rader-Day is scheduled to read part of her novel and answer questions at Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, 7419 Madison St., 11 a.m. on Aug. 25.
The fiction writer isn’t the type to bore her audience – she plans to read from her book for a few minutes and spend most of the session in discussion with participants. Rader-Day also pointed out that the bookstore is the only mystery-specific bookstore in the Chicago area and said these types of bookstores are disappearing.
Rader-Day said she has always been interested in constellations but she doesn’t consider herself a “serious stargazer.” But her publishing agent did notice that, out of all her ideas for her next book, she seemed the most excited about the one set in a dark sky park.
These parks restrict light pollution which allows viewers to enjoy a starry night as nature originally intended. Homer Glen, Illinois is the first village to be recognized as a Dark Sky Community in the state and is just a 35-minute drive from Forest Park.
But correctly identifying Ursa Major and other constellations isn’t what Rader-Day wants her readers to get out of her book.
“The story is really about a person who is stuck in her life and wants to get back into moving forward,” Rader-Day said.
Eden, the main character, escapes to a dark sky park to deal with her grief after her husband dies. She soon finds herself one suspect of many when a dead body is discovered at the park.
The book isn’t based off of Rader-Day or anyone she knows. But it is based off one of her fears.
The Indiana native isn’t afraid of the dark but she is afraid of losing her husband.
“I think when we love somebody it makes us very vulnerable to the loss of that person so I wanted to write about that,” Rader-Day said.
The award-winning author didn’t initially set out to write mystery novels. But this changed after Rader-Day attended the Midwest Writers’ Workshop in Angola, Indiana in 2008. An instructor there placed her in a mystery writing group after reading one of her short stories.
“As far as I know I wasn’t writing a mystery…the teacher of that group said, there’s a crime in the first 15 pages…and if you are going to solve that crime, it’s possible that you’re writing a mystery novel,” Rader-Day said.
Rader-Day’s short stories garnered some attention even before she became a well-known mystery author. The fiction author Jodi Picoult selected one of Rader-Day’s stories as the grand prize winner of Good Housekeeping’s first fiction contest.
Although, the budding author never met Picoult she did receive a “very nice email from her.”
Unlike many first-time authors, Rader-Day’s first book, “The Black Hour,” was an instant hit. She won the 2015 Anthony Award for Best First Novel and was also a finalist for the 2015 Mary Higgins Clark Award.
The publishing process for her first novel wasn’t as difficult as Rader-Day had envisioned.
“I don’t want to say [it was] easy, but it was definitely not the uphill climb that I had expected to get an agent,” Rader-Day said.
It wasn’t only finding a publishing agent quickly that contributed to her success. Rader-Day spent one year and a half writing her first draft of “The Black Hour” and then worked for another year on revisions.
“I think the inclination is as soon as you got a first draft to start sending it out and seeing if you can get it published…but if you can spend a little more time making sure the book is as good as it can be you’re much more likely to get the help to get it published more quickly,” Rader-Day said.
The five-time author is already working on her next novel but can’t say too much about it. It does, however, have a “true crime element to it,” the author said.