Published October 20, 2020

Hilary Davidson, author of Don’t Look Down, One Small Sacrifice, and four other novels, has won two Anthony Awards and a Derringer Award for her work. She is also the author of a short-story collection, The Black Widow Club. Born in Toronto, she has lived in New York since October 2001. Learn more at

Get to know Hilary in this Q&A and then join us on Thursday, October 22 at 12pm ET to hear her discuss her work on SHELF LIFE: Detecting Women with Hilary Davidson and Rachel Howzell Hall.

Festival: What motivated you to become a writer? 

Davidson: This is my dream job! If you’d asked six-year-old me what she wanted to do with her life, “be a writer” was always the answer.

Who or what are some of your creative influences?

I often joke about Nancy Drew being the gateway drug for a life of crime (writing), but I think that’s been true for me. As I grew up, the authors I read changed — at different ages, Lois Duncan, Agatha Christie, Robert B. Parker, Sara Paretsky, Walter Mosley, Patricia Highsmith — but exploring the darker side of human nature was a constant. I think Paretsky and Mosley were powerful influences on me, because they explore social issues through writing about crime. 

What was your favorite part about writing your latest book?

I love learning what makes each character tick. Readers might expect me to know that when I start writing a book, but I don’t. For me, writing a character is like meeting a new person — it takes time to figure out who they really are. 

Do you have any sources of inspiration that you come back to while writing? 

Often it’s listening to music or looking at art and architecture. My work is rooted in character, and I have sense of what each main character is drawn to. My latest book, Don’t Look Down, is told from four perspectives, and sometimes I’d listen to a song or two before writing about a particular character.

What impact or takeaway do you hope your work will have for readers? 

I hope that my work makes people question their assumptions. As a society, there’s a powerful inclination to “listen to your gut” these days, but I think that’s a dangerous impulse in many cases, especially because our guts contain unconscious bias. That’s a major issue in police work and in our justice system.

What is something that you’ve read recently and would recommend to others?

A couple of wonderful recent reads: They’re Gone by E.A. Barres and Don’t Look For Me by Wendy Walker.

What are you working on next? 

My next novel, Her Last Breath, a standalone psychological thriller. I’m also in the middle of bringing my first four novels back into print — the first, The Damage Done, is already out.

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