Karin Salvalaggio's arresting novel, Bone Dust White has been hailed as a gripping "first-rate debut" by our Whodunit columnist, Bruce Tierney. Following a murder in a small, isolated town in Montana, fiery (and very pregnant) Detective Macy Greeley is sent to head the investigation, but a young and fragile woman may be the killer's next target, and timing becomes crucial.
We chatted with Salvalaggio about her writing process, why Joyce Carol Oates inspires her and what's ahead for Macy Greeley in a 7 questions interview.
Describe your book in one sentence.
Set in a town that’s down on its luck, Bone Dust White is a thriller about a troubled young woman named Grace Adams, who having witnessed a brutal murder, must negotiate an unseemly cast of characters with old scores to settle and evade an increasingly tough investigation led by Detective Macy Greeley.
This is your first novel—what was the most exciting part of the writing process?
When you’ve dreamt of being a published author for most of your life there is no stage of the process that isn’t exciting. First, there was the thrill of finding the story I really wanted to tell. This was key. I’ve lived with Bone Dust White for three years. I had to be excited about it. Finding support in the publishing industry was the second big development. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but the most exciting part comes now. Bone Dust White is finally available online and in bookstores. I’m not sure I can fully describe what it’s like to have a physical book out there in the hands of readers. The very notion that people are reading and collectively sharing in my imagination is nothing short of mind-blowing.
What do you love most about Detective Macy Greeley?
To tell you the truth, I love that Macy’s character isn’t fully formed. There is plenty of scope for her to grow and change and I feel like I’m just getting started. I also love that Macy is smart enough to know what’s good for her, but impulsive enough to do the complete opposite. Flawed, funny, slightly cynical and stubborn; she’s a reflection of all of us, but on a good day. Most of us are too constrained by our personal circumstances to say and do as we wish. I guess in that way Macy’s character is aspirational.
What initially drew you to crime fiction?
I didn’t set out to write crime fiction, but as the book took shape it became apparent that this was the genre that best served the story I was trying to tell. I created a point of tension in the narrative that was no longer sustainable and then threw in an inciting incident as explosive as a murder. It’s the aftermath that interests me most. How will the victim’s family, friends and community cope? How long can the guilty party hide in plain sight? Who can sift through the lies and find the truth? What other secrets will be uncovered?
Which writer do you look to most for inspiration?
Joyce Carol Oates comes to mind immediately. Her body of work has such breadth. Her prose style is exquisite and her intelligence shines through every line.
What are you reading right now?
As usual, I seem to be reading several books at once. I’m dipping in and out of short story collections by Stephen King and Daphne du Maurier while starting Tom Rob Smith’s new novel The Farm.
I’m almost finished writing my second book. It’s also set in the Flathead Valley, but this time it’s high summer. A young army veteran, who has served his country in some of the most dangerous places in the world, is gunned down in his hometown of Wilmington Creek, a sleepy ranching community where there is little crime. Detective Macy Greeley is reluctant to take the case. She’s been struggling to balance work, motherhood and an increasingly fraught relationship with her boss Ray Davidson. Her nerves are shot and she has to fight hard to stay focused. It doesn’t help that the heat is oppressive, an arsonist is setting wild fires and the victim’s friends and family are keeping secrets. When an undercover officer, who’s been investigating a member of a private militia turns up dead, the scope of the case widens further.