Finalist Spotlight

Stephanie Black

Stephanie Black has loved books since she was old enough to grab the pages, and has enjoyed creating make-believe adventures since she and her sisters were inventing long Barbie games filled with intrigue and danger or running around pretending to be detectives. Stephanie is the author of twelve novels. She lives in northern California and enjoys spending time with her family, taking pictures of birds, and eating fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies.

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Stephanie Black on her Whitney Awards Finalist novel,

To Die, To Sleep

What was the inspiration for your Whitney Awards finalist novel?

To Die, To Sleep is book #3 in the Natalie Marsh mystery series. In book #2, I’d decided to riff on Shakespeare’s MacBeth in creating the plot. For book #3, I decided to use Hamlet as my inspiration. It’s fun and challenging to take elements of Shakespeare and transform and weave them into a contemporary murder mystery.

What was the tipping point that turned this novel from “just an idea” to a project you HAD to complete?

I knew I wanted to write another Natalie Marsh mystery with a Shakespeare tie-in (I’d gotten very attached to Natalie), so I guess the tipping point was . . . before I started it?

 How did this book evolve into the final story? Did it end up the way you thought it would, or did the plot or characters change along the way?

The first draft ended up not ending at all, because I’d changed my mind about something crucial partway through drafting. By the time I neared the end, I was spinning my wheels trying to finish the story because I didn’t yet have the necessary set-up in place. Usually I like to finish the first draft before starting the second, but this time I finally gave up and plunged into the second draft. That was a good decision–the second draft DID have an ending :)

Who is your favorite secondary character, and why?

Anthony Venner. I love Anthony. Poor guy. He just wants to keep his job and help his friend, but he keeps getting yanked into the Ellsberg family drama. I appreciate his humor, his sarcasm, and his good heart.

If your book was made into a movie, which scene would you want to be a background extra in?

I’d want to be an extra in the scene where Natalie and Gideon are walking through Ellsberg Keep, checking the place out. I’d be in the main lobby, relaxing in a big plushy chair by the fireplace while a snowstorm raged outside. I’d have a cup of hot chocolate (dark chocolate, garnished with orange peel) in one hand and a book in the other.