I first met Rebecca Podos when she took part in one of Operation Awesome’s Mystery Agent contests. About year and a half later, I stumbled upon her starred review in Booklist, and immediately ordered THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES for my library system. Have a look:
All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when Imogene was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as “troubled waters.”
Now Imogene is seventeen, and her father, a famous author of medical mysteries, has struck out in the middle of the night and hasn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. And she decides it’s up to her to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of reading her father’s books to track down a woman she’s only known in stories in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life.
Rebecca also answered some interview questions:
THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Booklist. Congratulations! What do you hope readers will find most compelling about Imogene’s story and what did you enjoy most about writing it?
Thanks Karen! My favorite thing about the book might be the friendship between Imogene and Jessa. It’s complicated, seemingly superficial and unlikely despite its long history. Let’s be straight, Immy isn’t a great friend to Jessa at the start of the book. She’s accustomed to playing Watson to her father’s Sherlock, and when called upon to solve her own mystery and Sherlock-up, she automatically casts Jessa in that supporting role.
But the thing about Watson is he was never just a sidekick; through practical smarts and compassion and sheer force of will, he oftentimes kept Sherlock together. He was invaluable. And I think Imogene soon starts to see the value of—and to see herself as capable of—a deeper kind of friendship, the kind that both girls deserve. And I really enjoyed writing that transformation.
I’ll bet. And I completely agree with your assessment of Watson. You also do an excellent job of providing unique character detail while not giving away too much plot. Did the story come to you fully formed, or did it develop as you went along?
I pretty much just started with a central premise. I’ve always adored the mystery genre, in part because, as Imogene says, you know that whatever burning questions you have, they’ll be answered if you just hang in there till the last page. That’s such a satisfying narrative, when you think about it! So then, I wanted to write a “detective” who truly believes in that comforting narrative structure, to the point where she uses it as a guide to navigate her own story and her own mystery. That was Imogene, and the story came from her and grew from there.
Definitely an intriguing way to put a twist on the familiar. In addition to writing novels, you’ve published short fiction in a lot of reputable publications. What do you like most about writing short fiction and why?
I like that it’s a totally different exercise from novel writing. There’s this quote about short stories; it’s kind of famous and I can’t believe I don’t remember where it comes from, but it basically compares short stories to an owl pellet, the bits that the owl can’t digest. Bones, fur, feathers, claw. It says that a short story is everything the juices of time cannot digest. From the outside, that sounds gross, but I think it’s lovely. A short story is everything that can’t be done away with, everything that’s absolutely necessary within a human experience.
A beautiful analogy–and one I’ll have to remember. What are some of your current projects?
I’ve just finished the first draft of my next book, a YA contemporary, and I’m so incredibly excited about it. It has tiny New Mexican ghost towns and performing mermaids and LGBTQ romance, and if HOLLOW PLACES is about loneliness, then this book is about feeling trapped. It’s about the snares life sets for us and the kind we set for ourselves, and about believing someway, somehow, that we’re strong enough to climb out of them.
We are indeed! Thanks Rebecca, for such engaging and insightful answers.
To get your paws on THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES, feel free to click the links below: