Welcome to FIVE QUESTIONS. In this new feature on my blog, you'll learn about new and exciting books from the author's themselves. You'll hear about the book, their characters, the inspiration behind the book, and other insider details. All through five simple questions.
Today, Marcy McCreary is here to answer five questions about her new book, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF TRUDY SOLOMON.
What is your new book about?
Trudy Solomon was a Catskills resort waitress who mysteriously disappeared in 1978 and resurfaces in 2018, but she is suffering from Alzheimers and unable to tell anyone what happened to her in the intervening years. Will Ford—the original detective on the case—still suspects foul play and enlists his daughter, Detective Susan Ford, to investigate the mystery and circumstances around her disappearance.
Susan and Will track down ex-employees, old witnesses, and a few new ones to piece together Trudy Solomon’s life after she went missing. In the course of their investigation they uncover two murders, an extortion scheme, and a kidnapping. All roads of inquiry lead to the Roth family… Stanley and Rachel Roth, the past owners of The Cuttman Hotel and their four adult children. After selling the hotel, the family parted ways, estranged from one another and harboring secrets about their “perfect” family. As family members close ranks and try to stymie the case, the detectives are left to wonder if they’ll ever outwit the Roths.
What makes your protagonist unique?
I wouldn’t say Susan Ford had a traumatic childhood, but she had a shitty one. Her alcoholic mother constantly belittled her. Her dad was an absent workaholic. And her childhood best friend, who was richer and prettier, never let her forget they were from two different worlds. She suffers from a condition called palmar hyperhidrosis—uncontrollable and relentlessly sweaty hands—which adds a level of self-consciousness to her feelings of insecurity. She is a procrastinator, putting off conversations and confrontations essential to moving both the case forward and her family/personal relationships forward. You’ll notice it in small ways (repairs that need to get done around the house) and big ways (avoiding conversations with her mother, Thomas, the Roths).
Even with all that baggage, Susan is dogged and determined. She’s contemplative in a way that allows her to probe her own shortcomings and insecurities, and eventually overcome these feelings. Her self-reflection and probing nature is also key to helping her understand the motivations of others, and guides her through solving the case
What was the inspiration behind the book?
I spent my summers (1965-1982) in the Catskills resort area. My dad was the tummler (Activities Director) and nightclub emcee at The Hotel Brickman in South Fallsburg, NY. I knew I wanted to write a story in this setting, but the question became… what story/what era… A coming of age? A romance? A memoir? Then, in 2017, I came across an article about a woman (a waitress at the Concord Hotel) who mysteriously disappeared from the area in the mid-70s and was found forty years later in an Alzheimer’s facility (in Massachusetts) through the fluke of a social security number search by a detective. She was unable to tell the detective what had happened to her in the intervening years. That was my eureka moment. I was intrigued by the idea of fictionalizing this woman’s story—filling in the forty-year gap between disappearing and being found.
The idea of the father-daughter team, where the father was the original detective and the daughter who is a detective, came to me pretty quickly. I loved the idea of that dynamic, especially because I originally wanted to set the story in both past and present and explore how Susan’s coming-of-age woes would affect how she approached this case. The year Trudy disappeared—1978—was a terrible year for Susan. Her parents got divorced, her grandfather died, her best friend dropped her. So pairing them on this case allowed me to dig deep into their relationship and have them both uncover things they didn’t know about each other. But they are coming at this case with different motivations. Will finally thinks there’s a chance to solve a case he couldn’t crack forty years ago. Susan is not exactly thrilled with reliving this time of her life, and is pretty reluctant at first, but she is intrigued with the idea of giving a woman—who can’t recall her own life—her story back to her.
What do you hope the reader takes away from your book?
I would like my readers to discover the power of empathy. Empathy is not something that descends upon you like a kind of grace, you need to work at it. We are naturally self-interested creatures. Walking in someone else’s shoes helps you understand what motivates others, what fears they have, what obstacles they need to overcome in life. It is my belief that if more people exercised a bit more empathy we would have a more just society. All my characters need to leverage empathy—to varying degrees—in order to come to some resolution of a problem or situation that is affecting them and find a way forward from their current predicament. In most mysteries, the plot revolves around good vs. evil. In The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon, empathy represents the good, and selfishness is the evil. Those who practice empathy, become better versions of themselves. And the selfish eventually get their comeuppance.
What was the hardest scene to write?
When I finished the first draft of the manuscript, I wasn’t totally satisfied with how I treated the Trudy Solomon “mini-chapters.” In that first draft, Trudy’s vignettes were flashbacks to her earlier life interspersed between the main chapters (in an attempt to give Trudy a POV in her own story). But, that approach didn’t feel quite right. I wanted the reader to experience Trudy in her current state, with Alzheimers, thinking back to moments in her life in the befuddled way that dementia patients do. After doing research on “validation therapy,” (a technique for communicating with people who have dementia in a way that acknowledges their words, even if what they are saying is not their current reality) I decided to use this technique as the basis for the Trudy scenes. After a couple of rewrites (and encouragement from my editor), I was finally satisfied with how I spun this aspect of the story. I think it makes for a much richer and interesting way to learn what happened to Trudy and how much of her life she remembers… or thinks she remembers. And by writing Trudy’s vignettes in this manner, the reader has to discern what is fact… and what is fiction. Which, in my opinion, is the essence of a good mystery—the exploration of a person’s unique capacity for deceit (or self deceit) whether conscious of it, or not.
You can purchase THE DISAPPEARANCE OF TRUDY SOLOMON at the following retailers.