Blog Tour: How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann

Imagine growing up with a twin sister who you idolized and one day, at 11 years old, she’s no longer there. Simply vanished, run away and never returned. There’s no death, in which to seek closure. The thought of her being out there somewhere is ever present as you are forced to continue you life. For Elisabeth Pfauts, living in Tanacross, Alaska in 1941 this is reality. She sees the invisible presence of her sister in her daughter, Margaret. Having an unbreakable and incredibly strong bond with her sister, she’s never given up hope. 

When Alfred, a German pilot, lands unexpectantly in Tanacross, he quickly befriends Elizabeth, who feels a moral obligation to extend hospitality to this gentleman, welcoming him into her family’s home. Something about this guy seems a bit off, but she dismisses it as the general uneasiness of having a stranger in her home while her husband is away for work. Alfred soon commits an inexplicable act of violence, followed by a starling revelation: he knows what happened to Elisabeth’s sister, but will only reveal the truth if she fulfills three requests. 

Immediately filled with doubt, but the glimmer of hope of at last knowing what happened to her sister she’s feels a strong urge to play along. After all, Alfred has just validated her feelings of her sister really is still out there. How far is she willing to go to find out what happened? Is it worth potentially ripping apart her family? How can she trust the stranger who’s already committed a most handouts act?

How Quickly She Disappears has been compared to Silence of the Lambs. The comparison is very fair. However, personally, my only qualm with this novel is it seemed to be a bit too derivative of it. I don’t want that to take away from this being a great novel in its own right, but I would have appreciate a greater variation from Hannibal Lectar. 

Beginning with the unsettling arrival of the pilot and ending with his and Elisabeth’s final confrontation in the woods, the evolution of their creepy cat-and-mouse game will captivate through the last page.

Giveaway

I’m honored to be featured on a blog tour of this amazing novel on its publication day! To help celebrate this book I’ve partnered with its publisher , Berkley, to host a giveaway of How Quickly She Disappears. This giveaway is running on my Instagram from Jan 14 – Jan 21. Be sure to enter and good luck!


A Conversation with Raymond Fleischmann

(From the publisher)

What are the main themes of the novel?

I’ve always been attracted to characters who do bad things for good reasons – or at least, what they think are good reasons. I like writing about characters who are at once intelligent but reckless, thoughtful but neurotic, will-intentioned but misguided. Theme comes from character, and from the writer’s own subconscious, and although it’s always difficult to generalize what a story is “about,” I’d say that this novel explores themes of isolation, loneliness, displacement, paranoia, obsession, and grief. 

The first scene you wrote was one of a man lashed to a meat cache in Alaska. How did that image come to you? How did the story unfold from there?

With any story I’m writing, whether it’s a short story or a novel, I tend to imagine scenes for days or even weeks before I put a single word on the page. And that was how this novel began: I thought about it nonstop for days, but I didn’t write at all. I thought about its characters and their various motivations, which in turn made me think about potential scenes. And I knew that this scene in the meat cache would be the climax of the novel’s first section. It just had so much natural tension and intrigue to it, and even the setting itself felt evocative and interesting: the smell of the cured meat, the light slipping between the slats of the cache, this wide-eyed dangerous man restrained to a chair. The scene felt so clear to me that the rest of the first section fell into place quite easily around it. From the first draft of the novel to the final draft, the first section of the book is the most unchanged, and I think it’s due in large part to the groundwork laid intuit scene in the cache. 

What do you want readers to take away from the novel?

I hope that my work strikes a chord with people in the same way that the novels of Flynn Berry and Ottessa Moshfegh have struck a chord with me: I hope that readers find my book to be exciting, interesting, and compulsively readable, while also finding it to be a thoughtful meditation on family, loneliness, grief, and obsession. I hope that my novel is fluid and entertaining, certainly, but as much as that I hope that readers find it to be emotionally rewarding and introspective. 

Interview Discussing Nothing More Dangerous with Allen Eskens

Allen Eskens has proven himself to be one of my favorite authors. You probably know him from The Life We Bury. His latest novel is a stand-alone novel about Boady Sanden, a fifteen-year-old boy who finds himself in the crossfires of CORPS (Crusaders Of Racial Purity and Strength), a white supremacy group and his black neighbors who have moved to Jessup, Missouti to straighten up the local factory after an embezzlement scandal. 

This story isn’t just another story about racial injustice, it’s much more than that. It’s about friendship, small town dynamics, and integrity. Boady sits in his Catholic school cafeteria and overhears a group of older boys plot to spill chocolate pudding on the only black girl in the school. In a spur of the moment decision, he sticks his foot out and trips one of the boys as he’s walking over to the girl. This sets off a series of events that will forever change Boady’s life. 

Lida Poe has gone missing. Being a small town in Missouri during the 1970s, a black woman going missing doesn’t exactly make the front page of the newspaper. Jessup is a town where the local factory employs about half of the townspeople. When Charles Elgin, a black man with his wife, Jenna, and son, Thomas, is sent down from corporate to investigate suspected embezzlement, Jessup isn’t the most inviting of places. 

Though a bit unexpected, a friendship between Boady and Thomas soon flourishes, but they find themselves the target of CORPS. How far are they willing to go to find out more about Lida Poe? When staring in the face of hate how will they react?

If you enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird, Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kruger, or Where the Crawdads Sing, this is a must read. 


Interview with Allen Eskens

I loved this book, I reserve my five-star reviews for truly spectacular books. I was honored by being able to ask Allen Eskens a few questions about Nothing More Dangerous. I hope you enjoy and rush out to buy a copy of this book. 

At the beginning of the novel, you state that this book was twenty years in the making. What made it challenging for you to write?

In 1992, when I started writing Nothing More Dangerous, I wasn’t a writer. I had never taken a creative writing class and I didn’t know what I was doing. It started as a short story that I wrote just for my own enjoyment. I liked Boady and wanted to turn that short story into something more, so I started studying the craft of writing. I studied and wrote for twenty years, and although I had a completed manuscript, I knew that it wasn’t ready. I put it aside, wrote and published five other novels and over the course of that time, I grew as a writer. I returned to Nothing More Dangerous two years ago and wrote it from scratch and am very happy with how it turned out.

The first encounter Boady and Thomas have of each other is them literally colliding next to the pond that Boady goes to spend his time. Personally, I feel this has a bit of foreshadowing of their friendship. Was this intentional and what significance does their meeting have?

I wish I could say that the circumstance of Boady’s and Thomas’s first meeting held a foreshadow, but in truth, I wanted Boady to have to work to earn Thomas’s friendship, so I made their first meeting fraught with problems, all caused (intentionally or unintentionally) by Boady. 

One of the things I love about your writing is the characters are so dimensional and you really feel connected with them. I read this book aloud with my partner. My favorite character was Hoke and his was Jenna. How do you create your characters? In this book are they inspired by anyone you know?

The first thing I did when I returned to Nothing More Dangerous (after writing my other 5 novels) was to outline the story from beginning to end without looking at the previous manuscript. I knew the story but I wanted to write it from scratch to avoid the mistakes I had made in the previous draft. The first thing I did in my outline was to list every character and write what motivated them in the story. I gave every character a backstory. If I know who they are, deep down, I can write them with depth. All of the characters are drawn from my imagination, but they are real in my head (and in my outline) before I sit down to write.

This question is a bit cliché, but I have to ask it. Nothing More Dangerous is a great title for this book. Can you tell us a little about why that title spoke to you and how it represents the story?

There is nothing more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I draw my titles from the themes of my stories. In the novel, Hoke is telling Boady about the nature of prejudice and racism, and he recites a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that “there is nothing in all the world more dangerous than sincere ignorance.” That is a perfect encapsulation of Boady’s starting point in the novel.

The story takes place in the small Ozark town of Jessup, Missouri. Which, while it is a small town, it’s really quite diverse. The story is centered around race, but really is much more than that. What challenges did you have keeping this balance of diversity and have the story not just be another story about racial injustice?

I think the key was to keep the focus of the story on the characters and the human dynamics. I wanted to show that racial animosity is often a rationalization for something else that is going on. For example, if you look closely, you will see that much of the racially charged violence about the shift in power for this small community and not so much about skin color.