Woodstock writer Alison Gaylin nominated for top mystery novel prize

What Remains of Me (William Morrow, 2016) by Woodstock author Alison Gaylin, is a finalist for the Edgar Award, given yearly by the Mystery Writers of America (MWA). Gaylin’s work has been nominated twice before but did not win, once in the Debut Novel category and once for Best Paperback Original. This time, her work has been selected for the even more prestigious Best Novel, with the awards to be given on April 27.

The nomination came as a surprise, said Gaylin, who learned of the honor through a bulletin from MWA, of which she is a member. Five books were picked as finalists for Best Novel. “I was checking to see if any of my friends were nominated,” she recalled. “I saw there were two on the list, stared at it for a while, and then noticed, ‘Oh, that’s me!’”

What Remains of Me is set in Hollywood, with two intertwining timelines from 1980 and 2010. The protagonist, who is 17 years old in 1980, spends 25 years in prison for shooting and killing a famous movie director. When she’s been out of jail for five years, her father-in-law, a prominent actor, is killed in the same way, and she is suspected of the murder.

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“It was challenging with two timelines, keeping them straight,” said Gaylin. “But I couldn’t think of any other way to tell the story.”

The novel is her first one following the highly praised three-book Brenna Spector series. Gaylin has just completed her tenth book, If I Die Tonight, unusual for her in that it takes place in the Hudson Valley. The novel will be coming out in England in July but won’t be published in the U.S. until March of 2018.

Meanwhile, she has a comic due out in June, the first in a series that will eventually be packaged together as a graphic novel entitled Normandy Gold, co-written with Megan Abbott, herself an Edgar winner. Writing a graphic novel was a whole new experience, said Gaylin. “In a novel, you use all five senses, but a comic is totally visual. You have to focus on how everything looks, and you have to describe the visuals for the artists, or find movie stills to show what you want.”

The current political climate seems to demand attention even in writing fiction, she said, “but whenever you write crime fiction, politics plays into it, to some degree. What Remains of Me has pretty feminist underlying themes — not intentionally, but it’s there. If I Die Tonight has themes of fake news and how lies can catch on and snowball through social media.” Normandy Gold, set in Washington, DC, involves government corruption and a prostitution ring.

Gaylin teaches at the Crime Fiction Academy of the Center for Fiction on 47th Street in Manhattan. Her most important piece of advice for aspiring writers of crime fiction: “Read as many mysteries as you can. Find out whose style you like and what about that style makes you like it. Without imitating, follow those cues. Reread the books that make you turn pages.”

She’ll be at the black-tie awards ceremony at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in New York City on April 27. The Edgars are named after Edgar Allan Poe, often regarded as the inventor of crime fiction. “They’re the Oscars of mystery writing,” said Gaylin, who’s also happy for her nominated friends. “I’ll be excited if any of us win.”

For more information on Alison Gaylin’s work, see https://www.alisongaylin.com