The enemy of my enemy is my sister
Career criminal Vic Doloro isn’t the kind of guy you’d send a card to on Father’s Day. Layla Shawn never has. She’s spent most of her thirty-two years estranged from her father and haunted by the mysterious death of her mother.
Then Vic dies, leaving Layla—an unemployed artist—a tempting inheritance of ill-gotten money. Urging her to take the money is Vic’s other daughter, Bette, with whom Layla shares a troubled past. On a cross-country road trip, the two women mend fences, but Layla finds herself caught in the middle of an unsettled and lethal score between her father and a man who knows more than he should about her mother’s death.
As Layla zeroes in on the truth and wrestles with her own demons, she finds herself face to face with a killer.
Beth Castrodale, Author of I MEAN YOU NO HARM on:
WRITING A LITERARY SUSPENSE NOVEL BASED ON A TRUE STORY
Question: What inspired you to write I Mean You No Harm?
Beth Castrodale: Several years ago, I read an essay in the Guardian by a woman who discovered, as a child, that her father was a member of the mob. It turned her world upside down, and she had to reconcile his roles as a criminal and a parent. I decided to write from the point of view of just such a daughter: the main character of my novel, Layla Shawn. Layla is troubled by her father’s history, even though she wasn’t raised by him, unlike her half-sister, Bette.
Q: Why did you choose to portray the sisters Layla and Bette as conflicting characters?
BC: I was really fascinated by the narrative possibilities that could flow from this conflict. Largely because she was raised their father (Vic Doloro), Bette seems mostly untroubled by his criminal past, while Layla is repulsed by what he was alleged to have done. When Layla and Bette reunite at his funeral, and then embark on a road trip together, they have to figure out their own relationship, apart from their father, and also try to reconcile their different perspectives on him. Although this creates a lot of tension, it also brings the sisters closer together, as they work through their conflicting views and confront new challenges.
Q: What motivated the character development of Vic?
BC: The seed of Vic’s character was the mobster-father in the Guardian article. But it was really important to me that Vic not be a purely villainous, one-dimensional character, so I tried to think through—and portray on the page—what led him into a life of crime, and why it became so hard for him to break free of that life, even after he became a father. He leaves a troubling legacy for his daughters, and I wanted him to realize this, even as he did little to make amends before his death.
Q: What do you hope your readers take away from the novel?
BC: If there’s one insight I’d like readers to take away from the novel, it’s that you never know what you’ll discover about yourself when you’re pushed to your limits. Toward the end of the novel, Layla is pushed into a life-or-death situation that forces her to make some decisions that would have surprised, and perhaps repulsed, her previous self. And she’s left with having to come to terms with this new understanding of herself, and what she’s capable of doing.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing I Mean You No Harm?
BC: I would say that the biggest challenge was the research I had to do into a variety of criminal activities, from how money laundering works to how murders can be made to look like suicides.
Because Layla is troubled by a stalker, I also researched what drives stalkers psychologically, and what they do to try to exert power over their targets. I also researched recommended approaches for dealing with threats from stalkers. Although I gathered a lot of helpful information, it was a sobering experience.
About the Author
Beth Castrodale worked as a newspaper reporter until her love of books led her to the publishing field. She was a senior editor at Bedford/St. Martin’s and is the founding editor of Small Press Picks. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous publications, including Marathon Literary Review, Printer’s Devil Review, and the Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine. Her debut novel, Marion Hatley, was a finalist for a Nilsen Prize for a First Novel from Southeast Missouri State University Press, and an excerpt from her second novel, In This Ground, was a shortlist finalist for a William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Award. Castrodale lives in Boston in a shadowy Victorian that’s proving to be an inspiration for her next book.
For more information, visit Imbrifex Books. I Mean You No Harm will be available everywhere books are sold on August 3, 2021.
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