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When stylish Hillary Whitney dies alone in a locked, windowless conference room at the offices of high-concept magazine RAGE Fashion Book, her death is initially ruled an unfortunate side effect of the unrelenting pressure to be thin.

But two months later, a cryptic note in her handwriting ends up in the office of the NYPD and the case is reopened, leading Det. Mark Hutton straight into the glamorous life of hardworking RAGE editor Catherine Ono, who insists on joining the investigation. Surrounded by a supporting cast of party girls, Type A narcissists and half-dead socialites, Cat and her colleague Bess Bonner are determined to solve the case and achieve sartorial perfection. But their amateur detective work has disastrous results, and the two ingenues are caught in a web of drugs, sex, lies and moisturizer that changes their lives forever.

Author Barbara Bourland discussed her debut novel, I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD, with The Big Thrill:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

A new understanding of the pressures that modern women face every single morning when they get dressed—and of course, the satisfaction of having been wildly entertained.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD is a complex and highly contemporary entry into the mystery genre that subverts expectations at every turn, and uses the conventions of women’s fiction—romance, high fashion, makeover montages, etc—to distract and charm the reader as the mystery is revealed.

Was there anything new you discovered, or surprised you, as you wrote this book?

I spent a great deal of time researching the apparel and beauty industries and was shocked to discover that beauty products aren’t regulated in any way by the FDA, a fact that became a central part of the book’s plot.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

The founding of the book’s primary setting, a fashion magazine called RAGE Fashion Book, was modeled on Helen Gurley Brown’s original takeover of Cosmopolitan magazine.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

I’ve always loved twentieth-century writers who have more words than they know what to do with, a spectrum that stretches from Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry to Bret Easton Ellis’ prose nightmares. I’m highly influenced by midcentury camp classics like Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls and Patrick Dennis’ Auntie Mame, and in the more contemporary genre, I have loved modern updates on women’s fiction, like Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill, and The Vegetarian by Han Kang.


Barbara Bourland lives in Baltimore, MD. I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is her first novel. Formerly, she was a freelance writer for Forbes Traveler, Condé Nast Digital’s, and a web producer for O, The Oprah Magazine and OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network.

To learn more about Barbara, please visit her website.