The Big Thrill Discusses WHEN I’M DEAD by Hannah Morrissey
On a bone-chilling October night, Medical Examiner Rowan Winthorp investigates the death of her daughter’s best friend. Hours later, the tragedy hits even closer to home when she makes a devastating discovery—her daughter, Chloe, is gone. But, not without a trace.
A morbid mosaic of clues forces Rowan and her husband to question how deeply they really knew their daughter. As they work closely to peel back the layers of this case, they begin to unearth disturbing details about Chloe and her secret transgressions…details that threaten to tear them apart.
Amidst the noise of navigating her newfound grief and reconciling the sins of her past, an undeniable fact rings true for Rowan: karma has finally come to collect.
Hannah Morrissey recently spent time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest suspense, WHEN I’M DEAD.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
While tinkering about what kind of story I should write about a medical examiner, I was taking my dogs for a walk. We have these cool, stone bridges in my neighborhood. I leaned over one and stared into the gully, and just imagined a dead body lying there. And I started creating a situation where my medical examiner had to examine a victim of a violent crime that hits horrifyingly close to home.
A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?
If I can become invested in the characters, I know it’s worth pursuing. Black Harbor is an easy litmus test—no one really goes there by choice. I became invested in Rowan after I learned her back story and what brought her to Black Harbor. Then, I filled her world with other characters who, in their own ways, are equally as compelling.
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
A musical, actually. Beetlejuice. The missing girl, Chloe, is an actress in her high school’s musical performance. So, of course I had to see the musical on Broadway while in New York City for Thrillerfest 2021—it was fantastic!
When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?
I became interested in writing about a medical examiner. It’s such a morbid job; I wanted to explore what kind of person can do that, day in and day out. Patricia Cornwell writes an exceptional medical examiner in Kay Scarpetta and Danielle Girard with Annabelle Schwartzman, but aside from that, you don’t see that role represented in crime lit very often. I’m anxious to see what readers will think of Rowan Winthorp.
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
WHEN I’M DEAD is a suspense novel with pulse-pounding moments and creepy imagery that thriller readers will anticipate. However, the book is also very much a commentary on grief and how it affects everyone differently—manifesting in heartbreaking, ugly, even beautiful ways. Ultimately, I hope it stands out as a story of unconditional love and perseverance.
Hannah Morrissey studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Her first novel, Hello, Transcriber, was inspired by her experience as a police transcriber. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two pugs.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.
WHEN I’M DEAD by Hannah Morrissey
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