I was recently sent an advanced copy of I Mean You No Harm by Beth Castrodale. The novel will be released soon, August 3. Today I have an author Q&A to share with you provided by Smith Publicity!
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
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.