The Hint of Light: debut thriller by Kristin Kisska
Author Interview + Book and Author Info+ Pet Corner!
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The Hint of Light
In this heart-wrenching exploration of unconditional love, what a mother finds in the aftermath of her son’s death could put her family back together—or tear them apart for good.
In the wake of her son’s sudden death, Margaret Dobrescu struggles to keep it together in the face of her grief…and her guilt. She can’t help but blame herself for Kyle’s own lifelong struggles—namely, the alcoholism that plagued him.
But within mere days of his funeral, secrets and suspicions begin to surface, and Margaret’s husband admits that Kyle once confessed to having a daughter. Clinging to the hope that some part of her son is still out there, Margaret embarks on a search to find her rumored granddaughter.
What Margaret hasn’t prepared for, however, is the deluge of secrets that keep coming. And as she digs deeper and deeper into her son’s life to find the truth, what she finds instead is that her own secrets can’t stay buried forever.
To purchase The Hint of Light, click any of the links: Bookshop.org, Amazon, B&N, Target, Audible.
Interview with Kristin Kisska, author of The Hint of Light
The Hint of Light centers on a mother trying to find a granddaughter she didn’t know she had, after her own son dies too young. What drew you to creating a story about three generations of a family and the secrets they kept from each other?
A few years ago, a young man who was very dear to me, passed away unexpectedly. Though he’d never been married, in the days immediately following his heartbreaking death, I desperately wished he’d left behind a secret child to carry on his legacy, even though his family and friends knew he’d never had any children. The Hint of Life was the manifestation of that intense wish.
From that seed of inspiration was born the theme of the novel—parenting. I deduced that if the young man in question (Kyle) had had a secret child unknown to his family (Ally), then the person most invested in finding an unknown relative would naturally be his mother (Margaret).
That three generational dynamic offered much fertile ground to explore: father-daughter, mother-son, grandmother-granddaughter, mother-daughter, and even sibling relationships.
Tells us about where The Hint of Light takes place, and how that location impacts events of the story and the characters:
My novel is set in Chicago.
Though I’ve lived in Virginia for most of my life, I spent five epic years living just a couple blocks off Lake Michigan in the North Shore area of Chicago. It’s where I met my husband and where two of our children were born. Chicago will forever be a part of my personal fabric.
While living there, I was surprised to learn that Chicago is home to quite a few ethnically-concentrated neighborhoods—especially from Eastern Europe—complete with cultural restaurants, shops, churches, and even use of the host language in those communities. So, when I decided to make Kyle a first-generation American from Romania (a country I lived in for a year), I knew Chicago would be a natural home base for my fictional Dobrescu family.
Despite being set in Chicago-land, the novel’s specific scenes are set in fictionalized places located throughout Chicago. Margaret’s home, Ally’s apartment and her college campus, and a suburban café, are on constant rotation throughout the novel. Since Kyle’s character is struggling to manage his alcohol addiction, however, many of his scenes are set in a fictional residential rehabilitation center and local AA meetings, which offers readers a glimpse into the often-hidden world of alcoholism.
That said, Kyle and Ally spend an evening strolling around the Loop, Grant Park, and even see their reflection in the Bean.
The Hint of Light uses a dual timeline, what challenges did you face writing your debut using that convention?
The novel’s dual timeline seemed like the only way I could’ve written this story. Since the domestic suspense elements hinge around Kyle’s death, I strategically needed readers to learn new information at the end of the novel. This structure was the easiest way to organically deliver the story.
The chapters alternate between before and after Kyle’s death. I wrote the story chronologically (all the before chapters first, followed by the after chapters) so that I could keep track of what each character knew and when, especially for Ally. I think if I’d attempted to write the novel in chapter order, I’d probably still be working on it today!
In addition to a dual timeline, readers also experience The Hint of Light through three viewpoint characters, what challenges did you face writing three character’s perspectives?
Telling the story through three POV characters was ambitious! When I initially plotted the novel, I used color-coded sticky notes to keep track of which character’s chapter occurred when and in what order.
The Kyle chapters all take place in the before timeline, and the Margaret chapters all take place in the after timeline. However, I struggled with Ally’s chapters because hers occur both in the before and after timelines, and I worried that might get confusing for readers.
At one point, I even tried to eliminate Ally’s chapters for the sake of simplicity, but she offers insight to the story that neither Kyle nor Margaret could, so I kept her. But, to make it easier for readers, I decided to differentiate Ally as a high school student in her before chapters and a college student in her after ones.
Your writing career started with short stories, what did it take to make the jump from that form to novels?
Actually, I was in the middle of writing my second novel when I took a break to pen my first ever short story.
I heard about a call for submission to a mystery anthology being published by an annual mystery conference, Bouchercon. My short story of historical suspense, “The Sevens” was the fictional origin story for the notorious secret society at the University of Virginia. It was only after my story was selected that I began to realize how competitive such contests were!
Eight years later, I’m set to release my twelfth short story and my debut novel (of the four novel-length manuscripts I’ve written so far).
What are you working on now?
My current novel-in-progress is a women’s fiction/domestic suspense about a pair of sisters, orphaned and separated as little children, who later reunite to find out what happened to their parents.
Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers:
As 99.9% of authors can attest, writing is a long arduous journey, fraught with rejection and seasoned with occasional impostor syndrome. I believe it’s important to celebrate each compliment, milestone, and achievement along the way, even the small ones. I recommend keeping a record such moments for easy reference when you need an ego boost. I keep a list in a Word document entitled, My Wall of Fame.
I love this idea!
Author Pet Corner
Our family has a two-year old tabby cat, named Boom (short for Boom Roasted). He is our beneficent feline overlord, who begrudgingly tolerates his human pets, and allows us to serve him despite our daily lapses in judgement when we shower him with affection.
We love him so!
Despite being an indoor cat, he has a growing fanclub of neighbors because I strap him up with a harness and leash to take him outside for a daily walkabouts. Can’t get enough of kitties? Follow my Twitter account – @KKMHOO – for a heaping dose of cat photos and gifs.
Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Elena! It’s been a pleasure working with you this year as an ITW Debut, class of 2023-24!
The pleasure was all mine! So thrilled for your debut!
Kristin Kisska, author of The Hint of Light
Kristin Kisska is a native of Virginia, where she currently resides with her family and their moody tabby, Boom.
She holds a BS in commerce from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Northwestern University.
She is the author of a dozen short stories published in anthologies. The Hint of Light is her debut novel.
Kristin loves hearing from friends and readers at www.KristinKisska.com.
To learn more about Kristin, follow her at any of the following links: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Website.
Elena Taylor/Elena Hartwell
All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio.
Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator
Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery