Q: How did you come up with the idea for Girl in the Rearview Mirror, and for your character Finn?
A: The idea for the novel came from multiple inspirations: classic film noir, which I was watching obsessively around the time I started the book; the Phoenix setting; a desire to explore social class and privilege.
Finn as a nanny character came to me early, as I tried to think of who might have access to a wealthy family but belong to a different world. The nanny was the ideal role: she has intimate access to the Martins, and she’s almost part of the family—but when it comes down to it, she isn’t.
Q: The novel involves a political family--why did you choose politics as one focus of the novel?
A: Actually, in early drafts, the family patriarch was a retired senator, and I truthfully can’t remember exactly where that came from (ideas are so mysterious sometimes!)
As I wrote, though, I became more and more interested in the political angle—the contrast between public and personal lives; the pressure and scrutiny that radiate outward from the politician to affect his entire family; the selfish charisma of a politician.
The Senator evolved into an interesting figure who looms large at the periphery of the action, not appearing all that often, yet influencing the other characters’ choices.
In the years I spent writing the novel, lots of, shall we say, interesting political developments occurred, and I suppose politics were inescapable, and worked into the writing.
Q: The book is set in Arizona. How important is setting to you in your work?
A: The Arizona setting was a huge influence on the book! I really wanted to make the desert feel vivid, for the reader to almost feel the heat radiating off the page.
The “micro” settings were important to me, too: for example, the Martins’ home and workplaces are luxurious, almost a world unto themselves, whereas Finn’s own apartment, and some of the towns she visits in the book, are starkly different.
Setting also helped to intensify the tension in the book. The heat and the bright, broiling sun amplify the anxiety Finn feels.
In the second half of the book especially, I imagine Finn driving around, nearly blinded by the sun, with a pounding headache, seeing hazy heat mirages on the road in front of her and questioning her every move.
I also like choosing settings for particular scenes in order to set a mood: in the opener, for example, when 4-year-old Amabel tells Finn a woman is following them, the conversation takes place on a Tilt-a-Whirl, and feels very disorienting and overwhelming for Finn.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: My first draft, I began with Amabel telling Finn a woman was following her, and just started writing from there, working out as I went along why a young woman would be following a child, and what the Martin family might be hiding in their past.
Many of the significant plot “twists” came out in the earliest drafts, including the ending. Though I did plenty of revision—to develop characters, and add new characters, working out pacing, and so on—the deep secrets of the past remained fairly constant.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a second novel, a stand-alone literary thriller, set within a start-up in San Francisco.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I’d love to hear from readers! I try to update my social media with what I’m reading, and I’d love to connect. @kraedimberg on Twitter and Instagram, and Kelsey Rae Dimberg Author on Facebook.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb