Imagine this: Tomorrow, you open your mailbox to find a mixtape addressed to a girl who lives in the apartment below yours in a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood. When you go downstairs to pass along the tape, you find your neighbor dead on the ground. Do you listen to it?
This is the dilemma faced by the protagonist of Libby Cudmore’s crime fiction novel, “The Big Rewind: A Novel.”
Cudmore, a 2005 graduate of Binghamton University, published her novel with William Morrow and Company of HarperCollins Publishers in February 2016. At BU, Cudmore studied English literature with a concentration in creative writing. She discovered the genre she would one day publish in — crime fiction — by taking an Arthurian literature course with professor Michael Sharp.
“He made us read ‘The Long Goodbye’ by Raymond Chandler, and I finished it in one sitting,” she said. “[That novel] showed me that this is what I want to write for the rest of my life.”
She was also inspired by her parents, who encouraged her love of reading and writing.
“My mom, Nancy, was a great storyteller and my dad, Dana, was a writer/journalist, so I grew up writing and reading and telling stories with my sisters,” Cudmore wrote in an email.
Place is also an important factor in Cudmore’s writing. She was born in Oklahoma City, the hometown of her novel’s main character, and she grew up in Cobleskill, New York.
“I’d say that my desire to get the hell out of a go-nowhere town has been the biggest driver in my career,” Cudmore wrote. “I worked my ass off so I wouldn’t have to go back there. That meant no wild parties, no screwing around, write write write, submit, write more, push harder, never give up, study up, get good grades, don’t get derailed by drama and general mucking about. And it worked. My first book was published to rave reviews and I write for a living. Dream accomplished, dream continuing.”
“The Big Rewind,” which Cudmore calls a hipster mystery, is set in current-day Brooklyn, where protagonist Jett Bennett finds her neighbor slain. The novel follows the wild adventures of Jett and her best friend, running around New York City to find the killer. This is the fourth novel she’s written, although the first three were as part of her master’s thesis in the Stonecoast MFA program in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine. “The Big Rewind” has received positive reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist and also received a starred Kirkus Review in 2015.
The idea for the action-packed novel came to Cudmore while she sat on the bus, listening to a friend’s 10-year-old mixtape.
“I was thinking about the kind of relationship people have with music and about, ‘Wow, what if somebody found this tape?’” Cudmore said, “What would they assume was the relationship between the person who made it for me and myself?”
“The Big Rewind” partially takes place in Binghamton, inspired by Cudmore’s time living in the city during college.
“Part of [‘The Big Rewind’] takes place in Binghamton,” Cudmore wrote in an email. “My years there were very happy and truly formed who I am as a writer.”
While at BU, Cudmore also started a writing club, to encourage writing as a social activity, an attitude she continues to hold today. She shared that her friends from BU are still very present in her life.
“I started the Pen is Mightier [Fiction] Writing Club, which was a) an excuse to hang out with my writer friends and b) a dick joke, which I am not above,” Cudmore wrote. “We had a lot of fun, did some great writing and I’m still close with a lot of the people who were part of it. My wedding in 2015 was basically a 10-year reunion of College-in-the-Woods, including 2 of my 3 bridesmaids.”
In addition to being a published author, Cudmore is a journalist for the blog Classic Album Sundays; the Captain’s Blog at yachtRock.com; Vinyl Me, Please; and newspapers the Hometown Oneonta and the Freeman’s Journal. She said that journalism aids in her creative writing, inspiring her more and more.
“It helps me make characters that aren’t static,” she said. “People are complicated.”
Cudmore is encouraging of young writers who want to make it a career and said that the most important step is having designated time every day to practice your craft.
“I get up at 6:15 every morning and put water on for coffee,” Cudmore wrote. “While that’s boiling, I make my morning playlist, then fill up the French press and wait for that to brew. The writing project varies daily. If it’s an article, I just sit down and bang it out. The beginning stages of a novel are different. I start them in notebooks, and I build all my notebook from scratch, specifically for a project … Writing by hand really helps me think something through.”
Cudmore is proud that she has been able to combine her passions for music and writing, and suggests that aspiring writers take a similar approach.
“Write the story you want to write,” she said. “Write what you are passionate about.”