Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Julia Keller Author Interview

Photo Credit: Elaine Phillips

Julia Keller, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and former cultural critic at the Chicago Tribune, is the author of many books for adults and young readers, including A Killing in the Hills, the first book in the Bell Elkins series and winner of the Barry Award for Best First Novel (2013); Back Home; and The Dark Intercept. Keller has a Ph.D. in English literature from Ohio State and was awarded Harvard University’s Nieman Fellowship. She was born in West Virginia and lives in Ohio.

Print Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen (October 31, 2017)
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Sold by: Macmillan
Language: English


“The Dark Intercept grabbed me from the first page and shook me until the last. A riveting and suspenseful story of love, risk, and betrayal.” —EMMY LAYBOURNE, author of Berserker, Sweet, and the Monument 14 trilogy

“A chilling and thought-provoking look at the power of weaponized emotion.” —MELISSA LANDERS, author of the Alienated trilogy and Starflight

“Both cautionary and hopeful—a rare, literary feat.” —GENNIFER ALBINNew York Times bestselling author of the Crewel World trilogy

“A stormy, spine-tingling ride in which everything remembered and once felt in your life can be used against you.” —BLUE BALLIETT, author of Chasing Vermeer and The Calder Game

“The Dark Intercept goes straight to the heart of why privacy matters in today's world. Keller has written an accessible coming-of-age adventure where the teenage protagonist comes to understand the consequences of living in a society that monitors everyone's emotions, including her own.” —MICHAEL C. ROBINSON, Chair of the American Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee's Privacy Subcommittee

“Julia Keller writes so viscerally that she takes the readers with her into the worlds she has created. The Intercept is a fascinating springboard which she uses to explore the importance of feelings, and how they affect our lives and choices.” —BETSY FRASER, Selector, Calgary Public Library (Alberta, Canada), and 2016 YALSA/ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Service to Young Adults Achievement Award-winner

What was your first introduction to YA literature, the one that made you choose that genre to write?
I didn’t know it was a genre! I just thought it was cool stuff to read. My favorite book growing up was “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle – it’s a lot of people’s favorite book, I know – and I can still remember the thrill of reading it. I went through the whole racing-heart, sweaty-palms, goosebumps-going-up-and-down-the-arms thing. Frankly, I think younger readers are more passionate and open-hearted about reading, and don’t mind loving something to bits – whereas, once we get to be adults, we think we have to be detached and aloof. I also think it’s possible to be a “young adult reader” no matter how old we get to be! That is: we can will ourselves, as readers, back to that magical time when every turn of the page brought a fantastic new adventure.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I was eight years old, and I sat on the living room floor with a big notebook and a thick pencil and I wrote a science fiction novel titled “Trapped in a Glacier.” A family of scientists boards a rocket, headed for outer space – but there’s an engine problem and the rocket crashes back down to earth, landing in a glacier. All communications are futile. They’re truly trapped! Complications ensue.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
Hard question to answer! We learn a lot of facts in school, but we also learn how to get along with other people – including some not-so-nice things, too, such as how it’s possible to be lonely even in a crowd. In terms of academics, I had an absolutely wonderful Latin teacher, Mrs. Thornton, and she taught me so much about English through the study of Latin. I loved marching around conjugating Latin verbs out loud and chanting noun declensions. (I think I may have just figured out why I didn’t have very many friends . . . )

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Intense. Earnest. Distractable.

Did you learn anything from writing THE DARK INTERCEPT and what was it?
I learn a lot from everything I write. Writing is hard! And writing THE DARK INTERCEPT was even harder than usual because I care so much about the ideas in it. At its heart, it’s a story about the power of emotions. I wanted the story – the action – to live up to the passion and complexity of the theme. It was a tall order. I hope I succeeded.

For those who are unfamiliar with Violet, how would you introduce her?
She’s smart, but she’s not a genius. She means well, but she makes a lot of mistakes. She’s headstrong and sometimes exasperating – but if you were in trouble, you’d want Violet Crowley in your corner. She lives in the future – in the year 2294, to be exact – but she’s a lot like any young woman you’d find in high school in 2017. She’s interested in the fate of the earth – and she’s also interested in the cute guy who makes her heart flutter.

What part of Danny did you enjoy writing the most?
The science part! I’m a sucker for scruffy laboratories filled with bubbling beakers and whirring computers and mysterious odors. Danny and his brother, Kendall, grew up on Old Earth, and they had to jury-rig all of their technology. No Apple stores on Old Earth!

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Oh, what a delicious question! I wouldn’t mind seeing Violet hang out with Hermione from the Harry Potter books. I like the idea of strong, creative, driven girls joining forces and stirring up some trouble in the world.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
It’s a toss-up between Madeline L’Engle and Ray Bradbury. With a pinch of Neil Gaiman. And maybe a sprinkle of Virginia Woolf.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
They don’t need any advice! They’re readers! They’ve already got a big head start in figuring out this life business.

What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I worked for my grandfather’s company, Economy Frosted Foods, stapling the pages of bulletins that featured the prices of things like giant boxes of frozen French fries and ginormous cans of chocolate pudding. The business sold wholesale to restaurants. Now, here is where I’m supposed to say that stapling papers together, hour after hour, was boring and soul-sucking . . . but it wasn’t! I eavesdropped on the other people in the office, and it was fascinating. They were all much older than me and their lives were thrillingly naughty. And they paid no attention to the kid in the corner, stapling, stapling, stapling . . .

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
I would definitely change my college major to one of the hard sciences. I really, really wish I’d gone into neurophysiology – figuring out how the brain works. My interest in the brain – and the vast frontier of what we’re learning about it – is what propelled me toward the themes of THE DARK INTERCEPT.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
I’d go way, WAY back – I mean, why not, right? As long as we’re firing up the time machine, why not take it on a real trip instead of a spin around the block? I’d pick the 1940s, maybe. Teens had to grow up quickly then, because the United States was in a war, but on the other hand, the country really came together with a sense of common purpose. We were approaching the middle of the century, a pivot point. If you were young back then, you might very well have felt a special responsibility: the world was being remade, after the terrible cataclysm of a world war, and young people were the ones creating it anew, from the ground up. Exciting!

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper?
Just this morning. I love writing letters on paper. People don’t expect it, and so a letter takes on immense significance.

Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
New York City.

What is your greatest adventure?
Leaving my hometown of Huntington, West Virginia, when I was in my early 20s, and driving to Columbus, Ohio, to look for a job. All of my possessions were in the back of my car. I had a few hundred bucks to my name. (Wait – have things changed all that much?) It was an adventure because I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. (Again: That differs HOW from the present moment?)

My father was a mathematics professor at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, but in his spare time he built apartment buildings and rented them. One day when I was a little girl, he took me with him to visit a tenant. The man was moving out, and he wanted to settle up with my father. When I saw the guy, I was amazed; he was the biggest, strongest man I’d ever seen. And then, right in front of us, he began to weep. I mean, he was sobbing! I was shocked. Later, my dad explained that the man’s wife had left him, and that’s why he was moving out.

The seeds of THE DARK INTERCEPT were planted that day. I was completely astonished to see such a massive man—he looked as if the could pick up a car and toss it like a pebble—suddenly so weak and helpless because of emotions.

I began to wonder: What if government authorities were able to harness that power? What if they could harvest your emotions, and store them, and then send them back into your brain? They would be able to control you. Because no one—no matter how strong or wise or accomplished—is impervious to the power of feelings.

What if the government could weaponize emotions?

I contemplated this for a long time before I sat down to write THE DARK INTERCEPT. To me, it was important that the government leaders who installed the Intercept really thought they were doing the right thing. They weren’t evil tyrants. That is an entirely different kind of story.

So when Violet and her friends oppose them, they are torn between loyalty to their country – and their own innate sense of right and wrong. It’s not an easy choice!

The technology behind the Intercept is not that farfetched. Neurological researchers are already able to re-insert memories and images in the brains of mice, causing their behavior to change.

So by 2294, the year in which THE DARK INTERCEPT begins, the Intercept is entirely plausible.

And it all began on a spring day when I was a little girl, watching a man with muscles like the Incredible Hulk as he totally unraveled—because of something you can’t touch or see: emotions.

  • “Far away, but close enough.”
  • “There were definitely Best Friend Rules, and Rule Number One was: When a Best Friend calls, you go.”
  • “You didn’t love someone because he was perfect. You loved him because you loved him.”
  • “At night, the streets of New Earth breathed.”
  • “When the planners selected by Ogden Crowley designed New Earth, they realized that having everything look new could be just as oppressive as having everything look old.”
  • “A best friend didn’t always need words to get what you were saying.”
  • “It was a washed-out, fed-up, done-in color that spoke of emptiness and lack.”
  • “ ‘Once a cop, always a cop.’ ”
  • “Deep within the sprawling catacombs beneath their workstation, tucked snugly inside a computer system unfathomably vast, the Intercept was roused to invisible fury.”
  • “She dropped out of the sky, bound for the swirling darkness below.”

The State controls your emotions. What would you pay to feel free?

In a radiant world of endless summer, the Intercept keeps the peace. Violet Crowley, the sixteen-year-old daughter of New Earth’s Founding Father, has spent her life in comfort and safety. Her days are easy thanks to the Intercept, a crime-prevention device that monitors and provokes emotion. But when her long-time crush, Danny Mayhew, gets into a dangerous altercation on Old Earth, Violet launches a secret investigation to find out what he's hiding. An investigation that will lead her to question everything she's ever known about Danny, her father, and the power of the Intercept.

You can purchase The Dark Intercept at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JULIA KELLER AND TOR for making this giveaway possible.
3 Winners will receive a The Dark Intercept Swag (Tote Bag, Notebook and Copy) by Julia Keller..
NOVEMBER 3rd FRIDAY Sabrina's Paranormal Palace REVIEW

NOVEMBER 7th TUESDAY Here's to Happy Endings SPOTLIGHT
NOVEMBER 8th WEDNESDAY Tara's Book Addiction REVIEW 
NOVEMBER 8th WEDNESDAY Literary Meanderings TENS LIST 
NOVEMBER 9th THURSDAY Reading for the Stars and Moon REVIEW 
NOVEMBER 10th FRIDAY Movies, Shows, & Books REVIEW 
NOVEMBER 10th FRIDAY Insane About Books REVIEW


  1. "How often do you remember your dreams?" Not often enough! But I dreamed last night that Chris Pratt was maintaining the bricks on his girlfriend's white-brick high-rise apartment building, and both she and her mother lived in the building, and he had to give them both ear plugs!

  2. Sadly not very often!! I wish that I could sometimes!

  3. It seems like I only remember my nightmares!