Monday, January 25, 2021

Julie Carrick Dalton Interview - Waiting for the Night Song

Photo Credit: Sharona Jacobs

Julie Carrick Dalton grew up in Maryland and on a military base in Germany. As an adult, she bounced around from Seattle to Dallas to Virginia, before finding her true home in Boston, where she has lived for more than twenty years. Her writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, BusinessWeek, The Hollywood Reporter, Electric Literature, and other publications. She contributes to The Chicago Review of Books, DeadDarlings, and The Writer Unboxed. A Tin House alum and graduate of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator, Julie holds a Master’s in Literature and Creative Writing from Harvard Extension School. She is a frequent speaker on the topic of writing fiction in the age of climate crisis. Mom to four kids and two dogs, Julie is a passionate skier, hiker, and kayaker. She also owns and operates an organic farm. Please excuse her dirty fingernails.


Forge Books
Publisher : Forge Books; 1st edition (January 12, 2021)
Language: : English
Hardcover : 336 Pages
On Sale: 01/12/2021
ISBN: 9781250269188336 Pages


“Julie Carrick Dalton’s deftly constructed, urgent yet slow-burning debut novel reads like a warning from the frontlines of our rapidly deteriorating natural world.” —Omar El Akkad, American War

“Both a timely and timeless literary mystery, Waiting for the Night Song is as seductive as it is smart, blending the allure of Julie Dalton’s beloved rural New Hampshire setting with the dark undercurrents of a community’s racial divisions and betrayals. This is a story of love, of home, of friendship and family, of a childhood’s innocence and an adult’s comeuppance, all of which are in the line of fire in this beauty of a page turner.” —Michelle Hoover, award-winning author of Bottomland and The Quickening

“Human nature clashes with Mother Nature in this riveting and heartbreaking coming of age story— gorgeously written, and wonderfully told. With its combination of powerful themes and intensely immersive setting, fans of Delia Owens will swoon to find their new favorite author. A phenomenal debut!” —Hank Phillippi Ryan, award-winning author of The First to Lie

“Dalton writes masterfully of human relationship and the fraught relationship humanity has with ecology…put it on your lists NOW.” —Michael Zapata, author of The Lost Book of Adana Moreau

“I marvel when I come across a book that is at once timely and timeless…It’s a novel that burns–figuratively and literally–with sharp prose and uncommon wisdom. Do yourself a favor and have a look for yourself.” —Peter Geye, award-winning author of Wintering

“Waiting for the Night Song is a beautiful book that is also a hell of a read. Complex characters, unforgettable setting, taut storyline, big ideas.” —Ashley Shelby, author of South Pole Station

“Smart and searingly passionate, Dalton’s absorbing mystery debut explores many timely issues including global warming, female friendships, childhood secrets, and the lengths we take to protect them — Waiting For The Night Song is an illuminating snapshot of nature, betrayal and sacrifices set in the evocative New Hampshire wilderness.” —Kim Michele Richardson, award-winning author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

“A killer, gorgeous debut that tackles love, racism and even climate change. Waiting for the Night Song will break your heart, leave you breathless and wanting more.” —Rachel Barenbaum, bestselling author of A Bend in the Stars

“Dalton weaves the vagaries of friendship, the wonder of the natural world, and the power of truth to create a powerful and unforgettable story.” —Erica Ferencik, bestselling author of The River at Night and Into the Jungle

“Dalton’s debut is a story of friendship, family, and the consequences of acting out of fear, especially when those actions are performed to protect those we love. The storytelling is made even more vivid by the way the novel practically breathes the woods of New Hampshire.” —Booklist

“Stirring...a taut novel that builds suspense to the very end.” —Publishers Weekly

Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in Annapolis, MD, but I now divide my time between Boston and my farm in rural New Hampshire

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I have loved connecting with other writers. Writing can feel incredibly lonely, but the community of writers I’ve found with has kept me afloat.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
I don’t actually remember a time when I didn’t write stories. My mother used to run a puppet theater where she wrote and performed her own stories. I wrote my first script for her when I was in elementary school. I also used to write fan fiction scripts for Mork and Mindy and Wonder Woman TV shows then convince my friends to act them out with me. I think it was inevitable that I would write a novel. I just hope this book is better than my Mork and Mindy scripts.

Tell us your latest news.
I’m very proud that Waiting for the Night Song has made several Most Anticipated book lists, including CNN, USA Today, Newsweek, and Parade. It was also named an Amazon Editor’s Pick for Best Books of the Month for January. I have another book coming out in 2022 called THE LAST BEEKEEPER. It’s another stand-alone novel with themes related to nature and climate change. I can’t wait to tell you more about that one!

Can you tell us when you started WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG, how that came about?
When my four kids were younger, I used to take them canoeing and we would pick blueberries from wide swaths of open shoreline. As the kids got older they started asking whose land it was and if we were stealing the berries. The truth was, I had no idea who owned the land. There were no houses nearby, and I didn’t think anyone would mind some children taking a few handfuls of berries from a canoe. But my kids pressed me on it and I found myself inventing excuses to justify why it was okay to take the berries. At some point, I realized I was leaning on conveniently manufactured rules to justify my actions. Taking a few handfuls of blueberries was a benign action. No one else would have picked those berries. No one would have miss them. But was I teaching my kids it was okay to rely on manufactured rules to justify behavior that was not justifiable, even if it seemed benign? Those excuses I invented became the basis for The Poachers’ Code, a code of ethics the characters in my book create to shield themselves from their own questionable actions. I pushed my characters to an extreme limit and forced them to tackle the ethical questions I wrestled with while picking berries with my kids – but with life-and-death stakes. Once I came up with that nugget of an idea, it took 13 years to finish it.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope they think about the connections between our actions and how they affect other people and other places. In my title, I refence a song bird called the Bicknell’s thrush that is disappearing in New Hampshire because its winter home in the Caribbean is being destroyed by hurricanes and deforestation. Places and actions that seem unrelated. This just one example of connections I try to establish between this small town in New England and places that do not seem connected in obvious ways. I guess I hope people take time to reflect on this idea that every action has a consequence, even if we never know what those consequences are.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Cadie and Daniela?
I drew on a real childhood friendship as I wrote the girls when they were young. It surprised me how vivid and fresh those old memories still are. I think the memories we make during our formative years live brighter and more boldly than other memories. Those years take up a disproportionate amount of space in my memory.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I think young Cadie would love to go on wild adventures with Pippi Longstocking.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
I was raising four kids during the years I wrote this book. There was a time when I had one in pre-school, elementary, middle, and high school all at the same time. Juggling school schedules and just keeping the family moving took up most of my energy. I had to squeeze writing in whenever I found some unclaimed time.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Everyone should make an effort to try things that scare them. Not in a risky, life-or-death way. But in a way that challenges their boundaries. I have always been afraid of public speaking, so a few years ago I signed up to perform in a story slam. I didn’t tell my friends or family. I was terrified, but I showed up. It was a lot fun and I’m much less afraid of public speaking now.

Best date you've ever had?
My husband turned 50 during the pandemic. We couldn’t go out or invite anyone over to celebrate. Three of our four kids were living at home during most of the pandemic. They set up a table in the basement and created a restaurant for us. They prepared a three course meal and dressed up like waiters. They seated us, took drink orders, and served us a delicious meal. They even offered us wine selections (of the wine we already had in the house.) They cleared the plates, brought dessert and did all the dishes. It was such a treat to have a wonderful meal together in the middle of all the chaos. And it was so lovely to see my kids pitch in to make that night special for in honor of their dad’s 50th birthday.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
After college I spent a summer as a volunteer in South Africa right after the collapse of Apartheid. While I was there, I attended a ceremony conducted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in which a white landowner returned land his family had owned for generations to the Black South Africans who the land had been stolen from decades earlier. It was the first piece of land returned to a Black South African by a white landowner after Apartheid. The land transfer was emotional and peaceful. The man who returned the land did so out of honor and a belief that it was the right thing to do. It was done in private, not for any glory. In fact, at that time in South Africa, many of his friends and neighbors probably disagreed with his decision. Seeing him overcome societal pressure to do the right thing, and witnessing how gracious the Black family was in accepting apologies and the land, moved me to believe there is hope for justice and reconciliation if there is enough will, humility, and a capacity to forgive.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
I’m terrified of rabbits. I have a freakish allergy to rabbits that triggers severe breathing problems. I once missed a month of school when I was 13 because I was exposed to a pet rabbit in someone’s house. It’s a scary allergy. Imagine the panic you would feel if you saw a lion when you were walking down the street. That’s how I feel when I come close to a rabbit.

Who was your first love?

I had a boyfriend in high school named Jon who I really adored. I learned a lot from him: how to ski, I discovered new music from him, and we both shared an interest in science and studied together a lot. I know that sounds really nerdy, but we had a lot in common.

Tell me about your first kiss
Is it bad that I can’t remember this? I have a feeling it was a game of spin the bottle in middle school.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
True love for sure!

  • 1. I have four kids and two dogs.
  • 2. I built a farm from scratch, even though I didn’t know anything about farming.
  • 3. I’ve lived in Maryland, DC, Virginia, Washington, Texas, Delaware, Utah, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, and on a military base in Germany.
  • 4. I’m terrified of rabbits.
  • 5. I’m a vegetarian
  • 6. I love to cook, especially hearty soups and bread. I also make homemade cheese.
  • 7. I love to sew, but I’m not very good. I make simple project likes gift bags and face masks. I don’t have any desire to become a better seamstress. I’m perfectly happy making simple, functional projects.
  • 8. When I finish revising a manuscript, I shred the pages and put them in a blender with water and dried wildflowers. I press the pulp through a screen and dry it to make custom stationery. The paper is gorgeous and each batch is always unique. It’s my way to honor all those ugly, messy drafts and turn them into something beautiful. I use the cards to write thank you notes.
  • 9. I named one of my children Bronte because I’m obsessed with Jane Eyre.
  • 10. The plot of Waiting for the Night Song is very loosely based on the children’s book Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
In early draft of my book I wrote a scene about a bear getting hit by a car on the side of the highway. I wrote this scene because I witnessed a young man hit a bear cub, then pull over and get out of the car to check on the cub. As soon as I had passed them I realized the young man was in danger because there was likely a mother bear nearby. But I was too far down the highway to stop and I couldn’t turn around.

I felt terrible that I hadn’t had the presence of mind to stop and warn him. I thought it about during the two-hour drive and imagined what I could have done to help, and what would it take to risk your life for a stranger. I wished I had had better reflexes, and that I had been braver. I checked police reports. No reports of a bear attack. But I still felt guilty for not trying to warn the young man.

When I got home, I wrote the scene about a bear being hit by a car, but I gave my character quicker reflexes. I allowed her to sort out conflicting emotions of fear, guilt and responsibility. She decided the guilt of not helping someone was worse than the risk of personal injury.

In real life, that same afternoon, while in my back yard, I heard screaming coming from a canoe full of five little girls on the lake behind us. The boat was sinking and none of them had life jackets.

People shouted to them, but the girls kept trying to save the sinking canoe instead of swimming for shore. Fire and police vehicles came to the shore, but no one went in after the girls. Two of them were clearly in trouble.

I realized that I needed to be the one to go in because I had already worked through all the emotions of weighing the risks. I took a kayak and two life jackets and managed to get all the girls to shore. They pulled on my boat, threatening to tip it. They were crying and hysterical. But I was calm because I had already processed all the emotions.

It didn’t occur to me until later that my book, Waiting for the Night Song is about two little girls who get in trouble when they take a canoe out without permission, and face life or death consequences.

That scene with the bear felt suddenly very important.

When a writing instructor and my critique partners suggested the scene didn’t really fit into my book, I fought them because I was emotionally attached to the scene. But deep down, I knew it wasn’t meant to be part of my novel.

I sobbed as a I cut the scene. It felt like cutting a limb off. But I instantly knew the book was better for it. I mourned the bear scene. I dreamed about it. Then, months later, as I was doing a final revision, my main character was driving down the highway and I saw the bear on the side of the road.

My bear was back! But this time, I wrote the bear into a different scene that was integral to the plot. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the book, although very different than the original bear scene.

I honestly believe I never would have found the courage to go into the water after those little girls if I hadn’t encountered the bear on the side of the road and written that original scene that same afternoon. I knew that the bear needed to be in the book in some way, even though it took me a while to figure out how.

I learned about how important it is to listen to ideas from others when editing a manuscript, but to also pay attention to your gut. My writing partners were right; the first scene did not belong in the book. But I, too, was right in that the bear came into my book for a reason and I needed to find a way to keep her.

A startling and timely debut, Julie Carrick Dalton's Waiting for the Night Song is a moving, brilliant novel about friendships forged in childhood magic and ruptured by the high price of secrets that leave you forever changed.

Cadie Kessler has spent decades trying to cover up one truth. One moment. But deep down, didn't she always know her secret would surface?

An urgent message from her long-estranged best friend Daniela Garcia brings Cadie, now a forestry researcher, back to her childhood home. There, Cadie and Daniela are forced to face a dark secret that ended both their idyllic childhood bond and the magical summer that takes up more space in Cadie's memory then all her other years combined.

Now grown up, bound by long-held oaths, and faced with truths she does not wish to see, Cadie must decide what she is willing to sacrifice to protect the people and the forest she loves, as drought, foreclosures, and wildfire spark tensions between displaced migrant farm workers and locals.

Waiting for the Night Song is a love song to the natural beauty around us, a call to fight for what we believe in, and a reminder that the truth will always rise.

You can purchase Waiting for the Night at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JULIE CARRICK DALTON for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG Storytellers BOX.
3 Winners will receive a Copy of WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG by Julie Carrick Dalton.
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