Friday, March 19, 2021

Ava Barry Interview - Windhall: A Novel


Photo Content from Ava Barry

Ava Barry studied Film and Digital Media at U.C. Santa Cruz. After university she worked as an editorial assistant at Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope: All-Story Magazine. On the days she wasn’t Living the Dream, she woke up at four-thirty in the morning to make coffee for a tyrannical boss in Santa Cruz, then schlepped her way across town to work at a Chinese restaurant. These jobs made her really, really, REALLY wish she had picked a more practical degree at college.

In 2011, Ava moved to Los Angeles and worked at Intrigue Film Studio and Bold Films, where she got to sit next to the jacket that Ryan Gosling wore in Drive. No, she did not meet Ryan Gosling. No, she did not have a charming meet-cute with the head of production, leading to a screenwriting job. Instead, she continued to work at a variety of restaurants where she served a variety of celebrity clientele who made polite chit-chat and ordered expensive alcohol. Again, no meet-cutes or job offers.

And now she lives in Australia. Her house is in a national park where she regularly sees kangaroos, sulphur-crested cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets, king parrots, crimson rosellas, lyre birds, wallabies, and sometimes wombats. She misses almost everything about Los Angeles – the food trucks, the random celebrity sightings, the craftsman-style bungalows, the hope and desperation – which is why she continues to write about the city and the film industry. She does not miss, however, the overzealous parking cops, underpaid restaurant jobs, or traffic.

Her first book, WINDHALL, is about a murder in Old Hollywood that has ramifications in present-day Los Angeles. The murder is fake, but the city plays itself, so to speak.

      
  


Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in San Francisco and lived in California until my mid-twenties. I’ve lived in Australia for the last five years – first in Sydney and now in a beautiful national park.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I was interviewed by Publisher’s Weekly (unbelievable), and the woman who interviewed me – Wendy Werris – has a wealth of knowledge about Old Hollywood, since her dad was a part of it. It was such a joy to talk about all these old stories with her!

Tell us your latest news.
Professionally – Bustle just featured WINDHALL on one of their reading lists. Personally – I’ve been taking a sewing class for two years, and I just learned how to put a stiff collar on a dress. Very excited about that.

Can you tell us when you started WINDHALL, how that came about?
I started WINDHALL in 2016, but I had been building towards it for years. I wrote two very long, rambling manuscripts set in Old Hollywood, but they were both flops. I kept thinking, “How do I explain to people why I’m so obsessed with Old Hollywood?” It finally made sense to me that I should write about the obsession itself through Max Hailey, who lives in present-day Los Angeles. In that way, Hailey is my avatar. WINDHALL has multiple themes of obsession – first, Theo’s alleged obsession with Eleanor, and then Hailey’s obsession with Theo.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
That Old Hollywood is damn exciting, and just because a film is black and white doesn’t mean it’s tame!

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
This is a tough one for me. I just started reading “Hamlet” (and by reading, I mean listening to the audiobook and parsing my way through summaries online because it’s an intimidating text) and I love Hamlet’s monologues, but I also want to shake him. I’d have Alexa Levine (from WINDHALL) grab him by the shoulders and tell him to stop feeling sorry for himself.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
I moved to Sydney about a week before I started writing WINDHALL, and Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I wanted to spend all my time exploring, but I was also in a long-distance relationship and working nearly fifty hours a week. It was tough.

What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
Theo loves fucking with people, and he’s so old that he really doesn’t care about anyone’s opinion. I loved writing Theo, and he’s the person I’d most want to grab a drink with.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
I have always said ‘move abroad,’ but I recognize that’s not a possibility for everyone. I tell a lot of people that they should try therapy and take care of their mental health, because therapy is something that a lot of people fear, and it really changed the quality of my life.

Best date you've ever had?
I’ll describe my weirdest date instead: I spent my junior year of college abroad in France and worked part-time as an English teacher at a technical college for adults. Most of my students were in their 30s, and some of them had been to jail – basically everyone there was blue collar, and nearly all of them were lovely and very welcoming to me. I had spent a few months getting to know some engineers and met one of their friends near the end of my time in France. He was fifteen years older than me and seemed like he was all talk when he said “I want to take you on a date at the highest restaurant in France, next to Mont Blanc.”

I didn’t even know his name when he made the offer. I thought he was joking, so I went along with the joke. That weekend, however, I took a train from Grenoble to Annecy, then drove with him to Chamonix. We spent the weekend going on walks in the Alps, eating at his sister’s incredible fine-dining restaurant, then going up to L’Aiguille du Midi, the second highest mountain in Europe and getting ice cream at the cafeteria there. He taught me how to play pool, and we even went to his friend’s very classy strip joint.

It wasn’t terribly romantic – he had just broken up with his fiance, and neither of us were looking for anything – but it was so much fun.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
My best year was 2009, but I’d actually go back to the end of 2010, which was the beginning of two years of hell. I’d tell myself Stop surrounding yourself with toxic people. Stop drinking so much and go to therapy. I promise this gets better.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Chapstick (I’m addicted), sunglasses (I’m blind without them), a book small enough to tuck in my bag, something to write on.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
My friend and I spent the night at her friend’s place in Santa Barbara. I woke up in the middle of the night to get a glass of water, and when I walked through the living room there were two enormous stuffed boar’s heads – like hunting trophies – sitting on top of a cupboard. They were real, but very decrepit – it scared the shit out of me.

First Heartbreak?
It was incredibly sweet. I had been in love with him for two years before we started “dating” – we lived two hours apart, this was before cell phones, basically our entire relationship took place on AOL instant messenger. The whole thing was very chaste, and right after he broke up with me (over AIM) I found out that he had been exchanging emails with a new crush and both of them pretended to be characters from the Batman universe (“Hey Batboy, it’s Batgirl! I miss you!”) I mean, only in early high school, right? I was devastated for a full year.

Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
India, India, India.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
Every true love comes with the guarantee of heartbreak. Every relationship ends at some point, because everyone dies. So the question is…are you willing to set aside your ego and ivory castle for the chance at being part of something bigger? Anyone who isn’t willing to take a risk on love is either a coward or a narcissist, because nothing changes you more powerfully than placing your heart in someone else’s hands. I’m not rebuking anyone, just speaking from personal experience: I was terrified of falling in love until I met my partner, and true love is hard work.

TEN FAVORITE READS EVER
  • 1. “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” by Shirley Jackson
  • 2. “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier
  • 3. “Picnic at Hanging Rock” by Joan Lindsay
  • 4. “Play It As It Lays” by Joan Didion
  • 5. “A Passage to India” by E.M. Forster
  • 6. “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mendel
  • 7. “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • 8. “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple
  • 9. “West with the Night” by Beryl Markham
  • 10. “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser
Your journey to publication
Every positive review that I have gotten mentions that this is my debut novel – and while it’s certainly the first book I’ve gotten published, it’s not the first book I ever wrote! It’s very important for me to mention that because I don’t want aspiring authors to get discouraged at the thought that you need to succeed right off the bat.

Before WINDHALL there were three manuscripts that nobody wanted. I’ve been rejected by about two hundred agents (not all for WINDHALL, some of those rejections were for my previous books). I finally signed with Annie Bomke at the beginning of 2017, and Annie started sending the book out in September. And then two and a half years went by, and we got something like forty rejections from publishers. Nobody wanted the thing! I was used to rejection at this point (hi, two hundred agents), so I kept telling Annie to shelve it. “We’ll get the next book published!” I told her. Annie agreed, but still sent it out a few more times, and on April Fool’s day of last year, Annie sent me the news that Pegasus Books had made us an offer.

It was very strange timing: not only because of the date, but because the entire world had started a descent into COVID isolation, and I had also just lost my job as a result of the pandemic (I work in hospitality).

Even after we got the news about publication, Annie and I were very zen about this book flying under the radar. It’s my weird little baby: I don’t expect anyone else to love it, but it will always be very special to me. So far, I have been very happy and surprised that other people seem to enjoy it, too!


A stunning literary thriller in which an investigative journalist in modern Los Angeles attempts to solve the Golden Age murder of a Hollywood starlet.

1940s Hollywood was an era of decadence and director Theodore Langley was its king. Paired with Eleanor Hayes as his lead actress, Theo ruled the Golden Age of Hollywood. That ended when Eleanor's mangled body was discovered in Theo's rose garden and he was charged with her murder. The case was thrown out before it went to trial and Theo fled L.A., leaving his crawling estate, Windhall, to fall into ruin. He hasn't been seen since.

Decades later, investigative journalist Max Hailey, raised by his gran on stories of old Hollywood, is sure that if he could meet Theo, he could prove once and for all that the famed director killed his leading lady. When a copycat murder takes place near Windhall, the long reclusive Theo returns to L.A., and it seems Hailey finally has his chance.

When Hailey gets his hands on Theo's long-missing journals, he reads about Eleanor's stalkers and her role in Theo's final film, The Last Train to Avalon, a film so controversial it was never released to the public. In the months leading up to her death, something had left her so terrified she stopped coming to work. The more Hailey learns about Avalon, the more convinced he becomes that the film could tell him who killed Eleanor and why she had to die. But the implications of Avalon reach far beyond Eleanor's murder, and Hailey must race to piece together the murders of the past and present before it's too late.


You can purchase Windhall: A Novel at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you AVA BARRY for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Windhall: A Novel by Ava Barry.
jbnpastinterviews

5 comments:

  1. "Choose a unique item from your wallet and explain why you carry it around." I've never carried a wallet.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I carry around a small toy for times when I come across a baby/child that needs comforting.

    ReplyDelete
  3. make-shift loyalty cards cut down to only include the barcode. Then hole-punched on a keyring -- cuts down on the bulk.

    ReplyDelete
  4. My daughters in memory card because I need it close to me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The only thing in my wallet that is different is a National Archives Researcher's Card which I know is very out of date.

    ReplyDelete