You know about her mysterious novel about friendship and the natural beauty around us, now let’s get to know this interesting author.
Welcome to Date with a Debut Author! A Bookstr series where we sit down with a debut author and get to know them, their writing process, and their book. Each week we’ll get the chance to go on a date with a new author.
This week we met with Julie Carrick Dalton, author of Waiting for the Night Song, to learn more about her, her inspirations, and her book.
Date with a Debut Author gets you up close and personal with the debut authors you should be watching out for. So, are you ready to get to know Julie better? Let’s go!
Conversations Over Coffee
Since we’re just getting to know Julie.
Serena Knudson (SK): I read in your bio that you grew up in Maryland and on a military base in Germany. Then as an adult, you also moved around a bit from Seattle to Dallas to Virginia to end up in Boston where you have been living for over twenty years. Where has been your favorite place to live and why?
Julie Carrick Dalton (JD): I’ve loved seeing different parts of the world and the country, but I’m definitely a New Englander – it just took me a few decades to find my true home. Right now I divide my time between Boston and my farm in New Hampshire, which to me is the perfect combination. I have one foot in the mountains, woods, and lakes of New Hampshire, and the other foot in a vibrant city with a world-class literary scene.
SK: You are an extremely active person as you love to kayak, hike, and ski. What other hobbies would you like to learn?
JD: One of the last things I did before the pandemic hit was try surfing for the first time. I wasn’t very good at it. In fact, I broke my toe. I’d love to do it again, but hopefully not break any bones this time!
SK: You center a lot of your writing around climate change and the environment. What other writers or books have inspired you?
JD: I’m a huge fan of Charlotte McConaghy. Her novels Once There Were Wolves and Migrations are two of my all-time favorites. Some of my other authors who inspire me include Richard Powers, Omar El Akkad, Jesmyn Ward, Laura Pritchett, Robin MacArthur, Tim Weed, Amitav Ghosh, and Barbara Kingsolver.
SK: What has been your favorite part about being an author?
JD: Connecting with other writers! I love being part of the writing community. I really enjoy doing events with other authors and supporting their books. It’s the most supportive community I’ve ever been a part of.
SK: Do you play any music while you write? If so, what is your favorite to listen to?
JD: I don’t usually listen to music when I write, but when I do, I usually pick to folk music. I’m a big fan of Connor Garvey, a singer-songwriter from Maine. I’m also a big Billy Bragg fan. I like songs that tell stories and make me think, which makes it hard to write because I get caught up in the lyrics. That’s why I usually don’t listen to music while I write.
Let’s Get Intimate
Don’t you want to know more about this interesting author?
SK: You have four kids, two dogs, and you own and run an organic farm, I can’t imagine how exhausting that all can be. How do you stay motivated to write?
JD: To me, it all feels connected. Working on my farm and raising my kids inspires my writing. Some of my book research has influenced decisions I’ve made on my farm. I also think being a writer and farmer has made me a better parent. My kids have seen me work hard, face disappointment and failure as a writer and as a farmer. But they’ve also watched me get back up and keep working toward my dreams. When I struggle as a writer or a farmer, being a parent motivates me. When I’m struggling as a parent, writing and farming motivate me to do better.
SK: I read somewhere that the setting for your book, Waiting for the Night Song, was inspired by the land where your organic farm lays. What came first for you: the plot or the characters, and why?
JD: The characters came first. The image that launched my book was of young girls in a boat picking blueberries from the shoreline. When my kids were young we used to take our canoe out and pick berries. This image launched a lot of ‘what if’ questions. I imagined how these young girls would answer these questions and that’s how the plot emerged. The book was always set in New Hampshire against the backdrop of the lakes, mountains, and forests around my farm.
SK: You have spoken a lot about writing fiction during a climate crisis, and as mentioned above you have also centered a lot of your writing around climate change. Has writing and publishing a book changed the way you see yourself and the environment around you?
JD: No, my opinions about the climate crisis have not changed, but my confidence to speak out has definitely changed. I’m not a scientist. I don’t have a background in climate science. I used to think that my voice didn’t matter because I wasn’t an expert. But the reality is, we all drink water and breathe air. This planet belongs to everyone and we all have a voice. I will never represent myself as an expert or a scientist, but I do believe my voice matters. I’m a storyteller. Fiction has the capacity to invite people into the conversation who might not read articles or watch documentaries about the climate crisis. But they will engage with a good story that generates empathy, and if we can generate empathy we can change hearts.
SK: You have another book coming out in 2023. Has your writing process or the way you view this next book changed since publishing Waiting for the Night Song?
JD: When I wrote Waiting for the Night Song, I wrote by the seat of my pants, meaning I had no idea where the story was going. I just plowed forward. It was fun, but it made revision difficult and I ended up throwing out thousands of words. When I started my new book, The Last Beekeeper, I created a detailed outline. I gave myself room to deviate from the outline when new ideas emerged, but having a general outline has been really helpful. I think I prefer writing with a road map.
SK: If you could meet your characters, what would you say to them?
JD: The one character of mine I’d like most to meet is Sal. She’s the thirteen-year-old daughter of my main character’s best friend. Sal has all the qualities I wish I had had as a teenager. She is brave, bold, and doesn’t care what other people think. Sal is confident and passionate about doing what she knows is right. I’d love to meet Sal and tell her to keep believing in herself, to never give up.
Fun and Games
Now that we’re well-acquainted with Julie, here are some fun questions and what she had to say about them.
SK: If you could go back in time and do something differently, what would you change?
JD: I don’t think I’d change anything. Not because I haven’t made mistakes, but because I think I’m the person I am now because of those mistakes. With one exception: I would go back and convince my younger 80’s-era teenage self NOT to get those enormous Farrah Fawcett perms. Yeesh!
SK: What would your perfect day look like?
JD: My perfect day would be an August day in New Hampshire, mid 70’s and sunny. I’d get up early and write for a few hours, then go to my farm and work for four or five hours. I’d bring home fresh potatoes, corn, tomatoes, and greens. I’d jump in the lake for a quick swim and make a home-cooked dinner with my husband and kids (all of whom would be home, of course.) We’d have a great meal, maybe play a game after dinner and watch a movie together. I’d have a glass of wine with my husband and take a peek at the incredible stars in the New Hampshire sky before going to bed.
SK: What ridiculous thing has someone tricked you into believing or doing?
JD: My grandfather was a POW during WWII. He was held by the Germans for a long time. One of his hands was partially paralyzed because he was shot. When I was a kid, I asked him why he couldn’t move his thumb and he told me that he dug his way out the camp with a teaspoon and that’s how he got hurt. I whole-heartedly believed that my grandfather was this superhero who dug tunnels with a spoon until I was in my twenties. I later learned that he was freed when the camp was liberated. But I remain convinced he was a superhero.
SK: If you could spend the whole day with a fictional character who would it be?
JD: Can I pick two? As a child, I always wished I had a friend like Pippi Longstocking. Bold, brave, fierce, and strong. The younger version of me would choose to hang out with Pippi for the day and see what kind of trouble we could get into. Adult me would choose Jo March from Little Women. I think we’d be great friends.
SK: If we were in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, who are three people you would want on your team?
JD: Ugh. How do I pick between my four kids and my husband? They are all incredibly talented hikers, rock climbers, scientists, survivors. Between them, they speak numerous languages, know how to build fires in the wild, build shelters, and tell great stories. I’m pretty sure as a team, we could survive a zombie apocalypse — but I don’t think we can break up the team so I choose them all.
SK: What are some of your favorite book recommendations?
JD: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler; Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy; Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward; The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman; The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson; The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner; The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata, and Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh.
In Waiting for the Night Song, Cadie has spent decades trying to cover up the truth after that summer. But after getting a call from her estranged best friend, Daniela, Cadie is forced to face the truth. Now she must decide what she is willing to give in order to protect her family and the forest she loves as foreclosures, droughts, and wildfires create ignite tension in the town.
Julie Carrick Dalton is a member of the Climate Fiction Writers League and is a frequent speaker on the topic of writing during the age of climate crisis. Julie’s debut novel Waiting for the Night Song has been named on Most Anticipated 2021 book lists by multiple media outlets along with being an Amazon Editor’s Pick for Best Books of the Month. You can find more of her work in The Boston Globe, BusinessWeek, The Chicago Review of Books, Lit Hub, Electric Literature, and more. Julie is also a mother of four kids and two dogs. She loves to hike, ski, and kayak when she is not working the organic farm she runs and owns in New Hampshire. Julie’s next book, The Last Beekeeper, is set to be released in 2023.
Featured Images via Julie Carrick Dalton / Forge Books