What would you like to tell readers about yourself?
* Abby Bardi is the author of THE BOOK OF FRED. She grew up in Chicago, went to college in California, then spent a decade teaching English in Japan and England. She currently teaches at a college in Maryland and lives in historic Ellicott City with her husband and dog.
Today Abby Bardi will be talking about how she became a writer and what inspired her in regard to the story she's promoting.
* I’m one of those people who have literally always written. My parents used to say I wrote my first song when I was two, and I probably kept that up because they thought it was cute. (I still write songs.) I started writing poetry when I was seven and stories when I was twelve. In high school, I filled a spiral notebook with really terrible poetry and carried it everywhere. In college, I took creative writing courses, where I had some great teachers who were very patient with me—because to be clear, though I was really committed to writing and loved it so much I literally could not stop, I would say in retrospect that I had absolutely no talent. My teachers helped me improve my writing, and over the years I’ve worked really, really hard at it.
* In the course of all this writing, I’ve gotten really interested in technique, in figuring out what exactly makes something exciting, fun, or moving to read. I try to teach students how to do some of these technical things because craft provides a way of expressing all the fascinating things people have inside them. My favorite quote about writing is from the novelist Gustave Flaubert: “Human speech is like a cracked cauldron where we play melodies to make bears dance, when we wish to move the stars.” This is our tragedy as writers, though some of those tunes for bears can be pretty good.
* So how I became a writer was basically by working obsessively on writing for years and years and never giving up because it’s what I love to do, and I love to share that with other people, so I also teach writing.
* The Secret Letters was inspired by a
car crash that occurred on my street, though in the end, the crash is only mentioned in the novel in passing. In a way, the book sprang from a larger crash of several different forces colliding at the same time. My first novel The Book of Fred was set in a fictional suburb of Washington, DC, that bore a resemblance to my adopted home town of Takoma Park, MD. By the time I began the novel that would eventually become The Secret Letters (it went through many transformations in the process), I had moved to Ellicott City, a historic town outside Baltimore that I fell madly in love with. So in some ways, The Secret Letters was about the town and my impressions of it, especially of my neighbors. I used to see a rather heavy, dark-haired woman sitting on the rickety porch across the street, and then one day, she wasn’t there any more. I don’t know who she was or what happened to her, but she sort of morphed into Cynthia Barlow. There was also a rather cataclysmic event in our town that inspired me, but I don’t want to talk about that because it’s a spoiler.
* And I suppose Julie’s restaurant in The Secret Letters was partly inspired by my husband’s theater on Main Street, which he had for two glorious years before the landlord sold the building out from under him. During that brief time, the theater was a magical place where people hung out, artists created beautiful things, and life was amazing. Julie’s restaurant is just like that. One of my other favorite literary quotes is from Robert Frost: “Nothing gold can stay.” I was inspired by that moment of gold that seemed like it would last forever.
* Inspired by her new identity, Julie uses her small inheritance to make her dream come true: she opens a restaurant called Falling Water that is an immediate success, and life seems to be looking up. Her sister Norma is pressuring everyone to sell their mother's house, and her brother Ricky is a loveable drunk who has yet to learn responsibility, but the family seems to be turning a corner.
* Then tragedy strikes, and Julie and her siblings have to stick together more than ever before. With all the secrets and setbacks, will Julie lose everything she has worked so hard for?
* We thought we would live forever. And maybe he would have if he hadn’t ridden out alone on a rainy day, if he hadn’t skidded on the Beltway, if the truck had seen him. I tried not to think about it, but it was always with me. He was my twin, and ever since he died, part of me felt as if it was missing, like an arm or a leg, but invisible. When he first died, people told me to try talking to him like he was still there, and I did that for a while, but he didn’t seem to respond in any way and wherever he was now, he definitely wasn’t saying anything. I’d say I was glad my mother was with him now except that I don’t believe in stuff like that. They were both just gone.
* For a few weeks after my mother’s funeral, people kept stopping by the house with sloppy tuna casseroles and stale cakes, but then they went back to their lives. I kept trying to go back to my life, too. Six days a week, I worked lunch or dinner or both, slept, then got up and did it again. It wasn’t like I was in the habit of seeing my mother every day, or even phoning her more than two or three times a week, so in a weird way, most of the time everything seemed the same. But on my day off when I would normally have stopped by the house for dinner, I was at loose ends. I’d go into the Wild Hare and sit at the bar, even though I wasn’t working, and maybe I got a little too hammered a few times, and Milo, my boss, had to walk me home, though lucky for him I lived just across the street.
* “I’m late to work,” I said to Pam. “What’s up?”
* “I have to show you something. Come over here when you get off.”
* “That’s after midnight.”
* “Just do it.”
* “Where am I going?” I asked, though I had no intention of doing what she wanted.
ANNOUNCEMENT! Abby Bardi will be awarding an eCopy of The Secret Letters to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour! So be sure to leave a comment AND use the Rafflecopter below. Also, visit the other tour stops for a greater chance of winning!
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