Thursday, October 29, 2015

Author Interview, Excerpt & Giveaway - The Secret Letters by Abby Bardi


The Secret Letters

by Abby Bardi  



When thirty-seven-year-old slacker-chef Julie Barlow's mother dies, her older sister Pam finds a cache of old letters from someone who appears to be their mother's former lover. The date stamped on the letters combined with a difficult relationship with her father leads Julie to conclude that the letters' author was a Native American man named J. Fallingwater who must have been her real father. 

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? 



I was crossing Main Street one day on my way to work when I heard Pam’s ringtone on my cellphone, some rap song she’d downloaded for me. In addition to being smarter and better-looking than me, she was a whole lot cooler. A fat old guy on a Harley screamed at me for getting in his way, and I screamed back that he should go fuck himself, though since he was on a Harley, he couldn’t hear anything but his own pistons. Back in the day, my twin brother Donny and I had often buzzed through town like that on his brand new Triumph. 

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. 



Talking with author Abby Bardi!

What is your writing environment? 

I’m in a cabin on the river behind my house where I write all day long and no one bothers me. Just kidding! I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop and my husband is talking to me.

Who is your perfect hero/heroine and why?
I love reading about people who don’t understand the full scope of what’s happening to them, which I guess is why I keep writing about people like that. In The Secret Letters, the narrator, Julie, can often seem pretty clueless. Similarly, in my previous novel The Book of Fred, all four of the main characters, who trade narration, are lovable but often have some significant blind spots about their own behavior. This is one of the things I find most interesting about people, the way they often fail to understand themselves.

What authors have caught your interest lately and why?
I’m always reading about seventeen books at once, but the two I’m especially loving at the moment are Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher, because it’s hilarious and also profoundly true, and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, because it’s magical and also, about Barcelona. I’m obsessed with Barcelona after having visited it for the first time last spring.

What type of book have you always wanted to write?
I’ve always wanted to write a book readers would become so immersed in that they would want it to go on forever. That’s how I’ve felt about my very favorite books, and that’s what I would love to do.
Top 3 things on your bucket list? 
Seeing the Gaudi architecture in Barcelona was on there—check. I’ve wanted to return to India since visiting there seven years ago, and this December, I’m finally going back. The other thing on my list would be finding a great agent who likes to schmooze. If you hear of one, let me know.

How did you get the idea for this particular novel?
I got the idea for The Secret Letters while sitting on my front porch and staring at my neighbors’ houses, imagining the people who live in them. Every so often I would meet one of them and find I had been totally wrong about everything, but it didn’t matter. The characters in The Secret Letters became my imaginary neighbors.

What is your favorite scene in your new release?
These are great questions! I guess my favorite scene is actually the ending. I tried so many different endings and none of them felt right, but then finally I felt this one was exactly how the book needed to end. The ending felt magical to me when it unfolded.

What are you working on now and when can we expect it to be available?
I’ve just finished a novel that is scheduled to be released by HarperCollins Australia in March, 2016. Set in 1970s Chicago, it’s about a recent college graduate who accidentally finds herself in the middle of a drug ring. When she discovers that a friend she thought had committed suicide was actually murdered, she sets out to find his killer.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I’m almost always either writing or grading papers (I teach writing), but when I’m not, I am either walking my dog, belly dancing, watching a Bollywood movie, or eating. Like Julie in The Secret Letters, I love food, though where she loves to cook it, I love to eat it.

What is one interesting fact about you that readers don’t know?
Years ago, I sang in a Country & Western band in England, and we once played a gig in Jane Austen’s village, Chawton. I like to think that if Jane were still around today, she’d have been there, dancing to “Blanket on the Ground.”


AUTHOR Bio and Links: 

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.




Abby will be awarding an eCopy of The Secret Letters to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour.