Julie Carrick Dalton - A Love Song to the Natural Beauty Around Us
Julie Carrick Dalton’s debut novel WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG has been named to Most Anticipated 2021 book lists by CNN, Newsweek, USA Today, Parade, Buzzfeed, and others, and was an Amazon Editor’s Pick for Best Books of the Month in January. As a journalist, Julie has published more than a thousand articles in publications including The Boston Globe, BusinessWeek, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Chicago Review of Books. She is the winner of the William Faulkner Literary Competition and a finalist for the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature. A Tin House, Bread Loaf, and GrubStreet Novel Incubator alum, Julie is a member of the Climate Fiction Writers League and is a frequent speaker on the topic of Fiction in the Age of Climate Crisis. Mom to four kids and two dogs, Julie also owns a small farm in rural New Hampshire and manages a 100-acre forest. When she isn't writing or digging in the dirt, you can probably find her kayaking in a New England lake. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about Waiting for the Night Song.
Please give us a short introduction to what Waiting for the Night Song is about.
Waiting for the Night Song is a thriller about two estranged childhood friends who reunite decades later to confront a terrible secret they covered up as young girls. It’s a story about a fierce friendship, secrets, betrayal, and redemption set against the backdrop of a slowly changing climate in a small New England town. Waiting for the Night Song also engages themes related to environmental justice, endangered species, and our responsibility to and for this planet we all share.
What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?
Several elements of my own life went into Waiting for the Night Song. The initial story idea started with an image of two young girls picking blueberries from a rowboat because I used to take my own kids blueberry picking in a canoe. Their sense of adventure and curiosity nudged me to ask a lot of ‘what if’ questions. During the same years I was writing this book, I was also building a farm from scratch. My research into agriculture and forestry in my growing region inspired the environmental elements of the story. And, in turn, some of the research I did for my book influenced decisions I made on my farm.
This was your debut work. What has the experience been like so far?
Debuting during a pandemic has been challenging. All my in-person launch events were canceled, which was disappointing. But I’ve been overwhelmed by the incredible support I’ve received from readers, other authors, critics, and reviewers. Online events aren’t the same, but they have their advantages. I’ve traveled virtually to stores and events I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to visit in person. Lots of silver linings!
Why did you pick a forestry researcher as the protagonist for this story?
The story started with Cadie as a young girl. She is the kind of kid who loved science and nature, climbing trees, and splashing in lakes. I imagined she would grow up into the type of adult who would have dedicated her life to protecting the forest she loved so much as a child.
Tell us more about Cadie Kessler. What makes her tick?
As a young girl, Cadie was wild and bold. She was a fiercely loyal friend. She craved adventure and imagined mysteries all around her. But when she witnesses an actual traumatic event at age eleven, she has to make some difficult decisions to protect the people she cares about. The hard part for Cadie is that her commitment to protecting those people drives a wedge between them. As a result of protecting her friends, she loses them. Because of those losses, Cadie grows up a bit of a loner, committed to doing right and making up for past mistakes.
Friendships play an important role in your book. Why?
Friendships are complicated. The characters in this story make a lot of poor decisions, but they always think they are acting in the best interest of the people they care about. The relationship between Cadie and her best friend Daniela as children was very much based on a real friendship I had as a young girl. Like Cadie, I lost touch with this friend as an adult, but I thought about her so much when I was writing the book, that I looked her up and we’ve reconnected after thirty years apart. That was certainly an unexpected bonus of publishing Waiting for the Night Song.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I make fantastic soup. I’m also secretly great at hula hooping.
You worked as a journalist. How has this influenced your writing?
I think my background as a journalist helped with the research. I spent a lot of time learning about forest fires, invasive beetles, endangered birds, and so many other things. Decades of doing research for articles definitely helped.
Readers say that your descriptions of the New Hampshire woods are very vibrant. How did you pull this off?
I write the woods, mountains, and lakes of New Hampshire the way I experience them. I notice the smells, textures, and sounds in the forest, so it’s just my natural inclination to write about them. I’m glad my descriptions resonate with my readers.
Why did you title this book Waiting for the Night Song?
There’s a small songbird called the Bicknell’s Thrush that lives in the forest in New Hampshire. It has a distinctive song that can rarely be heard at night. When Cadie was a young girl, she loved hearing the thrush’s night song. As an adult, when she returns home, she learns that the bird is dying off in New Hampshire because its winter habitat in the Caribbean is being destroyed by hurricanes and deforestation. She longs to hear the night song that she misses from her youth. It represents a lot of things she misses or regrets from her childhood.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I don’t write on any particular schedule. I don’t write in the same place or at the same time of day. But I always love having the flavor peppermint in my mouth when I write. No matter where or when I write, I usually have a box of peppermint TicTacs with me.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a new book due out in 2023 about the unraveling relationship between a beekeeper and his daughter as their bees die off due to climate change and other unforeseen factors.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I love connecting with readers on Instagram @juliecdalton, on Twitter @juliecardalt, or on Facebook at Julie Carrick Dalton.