Thursday, September 26, 2013

Interrogation Room #33: Julie Berry, Author of ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME

We're taking a step back in time with this mystery; so set those Interrogation Room torches ablaze! Julie Berry is in for questioning concerning her newest book, ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME, which is releasing today! 

ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME has already received several starred reviews and is completely addictive: beware, you may wind up reading so late into the night that you won't wake up in time to milk the cow and chop the firewood! Here's a little more about this unique, distinctly poetic read:

Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.

A bit about the author: 

Julie Berry holds an M.F.A. in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of the Fine Arts. The second novel she wrote in school was published as THE AMARANTH ENCHANTMENT, which was later followed by SECONDHAND CHARM, ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME, and the SPLURCH ACADEMY FOR DISRUPTIVE BOYS series, which was illustrated by her older sister, Sally Faye Gardner. She lives with her husband, four sons, and two cats in Massachusetts, where she is home full-time, writing.

All right, Julie – we've got questions, and we want answers! Don't even think about pulling a Judith here; we know you can talk. You seem very nice, so as long as you cooperate, we won't lock you in the stocks while we interrogate you. 

1) One thing that immediately pops out at me is your unique narration choice. Judith addresses much of the narration to Lucas, so that what we have is something almost like second person. What prompted this stylistic decision, and was it challenging to execute?

The story began as a little writing challenge I gave myself after reading an essay about point of view I found in a craft book. I wondered if I could write a novel or part of one in second person. As it turns out, that isn’t what I ultimately created, but the “you” voice stayed with me. It wasn’t difficult to work with at all, but I think that’s in part because Judith had so much to tell someone. Her sustained focus on Lucas helped this to work.

2) Between the second person narration and the short, segmented pacing, the story reads almost like verse. Have you ever dabbled in poetry?

You’ve caught me out. Good sleuthing. Throughout my life I’ve written poems off and on. They always had a great deal of meaning for me, but I’m not sure any other discerning readers of poetry would concur, alas. I would love to study poetry more formally.

3) Narrators are sometimes sidelined spectators of the true protagonists of a tale, but it was very interesting that Judith was actually unable to speak. Did this present challenges in developing the plot, or was it convenient in some ways?

I can see how, in theory, it ought to have been a limitation to make silent Judith the focal character. Dialogue isn’t really possible for her, for most of the story. And any time the focus adheres closely to one character, writers wrangle with how to show others’ important actions. Nevertheless, Judith’s story wasn’t hard to write, at least not from these mechanical considerations. She was so real to me that her story unfolded before her organically. Both her voice and her silence both left me no alternative but to make this her story, her interior drama. Her limitations saved this story from a more conventional structure, and I’m glad of that.

4) ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME seems to take place in a specific historical era. What kind of research was involved in writing the book, and why did you choose this time period?

Even though my place setting was ambiguous, I tried to keep my time-indicating details solidly consistent to a specific window of time in 17th Century Euro-American history, so that word choices, cultural artifacts, and social/cultural ideas would all cohere believably. I made up a place with its own history, but I wanted it to feel convincing, so its time clues needed a ring of authenticity.

5) You address some fairly dark topics in the novel – essentially, every mother's worst nightmare. As a writer for younger audiences, how do you decide where to draw the line?

I don’t think about it much during initial writing because it impedes creativity. I trust my agent and editor will advise me if they feel I’ve crossed lines. When the writing is done, and it’s editing time, that’s when I think more about the suitability of my subject matter. I don’t want to make readers unduly afraid, but I realize I can’t control how every reader may respond. I have no interest in being shocking or edgy for its own sake. I try to write what the story needs, and I try to write from a position of respect and care, both for my readers, and for real people whose lives might mirror my characters’. So in that sense I haven’t drawn any lines in advance, but I try to let those ideals guide me.

6) Do you have any interesting writing quirks to share?
My writing quirks aren’t very quirky. I can’t write with music on. I need silence to create. Neither my habits nor my personality favor tidy schedules, homes, or rituals. I careen through chaos. So I have learned to write almost anywhere. I keep companion notebooks for each project I’m working on. I often pray before writing, but not always, so I’m not sure I can call it a quirk. This is a good reminder to do better. The main point of those prayers is to give thanks for a life that allows and encourages me to write.

7) What are the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of writing mysteries for a young audience?

Young readers who find that they love mysteries have an enormous body of work to grow into and fall in love with. I felt a responsibility to play by the mystery rules so as to be a stone in the path mystery readers take toward loving the genre. This was both a pleasure and a challenge. It was the first mystery I’d written, and I felt anxious to ensure that if Professor Plum did it in the billiard room with the candlestick, I’d made sure to place the candlestick within reach, allowed time for Plum to nip in and out, given him a reason to do so, planted red herrings in the right spots, and given the reader enough clues to solve the crime without so many as to make it obvious. It’s a lot of fancy footwork. I owed it both to my readers, and to Dame Agatha, mystery’s patron saint, to get it right.

8) What is something that no one knows about you?

I’m a talker. Given the way I gab and blab, I don’t think there’s anything about me that I haven’t told two dozen people already. Mysterious and enigmatic are not my gig. In this respect, I’m sort of an anti-Judith. Maybe that’s why I like her so much. Opposites attract.

9) What writing secret will you reveal only under the harsh lights of this interrogation room?

Love your enemies. It’s easy to love your heroes and protagonists, and your colorful supporting cast, but story enemies need love, too. Know them as fully as you know your heroes. Understand their backstories, their complexities. Be present in the moment when their potential turned south. This doesn’t have to mean you go all soft on them and pardon their atrocities. But care about them; your stories will be richer and truer for it. Also, pay attention to what everyone in your story is doing at all times, onstage and off. What are they doing, and what are they thinking? This will give your supporting characters more meaningful roles and invest your story with believable surprises, which keep things interesting.

Thanks, Julie! You've been most obliging. I'm glad you didn't give the spectators any reason to throw their rotten fruits and vegetables at you; you've probably dressed up nicely for release day. Congratulations and best wishes!

WAIT! Want to win a free SIGNED HARDCOVER of ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME? Click the Rafflecopter link below for details! (note: this giveaway has been upgraded from an ARC to a SIGNED HARDCOVER, which Julie can personalize to you!)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dying to get your hands on a copy? Order ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME from your local independent bookstore, chain bookstore, or online bookseller.

Want to learn more about Julie Berry? 
Follow her on Twitter @julieberrybooks 

PS . . . have you entered SLEUTHAPALOOZA, our biggest giveaway yet? Help us celebrate our two-year anniversary and enter to win, or help spread the word! This giveaway ends October 10!
PPS: This interview was conducted by Dani Forshay, one of our fabulous interns! Thank you, Dani!


  1. If question 8 had been "something your fans don't know about you" there could have been all kinds of wonderful quirky facts to share! Please see if you can do an update and get her to tell you how to make the perfect pie crust!

    1. And yes, I'm up at 4:50 am because I just finished "All the Truth That's in Me". At this point, why bother going to bed?

  2. I'm intrigued about that pie crust! I just saw Julie at an event and wish I'd asked her! We will continue our sleuthing and get some quirky facts!

  3. I guess that would have to be getting a college degree. It took me a long time and I wasn't sure I could do it, but I did.
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net


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