Interview with Abby Bardi, author of 'The Secret Letters'

Abby Bardi is the author of THE BOOK OF FRED and THE SECRET LETTERS. 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.

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About the Book:

Title: The Secret Letters
Author: Abby Bardi
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Pages: 165
Genre: Women’s Fiction

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?

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I first came up with the idea for The Secret Letters around the time my first novel, The Book of Fred, came out. It was initially inspired by a spectacular car crash right across the street for me that caused all my neighbors, whom I normally never see, to gather around chatting. They all fascinated me, I have no idea why; they just seemed interesting, and then years went by and I never saw them again. My across-the-street neighbor built a driveway so his cars wouldn’t get hit, and that was the end of our socializing, but I continued to watch them from my porch until my other neighbor’s weeds grew so tall that I couldn’t see them any more. So I had to imagine them.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

While The Book of Fred was incredibly easy to write because the characters all talked to me, The Secret Letters refused for a long time to inform me who was supposed to tell the story. Just about every character in the story has been a narrator at one time or another. It seems obvious now that Julie was the right person to narrate, but that’s because the story shifted considerably over the years.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

My publisher is HarperCollins Australia, and they have been wonderful! They’re so lovely to deal with, and they’ve done a really nice job with the book. I found them because I was playing Scrabble on Facebook with my friend Gary, who is also a writer, and he told me that HCA takes unagented submissions on Wednesdays, so I sent the book to them and they immediately said they wanted to publish it.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Everything about my first book surprised me. I was amazed it got published at all; the whole process seemed magical. Then what surprised me about publishing my second book was that it took so long.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I’m still working on a novel I’ve been trying to get right for a few years now. Again, I’m not sure the right person is telling the story. Meanwhile, I started another book this past summer that seems to be writing itself. Strangely, it seems to be sort of science fiction, not a genre I ever thought I’d be working in, but that’s where the story has gone.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

I’m on Facebook way too much.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

I wouldn’t say it’s a message, exactly, but the things I have learned from The Secret Letters are first, family can take many forms, and to a large extent, we get to choose those forms. Second, I have always believed that a person should try to follow her passions where they lead her. That’s why I write, even though it’s incredibly difficult sometimes, and that’s why Julie opens her restaurant in the novel, because she just has to.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Thanks for letting me talk about The Secret Letters!

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