I’m so excited that this week’s interview is with Julie Carrick Dalton whose debut novel, WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG, came out YESTERDAY! Julie has been an incredibly generous writer friend who has always gone out of her way to shine a spotlight on every new debut author so it’s exciting to see her have this moment in the sun. Congratulations Julie!
Below, Julie shares about the books she loved as a kid, her first novel about a missing hat, her love of gardening, and her next big project. Enjoy!
Julie Carrick Dalton is the Boston-based author of WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG (Jan 2021) and THE LAST BEEKEEPER (2022.) Her writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, BusinessWeek, The Hollywood Reporter, The Chicago Review of Books, Electric Literature, and other publications. She holds a Master’s in Creative Writing and Literature from Harvard Extension School and is a graduate of GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator. Julie is a frequent workshop leader and speaker on the topic of writing in the age of climate crisis. Mom to four kids and two dogs, she also owns and operates a small farm.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What kinds of things did you read?
I was a total flashlight-under-the-covers bookworm. I especially loved The Swiss Family Robinson as a kid. I wanted to live in that treehouse. I built tons of tree forts, swung on vines in the woods, and was constantly on the lookout for quicksand. I also devoured The Dark is Rising series. Then I discovered S.E. Hinton and everything changed. I must have read every one of her books ten times in middle school. I loved The Outsiders so much. My childhood reading list plays a prominent role in WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG. I wanted my characters to love the same books I did.
What first inspired you to start writing?
I grew up surrounded by stories. My mother ran a puppet theater and she wrote all the scripts herself. I used to listen to her work out story ideas and sometimes I assisted her at shows. And she told the world’s best bedtime stories. I don’t remember starting to write. I just always wrote. There were always stories. It never occurred to me not to tell them. My first attempt at a novel was The Mystery of the Missing Hat, which I wrote when I was seven years old to appease my mother after I lost the hat she crocheted for me.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I love growing things! I own a small farm where I grow corn, potatoes, tomatoes, peaches, hazelnuts, and lots of other veggies, herbs, and fruit. I don’t have a background in agriculture. I make a lot of mistakes, but I’m learning. I just completed the New Entry Sustainable Agriculture program at Tufts University. I’m particularly interested in learning how to build healthy, organic soil.
Are your characters based on real people?
The two main characters — Cadie and Daniela — are very loosely based on me and a childhood friend. When we were kids we used to spend long days exploring in the woods, climbing trees, riding bikes until the sun went down, and plotting adventures that we never had. She and I lost touch as teenagers, but I tracked her down after I wrote WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG and we’ve reconnected, just like the characters in my book did (but without the murdery parts) — an unexpected bonus of writing this book! Another character was inspired by a little boy who used to sit on a pier I kayaked by for years. I watched him grow up as he fished and read from the end of that dock, summer after summer. I imagined what his life might be like, what he dreamed about, what he was afraid of. That boy became a central character in WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG. Last summer as I paddled by his pier he dropped something in the water and it floated away. I retrieved it for him and he thanked me. I panicked a little because I felt like a character from my book stepped off the pages and stared me in the eye. I think I may leave a copy of my book on the end of his pier one day. That’s what Cadie and Daniela would do.
Tell us about your next big project.
I’m putting the final touches on my second book, THE LAST BEEKEEPER, coming out in 2022. It imagines a near future in which an unexpected event hastens the collapse of the pollinators sending the world into agricultural chaos. It’s a story about a young woman trying to reconnect with her ailing beekeeper father who never recovered from the loss of his beloved bees until his daughter gives him — and the world — a reason to hope. I’m a bit obsessed with bees, so working on this book has been a lot of fun. I kept honeybees in my yard for years, although I don’t have any active hives at the moment. They died from Colony Collapse Disorder, which inspired me to write THE LAST BEEKEEPER.
WHAT THE REVIEWERS ARE SAYING
“Julie Carrick Dalton’s deftly constructed, urgent yet slow-burning debut novel reads like a warning from the frontlines of our rapidly deteriorating natural world.” ―Omar El Akkad, American War
“Both a timely and timeless literary mystery, Waiting for the Night Song is as seductive as it is smart, blending the allure of Julie Dalton’s beloved rural New Hampshire setting with the dark undercurrents of a community’s racial divisions and betrayals. This is a story of love, of home, of friendship and family, of a childhood’s innocence and an adult’s comeuppance, all of which are in the line of fire in this beauty of a page turner.” ―Michelle Hoover, award-winning author of Bottomland and The Quickening.
“Human nature clashes with Mother Nature in this riveting and heartbreaking coming of age story― gorgeously written, and wonderfully told. With its combination of powerful themes and intensely immersive setting, fans of Delia Owens will swoon to find their new favorite author. A phenomenal debut!” ―Hank Phillippi Ryan, award-winning author of The First to Lie
“Dalton writes masterfully of human relationship and the fraught relationship humanity has with ecology…put it on your lists NOW.” ―Michael Zapata, author of The Lost Book of Adana Moreau
“I marvel when I come across a book that is at once timely and timeless…It’s a novel that burns–figuratively and literally–with sharp prose and uncommon wisdom. Do yourself a favor and have a look for yourself.” ―Peter Geye, award-winning author of Wintering
“Waiting for the Night Song is a beautiful book that is also a hell of a read. Complex characters, unforgettable setting, taut storyline, big ideas.” ―Ashley Shelby, author of South Pole Station
“Smart and searingly passionate, Dalton’s absorbing mystery debut explores many timely issues including global warming, female friendships, childhood secrets, and the lengths we take to protect them ― Waiting For The Night Song is an illuminating snapshot of nature, betrayal and sacrifices set in the evocative New Hampshire wilderness.” ―Kim Michele Richardson, award-winning author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
“A killer, gorgeous debut that tackles love, racism and even climate change. Waiting for the Night Song will break your heart, leave you breathless and wanting more.” ―Rachel Barenbaum, bestselling author of A Bend in the Stars
“Dalton weaves the vagaries of friendship, the wonder of the natural world, and the power of truth to create a powerful and unforgettable story.” ―Erica Ferencik, bestselling author of The River at Night and Into the Jungle
“Dalton’s debut is a story of friendship, family, and the consequences of acting out of fear, especially when those actions are performed to protect those we love. The storytelling is made even more vivid by the way the novel practically breathes the woods of New Hampshire.” ―Booklist
“Stirring…a taut novel that builds suspense to the very end.” ―Publishers Weekly