Julia Pomeroy is the author of the new mystery The Dark End of Town. Like a good parent, she contacted our library to see how her book was doing. We struck up a conversation.
R: Julia, thanks for agreeing to this email interview. The Dark End of Town is your first book, and it seems to be fairly well received so far. How did you decide to write it? What gave you the idea?
J: My husband and I started and owned a restaurant for about four years. It was hard work, and we worked on alternating nights doing whatever needed to be done: we waited tables, prepared food and did janitorial work. Even so, it was always interesting, what with the dramas among the staff and the eccentricities of the customers. I always felt it would be a great backdrop for a mystery.
R: Have you always wanted to be a writer? Did you write anything as a child?
J: I did, I wrote stories and plays, and illustrated them. But we traveled a lot, and nothing has survived - which is probably a good thing, because I don't think they were very good. I did, however, have a pet monkey when I was about nine, and I made her a dress. I found that recently among some old toys. I knew that's what it was, because anything made for a monkey is a very different shape from a doll's dress. Imagine a very low-waisted garment.
R: Has your training as an actor aided your writing?
J: I think so. For a couple of reasons - the first one is dialogue. I think, as an ex-actor, I'm used to hearing dialogue in my head, seeing if it works, and if it sounds like someone could have actually said it. Also, I notice the way people talk, their voices, their turns of phrase. I also think that as an actor you are constantly trying to find the character's subtext, the unseen
motivations that drive them. And I think writers do the same thing.
R: What do you enjoy reading? Has any author inspired you and given you ideas for your writing?
J: I read a lot of mysteries. I enjoy them, but they are also lazier reading for me. Escapist. I read memoirs once in a while. I loved a book called Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. It's about Africa. I loved it. Even though my childhood in Africa was very different from hers, it made me remember Africa the way most books don't. I also love Rian Malan's My Traitor's Heart, about South Africa. Very interesting. When I have overdosed on light reading, I go Jane Austen, or George Eliot. Still fun to read, but perfectly written and brilliant. They fire me up again.
R: You lived in many places abroad as a child. Were you always able to get books? Did you have libraries? Did you learn other languages and read books in those languages?
J: I lived in Libya and Somalia. Mogadishu, in fact. There were no English speaking libraries, though everyone had plenty of books and shared them. In both countries I was sent to Italian Missionary schools, because my parents felt that my brother and I should not just go to the American Embassy schools, but someplace where we could learn a second language. Both the countries were ex-Italian colonies, so Italian was widely spoken. I learned how to read in
Italian, then taught myself to read in English. I know it sounds very clever, but it really wasn't. Italian is phonetic so it was quite easy to read another language that I already spoke.
R: Have you been on a promotional tour for your book? Have you given any presentations at libraries?
J: I have been told, and I think it's probably very true, that unless your publisher is doing a huge promo for your book, you can't go on a book tour early on in your career. No one will come and it's very expensive. I've had a wonderful signing in my hometown of Chatham, NY, but otherwise I have gone to interested bookstores in New York City and the area, signed stock and met the bookstore owners or managers.
I haven't given any programs at libraries, mainly because I wouldn't know what to suggest. Do you have any ideas?
R: I bet libraries in your area would enjoy having an author just talk about her book and how to get a book published.
Back to your writing. Are you writing a sequel to The Dark End of Town?
J: Yes, I am writing a sequel. It doesn't have a title yet, but I signed a two book deal with Carroll and Graf, and the next one is due on September 1st, and if that all goes according to plan, the pub date will be next Spring. Time is telescoping, let me tell you. But it's fun - and a challenge. I love working with the same characters and moving them along, allowing them to progress. They feel very real to me. I have some new characters I am getting attached to. At
least one is going to have to die, I'm sorry to say.
R: Your childhood sounds pretty unusual. Have you ever thought about a personal memoir?
J: I kick it around sometimes, but I'm not sure what it would be about. So many memoirs have, at their root, a very painful set of circumstances, or an extraordinary event. My childhood and growing up was exotic in many ways, but in others very normal. I had a loving family, etc. My father was a pretty extraordinary guy, and sometimes I think the story is there. By the way, my mother wrote a book called The Great Sahara Mousehunt, long out of print. It's the account of a trip they took in the Sahara desert when my brother and I were kids. We, of course, were left behind in Benghazi. But they went down to the Chad and the Tibesti mountains in a convoy of Land Rovers with a scientist from the Smithsonian, various members of the British army and Winston Churchill's son and his grandson! So yes, maybe one day I'll just start writing and see where it takes me. A book I loved growing up was one called My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, Lawrence's brother. That family reminded me of mine.
R: Thanks, Julia. Good luck with your book.
More information about Julia Pomeroy and her mystery may be found at her website
Pomeroy, Julia. The Dark End of Town. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2006. ISBN: