Character interview with Julie Barlow,
the narrator of Abby Bardi’s The Secret Letters
Welcome!! It's a special treat getting to chat a bit with you. Thanks for stopping by!
Tell us about your family.
If you had asked me this question a year ago, I would have told you my family was completely under the thumb of my mom: she was big and loud, full of opinions, and wanted to run everyone’s life. But now she’s gone, and we have to figure out who we are, not just who she wanted us to be. At least, I do. My siblings seem to be handling it better than I am—well, except Ricky, who’s a mess, but he was a mess before that. My sister Pam is dealing with it. Norma is—well, she’s Norma. Tim is an asshole and went back to California after the funeral as soon as he could. And my twin brother Donny has been dead for twenty years, so there you go.
What was the scariest moment of your life?
That was the scariest moment of my life: when I realized my mom’s death had left a big hole in my life and she wasn’t going to be there yelling at me any more.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a child, I wanted to grow up to be my sister Pam. She was pretty, popular, cool, and also, surprisingly nice and level-headed, considering that she could have been a real bitch to me, being older and smarter. Oh, you meant as a career? I guess I never really thought about it. Most jobs seem to me like they’d be really boring, like you’d just have to do the same thing over and over until you wanted to blow your brains out. But cooking is never like that—that’s how I became a chef, because it just never got old, that magical feeling of making amazing meals out of nothing.
What is your favorite meal?
I like so many different kinds of foods, I really can’t pick a single kind, let alone a single meal. But I can tell you what I don’t like: a bunch of pretentious crap, like my boss Hector always makes. He thinks if you put raspberry sauce on something you’re some kind of gourmet, but he could not be more wrong. I guess maybe my favorite kind of meal would be where you have 150 different small plates with wine pairings and the server keeps bringing them out forever.
Who should play you in a film?
I’d like to tell you it would be someone tall, beautiful, and thin, but the truth is, I’m somewhere in the Rosie O’Donnell range, but younger.
Tell us about your favorite restaurant.
My favorite restaurant is the one that exists in my mind, where I make beautiful food all day long, like an artist.
What makes you happy?
Cooking for other people. Making their lives a little better with food. I know, you shouldn’t use food for comfort—my mom always told me that was why I was a little porker, because food was my best friend, but hey, what could be a better friend than food, when you get right down to it? Food won’t let you down, talk smack about you behind your back, or leave you for another woman. Food will always be there for you.
Is there a piece of advice that you have received that has really stuck with you? If so, what was it?
Well, it’s pretty disgusting, but my mom used to say, don’t shit where you eat, and to be honest, it’s the only good advice she ever gave me.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Secret Letters
by Abby Bardi
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?
I was crossing Main Street one day on my way to work when I heard Pam’s ringtone on my cellphone, some rap song she’d downloaded for me. In addition to being smarter and better-looking than me, she was a whole lot cooler. A fat old guy on a Harley screamed at me for getting in his way, and I screamed back that he should go fuck himself, though since he was on a Harley, he couldn’t hear anything but his own pistons. Back in the day, my twin brother Donny and I had often buzzed through town like that on his brand new Triumph.
We thought we would live forever. And maybe he would have if he hadn’t ridden out alone on a rainy day, if he hadn’t skidded on the Beltway, if the truck had seen him. I tried not to think about it, but it was always with me. He was my twin, and ever since he died, part of me felt as if it was missing, like an arm or a leg, but invisible. When he first died, people told me to try talking to him like he was still there, and I did that for a while, but he didn’t seem to respond in any way and wherever he was now, he definitely wasn’t saying anything. I’d say I was glad my mother was with him now except that I don’t believe in stuff like that. They were both just gone.
For a few weeks after my mother’s funeral, people kept stopping by the house with sloppy tuna casseroles and stale cakes, but then they went back to their lives. I kept trying to go back to my life, too. Six days a week, I worked lunch or dinner or both, slept, then got up and did it again. It wasn’t like I was in the habit of seeing my mother every day, or even phoning her more than two or three times a week, so in a weird way, most of the time everything seemed the same. But on my day off when I would normally have stopped by the house for dinner, I was at loose ends. I’d go into the Wild Hare and sit at the bar, even though I wasn’t working, and maybe I got a little too hammered a few times, and Milo, my boss, had to walk me home, though lucky for him I lived just across the street.
“I’m late to work,” I said to Pam. “What’s up?”
“I have to show you something. Come over here when you get off.”
“That’s after midnight.”
“Just do it.”
“Where am I going?” I asked, though I had no intention of doing what she wanted.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Abby Bardi is the author of THE BOOK OF FRED. 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.
Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Letters-Abby-Bardi-ebook/dp/B00VPOCZ2G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1438116811&sr=8-1&keywords=abby+bardi
Abby will be awarding an eCopy of The Secret Letters to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour, and choice of 5 digital books from the Impulse line to a randomly drawn host.
a Rafflecopter giveaway