Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Matter of Chance—An Interview with Novelist, Julie Maloney

Women Reading Aloud, Julie Maloney
The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt

Women Reading Aloud founder Julie Maloney tackles fiction after a lifetime dedicated to the arts  

Debut novel portrays a distraught mother’s search for her missing child.

When eight-year-old Vinni Stewart disappears from a Jersey shore town, Maddy, her distraught single mother, begins a desperate search for her daughter. Maddy’s five-year journey leads her to a bakery in Brooklyn, where she stumbles upon something terrifying. Ultimately, her artist neighbor Evelyn reconnects Maddy to her passion for painting and guides her to a life transformed through art. 

Detective John D’Orfini sees more than a kidnapping in the plot-thickening twists of chance surrounding Vinni’s disappearance, but his warnings to stay away from the investigation do not deter Maddy, even when her search puts her in danger. When the Russian Mafia warns her to stop sniffing into their business, Maddy must make a choice whether to save one child―even if it might jeopardize saving her own. 

“Beautiful and sensitive…effortlessly readable” ~ Christina Baker Kline, author of the New York Times best-selling “Orphan Train”

This novel is one I'm thrilled to share with you. You're going to want this book on the top of your TBR pile. Over the last few years I've had the pleasure of hearing Julie Maloney's writing and it is beautiful. 

If you read my blog you probably can't escape my love affair with Greece and the annual writing workshop I attend there. Julie Maloney is an author and the genius behind Women Reading Aloud, and she was kind enough to answer my questions.  

Julie, over the years I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying your writing. I’m looking forward to this book. What is the main thing you hope readers take away from this story? 

Julie Maloney, Novelist, Orphan Train, Writing Retreat, Greece
Julie Maloney, Writer
Life isn’t neat. In my debut novel, “A Matter of Chance,” (She Writes Press), the protagonist, Maddy Stewart, continues even when her life has been traumatized by the disappearance of her young daughter. I want the reader to see how things are rarely, if ever, “black and white.” I want the reader to realize how compassion necessitates forgiveness.

 What inspired you to write this book?

As a former dancer/choregrapher and artistic director of my own modern dance company in NYC, I had a home life with three young children and a husband. Balancing all of that was near to impossible…and yet what happens to a woman who cannot give any of it up? Who refuses to accept that a choice must be made? I selected from my experiences, even though it is fiction. Stephen King says: “In fiction lies the truth.” I agree wholeheartedly.  I wanted to write a story about a complex woman—aren’t we all—who had to face who she was amid heartbreak and devastation. The publishing industry wanted a “kidnapping” story, but I wrote about the woman/mother left behind…it is Maddy Stewart’s story. My question is: What happens to those left behind? How do they cope? What do they discover about themselves? 

What would surprise the reader to know about the research you did for this book? 

I traveled to Germany to see the work by Germany’s most renown artist—Kaethe Kollwitz. There are two museums dedicated solely to Kollwitz’s work—one in Cologne and one in Berlin. I traveled to Cologne. It was an emotional experience to walk in and see a life-size portrait of the artist right inside the front door. Initially, I discovered Kollwitz at a chance visit to the Morgan Library in New York City. Immediately, I was enchanted. I knew she was my muse for “A Matter of Chance.” Her images honor the downtrodden and the poor. I also drove through Bavaria and took in the landscape. I had to find the ending to my story and I did. Also, I worked with an undercover DEA agent in New York. Retired, he was willing to speak with me over several conversations about crime—and how easy it is to get away with it.

I love to read. I know you do too. What are some of your favorite books/authors. Are any of them in any way similar to this book? 

This is a hard question to answer. I love to read. I grew up around the corner from the local branch library. It was my greatest childhood joy to go to the library. I am a huge fan of Joyce Carol Oates and Elizabeth Strout. I have read Strout’s “Olive Kitteridge” five times. I also love “Stoner” by John Williams. Then there is the wonderful literary mystery writer, Kate Atkinson. And how can a writer not mention the masterful Stephen King! It’s all about storytelling and he is the king of it. I have just finished reading “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee and loved it. I have read “The Great Gatsby” many times. My childhood favorite is “The Diary of Anne Frank.” I love Anne Enright, too. Of course, the poets! I cannot forget the poets who inspire me, as I have written and published many poems. I love Robert Frost and Linda Pastan, Audre Lord, Gerald Stern, Jane Hirshfield, Edward Hirsch, Ellen Bass…so many poets I love. Their words slip inside me when I need something wonderful to fill me.

As if hosting workshops all over the world and writing novels isn’t enough, what’s next, Julie? 

I have written the second novel—a sequel—to “A Matter of Chance.” It needs editing galore and I must find time to do this. I wanted to give a secondary character from my debut novel her own story…and now she has it. I have to refine it. The working title for this one is: "THE LIGHTBOX.” It is written in the voice of Tuba Schwimmer and her daughter, Gitta. Tuba is from “A Matter of Chance.” 

Also, I would like to put more of my poems into another chapbook. I enjoy giving poetry readings but I’m showing up to readings with lots of loose papers and they need to be collected between two covers. But . . . and this is something I’ve realized lately: I want to speak more to the world . . . to audiences of all sizes . . . to women in their living rooms and to men and women in lecture halls . . . to tell them to live with passion. I want to remind the world that time does not stand still. I want to hold the hand of someone who questions herself and say to her, “You are beautiful. You have a voice. Use it. Discover your inner language. Write down your words. Now sing."

You radiate serenity and encouragement at your workshops, and inspire your women writers to do the same. It’s a beautiful thing when we support each other. Is there any chance you’ll someday put that magic into a book on writing? 

Thank you for asking this question. I am seriously thinking about this…although the premise is so simple: Practice Kindness. I could offer so many instances of how far a simple act of kindness has gone to encourage a woman writer to go deep and let her voice soar. Once, during a retreat in Greece, a writer was having a very emotional experience as she read her work. She was sitting next to me. Although I always instruct everyone to allow the voice and the writer space…I felt this writer needed an extra “touch.” So I simply linked my arm inside hers as she read. I did not say one word. She continued reading to the end. Had she stopped reading, she—as well as the listeners—we, the readers, would have missed out on something glorious. Tone matters. We hear about this on the page all the time…but what about how we speak to one another? I like to remind participants to speak from their lower belly. Often, at the beginning of a retreat, I’ll hear a writer speak high from inside her throat, but as the days progress, with encouragement, she’ll begin to drop her voice into a more authentic range. As her work goes deep, so does the pitch of her voice and her TONE relaxes and resonates.

Women Reading Aloud, Greece
It's interesting how positive reinforcement and encouragement can bring out the best in us. The very first year I went to Women Reading Aloud in Alonissos I remember telling Julie ahead of time that I might decide to stay in my room and write some days. I didn't see how the premise for the workshop—writing and reading it aloud, would teach me enough to justify spending the entire day at it. I thought I'd probably want to spend half that time writing alone. 

Julie in her infinite wisdom simply said, that would be fine but I encourage you to come to the workshop and try it first. So I did. After that I never missed a session and attended every extra evening class she generously offered. 

Each year I find I discover something new, deeper, and unexpected in my writing thanks to this workshop. This amazing woman and writer helped me find my authentic voice, and I can tell you that you're going to love the sound of hers.


  1. As always, your writing is brilliant.And does Julie Maloney justice

  2. Thank you Lucie Muses,
    This is the book I’ve been looking forward to this year.

  3. Happy tears here. That interview brought Alonissos right back to my heart.
    ...can't wait to read this while hearing Julie's voice in my head.