Sunday, July 5, 2020

Julia Spiro

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Julia Spiro lives year-round on Martha’s Vineyard, where she enjoys fishing, clamming, scalloping, and anything on the beach. She also teaches spin classes in Edgartown and considers spinning her second passion. She previously worked in the film industry and lived in Los Angeles. She graduated from Harvard College.

Spiro's new novel is Someone Else’s Secret.

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

In my book, the two main characters are both involved in an unthinkable crime, but in different ways. One of them is directly involved in the crime, the other is a witness to it. Both of them silently carry the weight of this crime for ten long years, until they decide that the truth must be revealed. I wanted the title to touch on the difficulty we often face in speaking up when we know there has been an injustice, and the feeling that we are somehow unable to do so if the truth will impact others negatively or perhaps if we don’t feel like the truth is ours to tell. The idea really sprung from my time working in Hollywood, when I was privy to so many whispers about sexual assault and abuses of power, but, like many of my peers, I didn’t do anything about it. There were lots of other titles I considered, but I knew that the title had to have the word “secret” in it, because the story is also very much about how holding onto a single secret can shape the trajectory of our lives, and even ourselves. Someone Else’s Secret as a title also poses a bit of a mystery, which was another reason I chose it. The reader knows right away that the story is about two young women, so the question becomes: who’s secret is it? And who has the right to tell?

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

My teenage self wouldn’t be surprised at all by my novel. She’d read it and guess that I was the author, no question. Both Lindsey and Georgie are very much me, in different ways. Many of their insecurities are my own. But my teenage self would be shocked that I actually let anyone read it and didn’t just stuff it under my mattress. I wrote many short stories in high school but I kept most of them to myself, aside from the occasional teacher. I think my teenage self would love my novel but would have wanted more sex scenes!

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Usually, I find the beginning harder to write, because I go back and forth with countless drafts deciding which has the strongest hook. The endings generally come more naturally to me once I know my characters and where they’re going. In this case, however, it was the opposite. I had visualized the opening scene early on and I knew what I wanted it to look and feel like. But I struggled to determine how I wanted the story to end, and I wrote several different versions of it. Without giving away too much, I wanted the characters to have justice, but I also wanted the story to be realistic and not tie up in a too-tidy bow. It was a difficult balance.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Everyday life all around me has really had the biggest influence on my writing. I don’t like writing alone at home or in an enclosed office space. I need to write in a café, coffee shop or public library. I put headphones on and listen to classical music, but I silently observe the people around me. I find this crucial to my writing process. At the risk of sounding creepy, whenever I hit a mental block in my writing process, I just cast my gaze around the room and find inspiration wondering about the lives of the people around me – the couple having lunch, the mom with the toddler, the person behind the counter making espressos, the old man eating alone. There’s always an abundance of stories and ideas right in front of me if I just look around. Martha’s Vineyard, where I live and where the story is set, was also a source of inspiration in and of itself. It is a seasonal island that transforms for three months a year from a peaceful community where everyone knows one another into a crowded tourist destination, so the politics and socioeconomic dynamics here are fascinating and layered.
Visit Julia Spiro's website.

The Page 69 Test: Someone Else's Secret.

--Marshal Zeringue