Thursday, July 1, 2021

Julia Buckley

Julia Buckley has loved reading and writing since childhood. She is still a sucker for a great story, and, like any bibliophile, she loves libraries, Scholastic Book Fairs, the smell of ink, pads and pens, typewriters, and books you can't put down. She lives in a Chicago suburb with her husband Jeff; she has two grown sons and a beautiful daughter-in-law.

Buckley's latest novel is Death on the Night of Lost Lizards.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

My intention was that the title be a literal reference to a rare teacup, the handle of which is composed of two entwined serpents that are referred to as the "twin lizard design." In fact, the original title was Death on the Night of Twin Lizards; my editor reminded me that the other two titles in the series are alliterative, and so I altered it to lost lizards. This change still has relevance to the novel, since Hana is a collector and she had long sought this particular piece that had been lost to her years ago. Another important function of the title is to create a slightly whimsical and surreal tone which I like to think the novel possesses, as well. All of the books in the series are rooted in Hungarian folklore.

What's in a name?

It depends on the name. The four main characters, that is, the four women who make up the Horvath family, are Hana, Magdalena, Juliana, and Natalia. These are Hungarian names that I found beautiful. They have the effect of linking the women to their culture (as do the name Erik Wolf, and his sisters Runa and Thyra, to their Norwegian roots). But just as one learns when they name a baby, names can feel rusty at the beginning, as though you've made the wrong choice, because it's such a momentous thing to name a child. It's not quite as daunting to name a character, but they grow into their names in the same way, and now each character is linked to her or his name in a crucial way for me.

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

She would be super impressed that I wrote a novel, for one thing. But it would also make her very happy because she did not grow up around too many other people of Hungarian heritage. My mom and I loved reading cozy mysteries just as much as we loved other genres, and to have stumbled across this in the library--a cozy about a young Hungarian woman--would have been a real treat for her.

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

I love writing beginnings. I have written many of them that never really went anywhere, but they were so much fun to write. I love the freshness, the possibility of beginnings. I tried to start this book with a fairy-tale-like feel: Hana recalls something her grandmother said about snow as she, Hana, watches a beautiful snowfall. Endings are also fun, but because I am a linear writer and have a Dickens-like determination to tidy up loose ends, I often find my endings going on and on. Middles are the hardest for me. Trying to leapfrog from major event to major event with the necessary filler that is still somehow interesting can be a challenge.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I don't have too much information about characters as I start out, but they flesh out quickly as I begin to write. Hana does have things in common with me. Her grandmother routinely calls her Haniska (pronounced Honnishka), and my grandmother called me Juliska (yoolishka) for my whole life. I wanted to share this diminutive, this Hungarian term of affection, with readers. And like Hana's grandmother, mine was an excellent cook, and I was treated to Hungarian staples, and some delicacies whenever I went to her house.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Each story is named after some piece of Hungarian porcelain. There are many renowned porcelain makers in Hungary, and I had been admiring some of the most beautiful of them on eBay--rare pieces by Herend and Zsolnay. The first book is named for a piece by Anna Weatherley, who is a porcelain designer in Budapest. Her stuff is just beautiful, The twin lizards piece was something I found on eBay. Beautiful, but very expensive. I saved up to buy one teacup rather than the whole set, and that was my artistic inspiration. I am a person who is greatly moved by art, so you'll notice artistic inspirations along the way--paintings and tapestries and sculptures--that appear in the books. In Lost Lizards, the Horvath women find an old tapestry of the World Tree, an artistic depiction of the upper, middle and lower worlds. This has its function in the novel, not as a major clue, but as a consistent reminder to Hana that some people make choices that lead them to a place of misery, or that they make those choices because they were already there.
Learn more about the book and author at Julia Buckley's website

My Book, The Movie: Death on the Night of Lost Lizards.

--Marshal Zeringue