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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MENDHAM, New Jersey – Acclaimed poet and dancer Julie Maloney is pursuing her latest creative feat in her debut novel — the psychological thriller, “A Matter of Chance.”
Releasing on April 10, 2018, by She Writes Press, “A Matter of Chance” tells the story of an 8-year-old girl’s disappearance from a New Jersey shore town and her mother’s relentless search for her child, even in the face of life-threatening danger. Research for Maloney’s novel took her to Germany where she visited the Kathe Kollwitz Museum, curator of the largest collection of work by this most revered artist – the muse for Maloney’s novel. She also had several interviews with a former undercover DEA agent from Brooklyn, New York, who answered questions on the topic of underworld crime.
“I loved doing the research for this novel,” Maloney says. “The more I learned, the more passionate I felt about telling this story.”
While writing her book, Maloney drew on methods from the sold out international writing retreats she has hosted for the past 15 years with Women Reading Aloud. Her nonprofit organization supports and promotes women writers all over the world.
“A Matter of Chance” is brimming with suspense and heart-stopping twists that will consume the minds of readers to the very last page.
JULIE MALONEY is the founder/director of Women Reading Aloud, a non-profit organization devoted to promoting women writers. She is a trained workshop leader in the Amherst Writers and Artists Method and holds an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is a former dancer, choreographer and artistic director of the Julie Maloney Dance Company in New York City. Her book of poems, “Private Landscape,” was published by Arseya Press. Her poems have appeared in many journals, such as Tiferet, WomenKin, Paterson Literary Review and others. She is a frequent speaker on “Writing as a Life Tool.” As director of Women Reading Aloud, she leads writing workshops throughout the year. Maloney will return to the island of Alonnisos in September 2018 to lead her eighth international writer’s retreat in Greece. In 2017, she led her second writer’s retreat in the south of France. Her debut novel, “A Matter of Chance,” will be published by She Writes Press in April 2018.
About the Book:
“A Matter of Chance”
Julie Maloney | April 10, 2018 | She Writes Press
Print ISBN: 978-63152-369-4 | $16.95
E-Book ISBN: 978-1-63152-370-01 | $9.95
Psychological Suspense/Women’s Fiction
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”
An Interview with Julie Maloney
What led you to lead a creative life as a dancer, teacher and writer? And how do those creative paths intersect?
I studied modern dance as a child and from there I made the decision to be a professional dancer when I grew up. I followed that dream by studying with masters in the dance world like Charles Weidman, Alvin Ailey, Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis. Dancing made me feel free! That same quest for freedom connected me once again to the love I always had for reading and writing. My early years laid the foundation for my love for the arts. My work as a dancer/choreographer and artistic director of my own dance company, as well as college professor, intersected well—each strengthened my work, even though each is a form unto itself. All flowed into one another organically.
How do you balance your creative paths as a dancer and writer? Do you wait for inspiration to strike? Do they co-exist in your life at the same time?
By the time I stopped dancing professionally, I had a husband and three young children. Initially, I struggled with leaving the dance world. My body missed the endorphins. Soon, I realized that I had to pay attention to what my body needed—consistent exercise. I began by walking and learning how to breathe deeply. It was not an easy transition. I did a lot of soul-searching—asking myself what I needed. The more questions I asked, the more I moved to the page to search out the responses. Around this time, I discovered yoga. It gave me that same sense of freedom by moving in space and stretching my muscles. As my body yearned for movement, my writing yearned for a voice that I continue to explore daily by moving to the page. Inspiration strikes at varied times, but a writer cannot wait for inspiration. This is a rather dismal thought… the idea of waiting, always is… I sit down and let my mind slip into that space where I find freedom! If I were not to show up and do the work, inspiration might never visit.
How similar/dissimilar is the life of a dancer compared to the life of a writer? How do you turn writing into a “practice,” like one would have a dance practice?
I love this question! Practice is key. Before I sat down to respond to this question, I was ‘practicing’ yoga on my mat. I stretched and tapped into my breath and regained a sense of energy and calm. A writer needs stamina, just as a dancer does. Working through plot and character development, discovering the arc in the storyline—all of this requires devotion to the unraveling of the truth in the themes the story tells. I am also a poet and this form, too, excites me. Lyricism and timing might be more noticeable in the poetic form, but a writer of any genre must pay attention to the same elements. My body’s needs are different as a writer. I work at a standing desk as I found that sitting became detrimental to my physical health. A dancer has a timeline. A writer does not. She can create until her last breath. Creating a writing practice takes discipline—just as does landing a perfect leap on the stage. You have to put in the time.
You have already penned a book of poetry – what made you want to write a book of fiction? Did your writing approach change?
When I am in a tough spot writing fiction, I read poetry. I’m often writing poetry in my head. Lines circle round and round until I have to reach for a pen and paper. I write poetry in longhand, but most of the time, I write fiction on the computer. For my debut novel, “A Matter of Chance,” I often wrote at the New York City Public Library – the main branch on Fifth Avenue. Here, I started out by writing on paper, but then I quickly turned to a small tablet. Writing fiction started out as a personal challenge. Then, of course, I went deeper and the characters took hold of me until I simply had to listen. For me, there’s no turning back from writing fiction, but I still write and give poetry readings. It takes longer for me to discover the plot twists and turns in prose; poetry is a bit kinder.
What motivated you to create an international organization for women writers, Women Reading Aloud?
Ahh…now you have touched on another passion of mine—bringing women writers together and giving them a safe and supportive community to grow as artists. I am a fervent believer in the talents all of us possess. I call them “gifts.” What haunted me was that I saw few places where women’s voices were being honored, honed, and encouraged to soar. I have a quote I use that came to me one day when I was teaching a workshop: “Begin with a whisper, eventually you will find your roar.” This captures exactly why I believe in WRA (Women Reading Aloud). Over the past 15 years, I have taught thousands of women writers throughout the USA, Canada, Germany, Portugal, Greece, London and even Australia. Several have gone on to publish and give readings; others continue to write to discover what they didn’t know they knew. Writing is a life tool. It is not just for those who wish to publish.
You set scenes of your book at iconic natural landmarks––both the New Jersey shoreline and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. What about these places inspired you to include them in your book’s plot?
I am drawn to water and to gardens. I am a member of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Going there is something I love to do. I don’t follow a map. I just walk and look and stop and shoot pictures. I love photography. What I see through the lens is what I write about. A good picture has three points the photographer should hit in the frame. I look for those, just as I look for the right descriptions in a scene so the reader can imagine herself/himself there, inside the page, behind the words. My parents retired to a home near the ocean and for years, I visited there as often as I could—first as a newlywed, then with my children. I live about 75 minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. My dream is to live closer, but even this is not an obstacle. In my novel, I wrote about what I knew but also what I didn’t know…I think good writing is a mixture of both. I based one of the major towns in “A Matter of Chance” on the town by the ocean where I was married. My love for flowers and gardens, even though I am not a true gardener, is real. When my children were young, I used to tell them, “When you grow up, don’t ever wonder what to give me…make it flowers.” I’m happy to say that they’re following my wishes!”
What is the most shocking piece of information you received while interviewing an undercover DEA for this novel?
I learned how easy it is to commit a serious crime and get away with it. When I first heard about this particular undercover agent—he was recently retired and was studying acting—I thought I would meet him at a NYC coffee shop, but then it occurred to me that if anyone overheard us, they might think I was planning a kidnapping! So we met in a friend’s apartment in the East Village in NYC. I spoke with him at length, more than once. I knew nothing about how to secure fake papers to leave the country. “A package,” they call it.
Why did you think traveling to Germany was important for your book?
I felt pulled to Germany. I had been there when I was a college student traveling and studying abroad. “The Diary of Ann Frank” is one of my favorite books. I can still remember reading the last page, sitting on the floor in the living room and crying. Traveling to Germany taught me that I had to immerse myself—not just read about the subject–but taste it until I knew what I was experiencing firsthand. Not every subject, of course, can be dealt with in this way. I remember swimming in the Forggensee with the Alps behind me as a storm gathered over the water. I needed to be there to experience this to give this back to the reader. I feel the same way with the next novel I am working on that is a continuation from “A Matter of Chance.” I want the experience or at least some part of it. Then I can unleash my imagination.
When did you first discover the artist Kathe Kollwitz, and what about her work spoke to you?
When I came upon Kathe Kollwitz’s work at the Morgan Library, I exhaled. I stood in front of that image for the longest time, knowing that I had discovered my muse for “A Matter of Chance.” Of course, I looked on the internet to learn more, but I knew in my heart, I had to go and see Kollwitz’s work in the museum dedicated solely to her art. There are actually two museums dedicated to Kollwitz—one in Cologne and one in Berlin. I went to Cologne. I will never forget walking down the street and seeing the sign announcing that I was approaching the museum. Going there in person was not just “important” for the book—it was necessary for me as a woman.
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