Abby Bardi is the author of the novels The Book of Fred, The Secret Letters, and Double Take. Her short fiction has appeared in Quarterly West, Rosebud, Monkeybicycle, and in the anthologies High Infidelity, Grace and Gravity, and Reader, I Murdered Him, and her short story “Abu the Water Carrier” was the winner of The Bellingham Review’s 2016 Tobias Wolff award for fiction. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Maryland and teaches writing and literature in the Washington, DC, area. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, the oldest railroad depot in America.
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Thanks for this interview, Abby Bardi. Can we begin by having you tell us about yourself from a writer’s standpoint?
Thanks for having me! I love talking about writing, which is my passion and addiction. Most of my life is about writing: I teach writing, and I write every day, even if it’s only in my journal. And sometimes my writing gets published. Double Take (HarperCollins Impulse) is my third novel; my previous novels are The Book of Fred (Washington Square Press) and The Secret Letters (also HarperCollins Impulse). I’ve also published short fiction in some journals and in a few anthologies.
When not writing, what do you like to do for relaxation and/or fun?
When I’m not writing, I’m probably dancing or walking my dog. Sometimes both at once.
Congratulations on your new book! Can you give us the very first page of your book so that we can get a glimpse inside? (Just the first page please)
I recognized his voice from across the room. When I handed him a menu, he looked up absent-mindedly and went on talking to some guys, then did a double take.
“Cookie?” he said.
I tried on the name like an old article of clothing to see if it still fit. It felt like a suede fringed jacket. “Yep,” I said.
“Wow. You look so different.”
“I cut my hair.”
“I’m older,” I said.
“You look exactly the same,” I said. He was wearing a beat-up leather jacket over a green T-shirt, maybe the same jacket and T-shirt he had always worn. His thick black hair was shorter now and curly, skin still tan from summer, small mouth with perfect teeth. He still looked tough and handsome, but in a creepy way, like someone you couldn’t trust.
“Cookie, what the hell are you doing here?”
“I work here. I’d rather you didn’t call me that. My name is Rachel.”
“I thought your name was Cookie.”
“Nope. Do people still call you Rat?”
He laughed. “Nowadays I go by Joey.”
“Okay, Joey,” I said, since this was nowadays.
“Miss?” a voice called from a nearby table. The voice brought me back to where I was standing, in Diana’s Grotto, a Greek diner on 57th Street, with ten tables full of customers. For a moment, I had thought I was in Casa Sanchez.
Would you say it’s been a rocky road for you in regards to getting your book written and published or pretty much smooth sailing? Can you tell us about your journey?
This book had a very long and often tortured journey. I first jotted down notes for it in the year it takes place, 1975, then put it away and forgot about it. Then every so often over the years I would pick it up and write a little. I’ve worked on it off and on for literally decades while I went on to other projects. Then recently I went back and finally finished it.
If you had to summarize your book in one sentence, what would that be?
When Rachel, an arty waitress with no career or life skills, graduates from college in 1975, she is forced to confront her shady past in the Sixties to understand the death of one of her best friends.
What makes your book stand out from the rest?
I think few people writing today about young people in the Sixties and Seventies actually lived through that time. They say that if you can remember the Sixties, you weren’t really there, but I do and I was.
If your book was put in the holiday section of the store, what holiday would that be and why?
It would probably be a combination of Christmas and Hanukah because Rachel is half-Jewish and half-Catholic—with maybe a little Winter Solstice thrown in because while the book is very dark at times, there is always a promise of returning light.
Would you consider turning your book into a series or has that already been done?
Not exactly, but in my latest novel, which is almost finished, I’ve returned to the Chicago setting of Double Take, as it is in the past (1893) and the future (because: time travel).
What’s next for you?
I think I’m going to go have a sandwich. Oh, you mean the writing! I’m editing the time-travel novel and hoping it doesn’t take me as long to finish it as Double Take did.