Monday, August 6, 2018

Author Spotlight: How We Learned to Lie by Meredith Miller + Interview

Posted by HelloJennyReviews at 9:00 AM

I grew up in the suburbs of Long Island, in New York. I've lived all over America but these days I live and teach in England. I'm a published academic now writing fiction (and still a lot of critical stuff). I like to write novels featuring hard-boiled women. I also love language, sometimes to distraction.

For a full bio and other information on Meredith Miller please check out her website here.

Title: How We Learned to Lie
Genre: YA Fiction
Author: Meredith Miller
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication: July 31st 2018
Cover Rating: 4/5

You know how someone will say something is strange but in a good way? That is exactly what I think when I am reading books by Meredith Miller. Strange but definitely in a good way that makes you want to know more. How We Learned to Lie is one of those books with whimsy, tons of allure and a heavy focus on character development.

The story begins with blood and ends with blood. Joan and Daisy are best friends. They have been ever since that fateful day when Daisy found Joan in the river. He thought she was dead but she was just testing the limits of holding one's breath. Joan has a mother who would rather run a theatre than be at home with her kids and Daisy has a mother who is pretty much DOA. His father is in jail while Joan's father is actually in her life. Many things about their lives bond them together... but one thing tears them apart and sends their worlds spinning out of control. Daisy's brother, Robbie, showing up at Joan's doorstep with blood all over his hands. Daisy and Joan need each other now, more than ever, but too many things are wrenching them apart.

The author gave us the point of view of the same events from both Daisy and Joan. I enjoyed seeing the same thing from both perspectives. When we were with Joan, we really didn't get to know Daisy very well because he was quiet, kept to himself and was always tinkering with something. I thought Joan would understand Daisy's tinkerings because of how she felt about science and cutting things open but she always seemed to try and push him further than she should have. I actually liked Daisy's perspective a bit better. It seemed a bit more real and a whole lot sadder. I could definitely see how they drifted apart. Doesn't make it any less heartbreaking, though.

Aside from the character development, the book also had a mystery-ish plot. There were violent acts, murders, and drugs being sold/taken. All of this happening doesn't sound so strange but considering the size of the town and the fact that the book took place in the early 1980's, it was definitely concerning. And the person who MIGHT be doing these things? Even more concerning, especially for Daisy and Joan.

In the end, I loved how this book, though not connected, took place in the same town as the author's previous book, Little Wrecks. It felt nice to read the name Highbone and actually recognize it. I always enjoy when authors give us readers those little tidbits to hold on to.

Overall, I gave the book 4/5 stars.

1) Did you always want to be an author? 
Yes!  I wrote my first poem at four years old.  Actually, I couldn't write then so I dictated it to my sister Peggy and she wrote it down for me.  I folded it up and put it safely in a little toy mailbox I had.  My parents were away at a conference and when they got home they acted very impressed.  I think that positive reinforcement early on set me on the road!  When I was twelve I mapped out my first novel, but I didn't finish one until I was nearly 40.  In between I was a performance poet and an academic, so I've always been writing. 

2) Are you currently working on any new books?
I have finished a dark, historical revenge tragedy set in the early twentieth century in the far north of New England. It's about a girl named Jeanne Delaney who commits a terrible crime in order to save someone she loves from something even worse. 

Currently, I'm working on a small town gothic called Fall River.  It's about a town under two big bridges and the river that runs through it. People disappear into the river.  Finding out why also means uncovering the troubling underside of the life of the town

3) What was your inspiration for How We Learned to Lie?
When I began How We Learned to Lie, I knew the story I wanted to tell, but I didn’t yet know Joan and Daisy.  Any fiction writer will tell you that building characters is a strange process.  You write and write through a lot of frustration until one day a character comes alive and says, “No, I wouldn’t do that.” or “Actually, I would say this.”  Once Joan and Daisy popped off the page, they did things that made me laugh and cry.  I fell in love with everything strong and curious and intelligent about them, but also with Joan’s prickliness and Daisy’s annoying passivity.  Mostly, I fell in love with their difficult love for each other. 

4) If you had to pitch How We Learned to Lie to a potential reader what would you tell them?
This is a story about love and letting go.  This novel is dedicated to those friends who shaped all of us, to those people we have all loved and let go of, when the world got in the way. 

5) Do you read YA books? If so, what is your favorite one?
I recently read Laura Ruby's Bone Gap and it made me very jealous!  I wish I'd written it!  If you haven't read it, I'd highly recommend. I love southern gothic novels by Truman Capote (Other Voices, Other Rooms), Richard Wright (I'm thinking of Black Boy which is actually a memoir) and Carson McCullers (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and others).  These books all have child protagonists.  I think if they were published now they'd be sold as YA, but that might change them, too.  Mostly, I read a lot of stuff that was published before 1900!  If you are a person who loves reading and wants to stretch yourself, try anything by Frances Burney.  All of her books feature teenage heroines and they're all so good! 


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