Suspense Novel About Love, Racism And Climate Change In New Hampshire

Jul 22, 2021

Our summer fiction series continues now with a suspenseful eco-fiction story called "Waiting for the Night Song." It's the debut novel from author Julie Carrick Dalton, who spends part of the year in New Hampshire and part in eastern Massachusetts.

Previously, Dalton wrote for The Boston Globe, BusinessWeek and others.

Julie Carrick Dalton, author: It took me 13 years to write the book, so it wasn't one moment that I pivoted. I started writing the book based on this idea I had when I was picking blueberries with my own kids in a canoe on a lake in New Hampshire. And this image of kids stealing blueberries from the water just got in my head and a story just kind of emerged from it.

It ended up being a story about young kids who covered up a crime that came back to haunt them later in life. And when my character returned to her hometown, home is a lot different.

I own and operate a small farm in rural New Hampshire, and we've had a lot of effects of climate change already, and my growing season has expanded by about 22 days here, over the past century. So, that all worked into my novel, because I was building the farm and writing the book at the same time, so this kind of merged.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: How important was it to include a significant number of non-Caucasian central characters, set in rural New Hampshire, where one doesn't necessarily think of that?

Yeah, so that's a great question, because when I started writing the book, I didn't have any preconceived ideas where the book was going. I started writing about these two little girls, and the story just started evolving.

The cover of novelist Julie Carrick Dalton's book.
Credit Submitted Photo

And when the climate change element came into the story, I couldn't ignore it because I felt like it was so in front of my face. And I really feel like in the United States, in particular, we have this – kind of this myopic world view that climate change is something that's coming or it's looming. But in reality, the climate crisis is already here for so many people. In most cases, it's Black, brown, indigenous communities and other marginalized communities that are feeling it first and worst.

So I took a step back and was looking at this community I was writing about. It's a fictional town in New Hampshire. But I looked at where I am in New Hampshire, and the growing region where my farm is, and I was sort of thinking about all the populations that are affected by climate change. And I felt like it would be a disingenuous, and not a full story, to not include a lot of voices and a lot of perspectives in the story.

And I also think that the fact that it is in New Hampshire makes it compelling, because nobody thinks of climate change as a big problem in New Hampshire and nobody is running around screaming, "Disaster in New Hampshire!" But yet, it is affecting us in these slow-burning, quiet ways. And people we don't always think of are maybe are feeling the effects first and worst. So to me, it wasn't a decision that I felt like I needed to include them. They just were part of the story and I felt like I couldn't tell the story without them.

I was wondering if you could read a passage from page 31?

Moths pollinating night blossoms ruffled among the low-hanging branches near the boulder rising up next to the beech tree. Moonlight sifted down through the sparse clouds casting marbled, shifting shadows on the ground. The dusky silhouette of the beech tree startled Cadie, squashing the hope that her memory had invented the whole story.

As an entomologist, Cadie would notice the moths. But clearly you as the author did, too! How did you come to include moths in a description of a night scene?

Yeah, I like looking for the unusual and I don't think we think about the insects that are at work at night. We think of them out in the daytime or if we think about them at night, we think about mosquitoes or something that's being irritating.

But the insects are doing so much work, all day and all night, and we don't see them and we don't think about them and they're so important in an ecosystem. So I really like to notice the details in our natural world that I think other people don't always see.

Check out more of NEPM’s summer fiction series here.