Thursday, August 2, 2018

Welcome to the FFBC: How We Learned to Lie by Meredith Miller Interview & Giveaway

How We Learned to Lie

by Meredith Milller
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: July 31, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
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A voice-driven and explosive novel about friendship, love, and letting go, from the author of Little Wrecks

Violence in the small, suburban town of Highbone, Long Island, is escalating, and best friends Joan and Daisy are finding themselves in the center of it.

Joan has always been fascinated by the inner workings of living things: dogfish, eels, stingrays. But the more she sees of life outside her microscope, the more she realizes that people aren’t as easy to read as cells on a slide, and no one, not even Daisy, tells the truth.

Daisy’s always wished he had a family more like Joan’s, and that desire has only grown since his dad went to jail. But not even Joan can help Daisy keep his deadbeat older brother from putting everyone close to them in more danger.

When tragedy strikes too close to home, Joan and Daisy need each other more than ever. But no matter how hard they try, their secrets and lies have driven them apart. It’s only a matter of time before their friendship, just like their town, goes up in flames.

Sharp-edged and voice-driven, Meredith Miller’s How We Learned to Lie is a keenly observed story about friendship, violence, and life in a town on the brink.

Hi Meredith!!  We are so excited to have you in our tours and to chat with you about HOW WE LEARNED TO LIE!!


Favorite Book?

First of all, hello and thank you for having me!
I am one of those people who can’t even choose a favorite color!  Colors are all amazing.  There are different ones for different moods and feelings.  I’m the same with books and films and poems, so can I just pick, say, three favorite books?  I’d go with George Eliot, Daniel Deronda; Toni Morrison, Jazz and Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms.  See already I’m thinking, ‘but what about Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady?  What about Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things?  Ask me tomorrow and I’m sure to give a different answer.

Favorite TV show?

Phew, an easy one! Buffy, Buffy, Buffy
At the moment though, I am watching a really great Korean drama series called Mr. Sunshine. Amazing cinematography and great story-telling!

Favorite movie?

Well, I’ve watched The Big Lebowski about a million times and it never gets old.  (Which sort of reminds me I should have had some Raymond Chandler in among my favorite books. See what I mean? How can anyone pick ONE favorite book?)  I loved Courtney Hunt’s film Frozen River and I know it’s controversial but I loved Tarantino’s The Hateful 8.  To me what he’s doing there is exposing the whole genre of the Hollywood western as a romanticization of America’s horrible racist history.  I’m not even a big Tarantino fan, but I think that is one of the best screenplays ever written.  I can see, though, that he absolutely should have thought more about the hateful language his characters use, even if he was trying to expose that.  That was probably a job for someone else.   

Favorite Song?

I’m afraid this will have to be another list:  My fantasy Desert Island Discs playlist might be something like this: 
Jimi Hendrix, ‘May This Be Love’;  Bob Dylan, ‘It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry’ (both of which are on the Little Wrecks playlist on Spotify); CornerShop, ‘Sleep on the Left Side’; The Slits, ‘Typical Girls’ (which was our high school anthem); Howlin’ Wolf, ‘The Natchez Burning’; Patti Smith, ‘Poppies’ (though it’s hard to choose one Patti Smith track); Thelonius Monk, ‘Ba Lu Bolivar Ba Lues Are’; Lucinda Williams, ‘Bus to Baton Rouge’ (which is what I play when I feel homesick here in the UK); Nas, ‘If I Ruled the World’ (anthem of one year when I lived in Manhattan with my daughter); Janis Joplin, ‘Move Over’ (the live version); Elvis Costello, ‘Watching the Detectives’.  .  .

Well, I guess that’s enough to be getting on with. Music is EVERYTHING in life.  Have you ever heard someone say they don’t really like music?  That really weirds me out. How is that possible?  It’s like saying your soul can’t breathe and it doesn’t even bother you.  

In general, I like music played by humans who are good at it.  Manufactured pop was great back in the Motown days (before I was born). These days, it makes me feel like I’m living in a dystopia filled with soul-destroying overspill from the headphones of the brain-dead.

Favorite Food?

When I was a teenager I ate peanut butter and drank orange juice all the time! They were my two staple foods.  These days I think my favorite dish is a thing they make at a restaurant called Sergio’s which is just at the top of the Kensico Dam in New York.  It’s orecchiette pasta with sausage, hot Italian peppers and broccoli rabe. SO GOOD! 

Name 3 fictional places you would move to in a heartbeat.

Ursula LeGuin’s Hainish universe (setting of a few of her novels); Some sort of piratical fantasy world, like maybe Scott Lynch’s (The Lies of Locke Lamora, etc); the type of paradise where you hang around all day in a beautiful garden with beautiful people, eating almonds and raspberries and drinking wine that doesn’t give you a hangover from flowing fountains while everyone recites amazing poetry.  I plan on going to that sort of paradise when I die. 

What were your favorite books while growing up?

The Lord of the Rings, all of Anaïs Nin’s novels, John Varley’s science fiction novels, poetry by people like René Char and Federico Garcia Lorca. 

Favorite Quote?

Here is one of many (Are you getting that I’m not good at making choices?):

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principal to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick

What do you find yourself “Fangirling” over?

George Eliot.  What can I say? I’m a book nerd.   Also Rani Mukerji.  I watch every movie she makes.  

What recent book would you recommend to our YA fans?

Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap. I loved it!


Could you tell our Book Addicts a little bit about HOW WE LEARNED TO LIE? 

It is a book about two friends and how hard they try to keep loving each other when the world tries to make them stop.  During the year in which the book takes place, they forget to trust each other and start hiding terrible truths.  Ultimately they get closer and also farther apart, in different ways. 

What 3 hashtags would you most associate with your book? (Could be a word or phrase or anything that would instantly make you think of HOW WE LEARNED TO LIE.)

#difficultfriendship  #loveandlies  #weirdscience  

Do any toxic friendships from other books or movies or TV Shows come to mind when you think  of Daisy & Joan’s friendship?

I don’t think of Daisy and Joan’s friendship as toxic at all.  To me, the book is about the triumph of their (platonic) love against all the odds the world stacks against them. 

I did recently get a horrible email from someone I knew in high school. This person had heard about Little Wrecks and wrote awful things to me out of the blue, even though the book had nothing to do with them and I hadn’t seen them in years.  I suppose they were angry that I’d made something good out of that very difficult time and place.  That made me realize how toxic people in my own past were, and how far from that I’ve come.  I suppose all of that informs the way I write about relationships.  

Tell us your favorite quote from HOW WE LEARNED TO LIE.

Thinking back, I can almost feel the air in the commons that day, the things 
eddying around us.  We were breathing in violence and desperation and other people’s hallucinations, but it was all invisible to us then.  Like the fluoride in the water or the radiation from Brookhaven, the DDT and the valium and the Strontium 90.  All the heavy atoms and alkaloid molecules that make us and then break us apart. (page 126)

Is there a specific scene that you had the most fun to write?  Or which part was the most difficult to get through?

Well, novel writing alternates between being the most amazing fun and the worst agony you’ve ever experienced, pretty much every day!  It was hard to write the final scene.  I didn’t want to let go of Joan and Daisy.  I really love them.

If you had to pick one song to be the Theme Song for HOW WE LEARNED TO LIE– Which one would you pick?

The Slits, ‘FM’ – “I live in a town with a hundred lights around/My head is like a radio set/I’m waiting to hear what problem is next./What problem is next?”

Are there any recommendations you could give your readers to be in the “perfect mood” to read HOW WE LEARNED TO LIE (specific music, snacks…)? 

Well, since most of you won’t remember the time period, I’d recommend both the Little Wrecks and the How We Learned to Lie playlists on Spotify for a sense of the music.  (A few of the tracks are what people’s parents are listening to at the time, but that’s part of the atmosphere as well.)  
I have another story set around this time period that opens with, “Imagine a lot less plastic.  Imagine everything smells like stale cigarette smoke.  Imagine you are free.”  I think that’s a good sense of the feeling of the time and place.  

What’s next for you? 

I’ve finished a novel called Whiteness, a revenge tragedy set in the far north of New England in the early twentieth century.  The central character is a young woman named Jeanne Delaney who ends up doing a terrible thing in order to save someone from something even more horrible.  Most of the action takes place during a long, cold, snowy winter.  It’s about the awful kinds of violence people in rural areas of America commit in order to maintain their myth of community identity.  So the title comes from both the winter and the violence.

I’m now writing another novel called Fall River, a small town gothic set in the UK.  People disappear one by one into a river under a pair of bridges.  Finding out what happened to those people also means uncovering the seedy past of the town.   

Thanks so much for chatting with us!!

Thank you!  I loved these questions. 

Meredith Miller is the author of Little Wrecks and How We Learned to Lie. She grew up in a large, unruly family on Long Island, New York, and now lives in the UK. She is a published short story writer and literary critic with a great love for big nineteenth-century novels and for the sea. Her short stories have appeared most recently in Stand, Short Fiction, Prole, Alt Hist, and The View from Here.

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1 comment:

  1. This book sounds amazing as I love friendship stories. Already on my TBR.