Julia Madeleine is the youngest daughter of Irish immigrant parents from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Born in Canada and raised in a small town in southern-western Ontario on the shores of Lake Huron, Julia honed her duel passions for art and fiction writng from the time she was old enough to hold a crayon. As a teenager she moved to Toronto and graduated in Media Writing from Sheridan College. She wrote for a number of entertainment magazines, while spending all her free time writing fiction, and then in 2000, her passion for art led her, quite by accident, into a career in the tattoo industry.
Home for Julia is Mississauga, where she lives with her husband and teenaged (future tattoo artist) daughter. For a year she lived in the country on a 30-acre property in the middle of nowhere, which became the inspiration for her second novel, No One To Hear You Scream. Currently she is working on the sequel to her first thriller, Scarlet Rose (2008) which will be released sometime in the fall of 2011.
Q: Thank you for this interview, Julia. Can you tell us what your latest book, No One To Hear You Scream, is all about?
No One To Hear You Scream is like The Ghosts Of Belfast meets Cape Fear. It’s the story of Rory Madden, a former Belfast gang member living in exile in the states where he builds his dream house on the edge of Keuka Lake in upstate New York, only to lose it to foreclosure when he can’t make his mortgage payments after getting popped in a drug raid. Six months after he’s released from pre-trial custody, he goes on a drug-induced rampage to get even with everyone he thinks is responsible, including the nice family who’s bought his house. When their teenage daughter falls for him, together they plot the murder of her parents.
My protagonist Justine Jameson, is a 17 year old single mother who’s just moved home with her father and his wife. Weeks after giving birth she begins to suffer from a rare condition known as postpartum psychosis, where she has delusions and thinks her parents are out to hurt her baby. She’s determined to be a good mother to her daughter and gain her independence from her parents but when they move from Manhattan to a secluded country house on a 20 acre property, her loneliness has her running into the arms of the very man who wants to do her and her family harm.
The bad guy in the story is Rory Madden, an Irish immigrant and former gang member who’s killed a lot of people. He’s hell bent on solving the mystery of his missing kid sister from 15 years earlier, whom he believes was brought to America by their father. He’s a damaged soul who drinks too much, smokes too much, and snorts copious amounts of cocaine which gives him illusions of grandeur. And when his house gets repossessed by the bank he becomes obsessed with getting it back by any means possible.
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
I think it’s a bit of both. I take traits from people I know or have known and Frankenstein them with aspects of other people’s personalities and then my imagination takes over and turns them into who they eventually become.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
I’ve done it both ways. With this most recent book I basically started with the character of Rory Madden and the story was built around him. Usually that’s how a story works for me, I start with a character, then think of a situation he might find himself in, and the story evolves from there.
Q: Your book is set in Penn Yan, New York. Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?
Penn Yan is a small picturesque village-like town of about 6000 on the edge of a Lake Keuka. The area is one of the largest wine grape growing regions in the U.S. I wanted to set my novel in the states and Penn Yan reminded me of the town I was living in at the time in the Niagara region in Ontario. It was also a town of about 6000 on the edge of a lake surrounded by vineyards.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
Definitely the seclusion of the property where the house is located plays a major role. I think it adds to the fear and the drama, living in a house out in the woods with no neighbours within earshot. For a lot of city people I think that prospect can be quite unnerving.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
Rory Madden is sitting up at the bar at O’Leary Tavern, high on coke, eyeing a young girl playing pool and thinking about his girlfriend that he buried on his property the previous summer, wondering how far the decomposition would be at this stage.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
“You know what the worst day of my life was?” Rory said, his face tombstone cold. “When my sister didn’t come home from school. She was eight years old. We put posters with her picture up all over town. Search parties combed every inch of our neighborhood for weeks. The police came out with dogs. Days turned into weeks, months, and years, and there was no sign of her. She just vanished. Every now and then we’d get a call about a sighting, but it never lead anywhere. One day the police called our house because they had a Jane Doe down at the morgue, and my mother had to go to see if it was Frances, but turned out to be someone else’s little girl. It’s been fifteen years and I’m still looking for her.”
“I’m sorry.” The man looked away uncomfortably, his fleshy booze-face reddening even more than it already was naturally—or unnaturally, if not for the obvious alcohol problem. Tiny droplets of sweat formed on the man’s upper lip.
Rory snorted and nodded his head in a superior manner. “You’re sorry? Why? Did you abduct her?”
“No, of course not. I—I just mean I’m sorry you had to—to experience that.”
“Frances was only eight. She was just a wee girl, a happy, wee girl, who thought the world was a friendly place and only bad things happened in storybooks or in films, you see? But when she didn’t come home from school and nobody knew where she was, well, we knew something had happened.” Rory sucked his teeth, nodded his head slowly, reflectively. He lifted the collar of his leather coat, brushing his cheek next to the soft fur in some vague comforting gesture as he continued. “They questioned every sex offender in the neighborhood. They dredged the bottom of a creek near our house. They searched our entire building and the yard with cadaver dogs, and they even questioned my mother’s boyfriend about her disappearance. He later abandoned my mother but that’s okay, he was just another bloody maggot. But they never solved the case. A body has ever been found and nobody’s ever been charged. It was just forgotten, just like Frances. Everyone just forgot about her; even my mother couldn’t bare the mention of her name. My mother, she just drank herself into oblivion. That was her way of coping, I suppose—or not coping, depending on which way you look at it.”
“That’s…that’s a terrible story.”
“It’s not a story. It happened. It was real!”
“Yeah, no, I just meant that—”
“You know what the second worst day of my life was?”
The man shook his head and pressed his lips together, as if bracing himself for more bad news. He stared at Rory with watery eyes, the overhead lights gleaming on his bald scalp.
“When those fucking bastards took away my house, and my lawyer I made the grave mistake of trusting because I basically had no other choice, goes and robs me. When I’m at the most vulnerable moment, confined to a jail cell, my home and my possessions all hanging in the balance, and I turn to the only person I can, what does he do? He helps himself to my money. What kind of lawyer, can I ask you, Mr. Blackmore, does that to a client?”
The man didn’t reply. He just gazed at Rory with a frightened look, like a video screen on pause, capturing and freezing a face in some bizarre half expression.
“What kind, Mr. Blackmore, huh?”
“Please…please put the gun away, Rory.”
“Aye, I told you you’d regret this, didn’t I? I told you I’d come for you.”
“Rory, please I have a family, three kids and my first grand baby on the way and—”
“Shut the fuck up.” Rory was so calm that it surprised him. He thought for sure he would lose control of himself when he laid eyes on this scumbag lawyer again. Up until that very moment, he felt certain he wouldn’t be able to hold himself back. Perhaps all that time in jail had conditioned him to being more patient. Or maybe it was the feeling of the twelve gauge in his hands that allowed him control of his emotions. His long coat had been perfect for concealing it when he walked into the office. Maybe it was the blow he snorted in his car in the parking lot—he’d wasted no time finding the drug sources in town—before he came into the building. Possibly it was a combination of all these things. Yet he knew it was only a matter of time before he killed this man, and he marveled at how things sometimes worked out, how the tables could turn. How easily power could be gained and lost.
Rory leaned back comfortably in the chair, his right leg crossed over the other with the shotgun resting on his knee, pointed at the lawyer’s fat face. He watched the man loosen the collar of his shirt, as if it was a ligature choking him. The lawyer sat stiff behind his desk in his big green leather chair in his swanky office. Rory sat across from him in another, smaller, leather chair, designed to telegraph the difference between the lawyer and his clients, so there was no doubt about who held the power in the room. Although now, the irony of this was blatantly clear. All illusions had been stripped away.
It was a masculine-looking office—slick, dark wood and sparse furnishings—but lacking in character, much like its owner. The secretary had left minutes earlier, having poked her head inside the room to say a friendly good-bye and ask one last time if Rory was sure she couldn’t get him a coffee or something.
How about his hundred and eighty thousand dollars? Could she get that for him?
“I didn’t take your money,” Blackmore said. “There was no money. There was nothing there. I swear, there…there—”
“Now you want to add liar to the list of things that you are? Don’t try and deny it,” Rory said. “Of course you bloody well took it. There is absolutely no doubt you did. It was so well hidden the police could never have found it unless they knew where to look.”
Blackmore swallowed audibly, and shook his head, his cheeks quivering. “Maybe a police dog sniffed it out.”
“There were no dogs with them. Besides, they’re trained to sniff drugs, not money,” Rory said.
“Money always has traces of cocaine on it,” Blackmore said. “There was a study—”
“Sorry, pal, I’m not that daft. You were the only one I told where my money was. You were the only person who had that knowledge.”
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Julia. We wish you much success!
Thank you. It was a pleasure and an honour.