Summer’s almost here, and with it—a new book by Chevy Chase native Jennifer Miller.
The Year of the Gadfly is “a fun, literary prep school novel, with a mystery driven forward by a high school journalist whose only friend is the ghost of Edward R. Murrow,” Miller explained.
The journalist, young Iris Dupont, is a teen-age reporter who communes with Murrow’s ghost. A second main character, Jonah Kaplan, is a failed microbiologist-turned biology teacher who is haunted by the ghosts of his past.
“Each embarks on a private investigation to uncover a secret society in their remote New England town,” Miller explained on her website.
"As Iris and Jonah's paths start to intersect, they are drawn into the darker corners of their town, their school, and their own minds.”
For a fun preview of The Year of the Gadfly, watch Miller’s trailer, in which journalists and writers such as Andrea Mitchell, Sam Donaldson, Marvin Kalb (also of Chevy Chase), Christiane Amanpour and Gary Shteyngart, as well as high school journalists—including Walter Johnson High School news reporter Danielle Markowitz—read from the book.
Patch recently interviewed Miller, who grew up in Chevy Chase and now lives in Brooklyn, about her book:
How did you choose the plot of The Year of the Gadfly?
The plot is based loosely on my brother's time at The Landon School in Bethesda, where his role in exposing a cheating scandal led to his being ostracized by members of the community. My brother then began writing about this experience in the school newspaper and calling the community to stand by its honor code.
How and when did you discover your talent for writing, or your desire to write?
I grew up around journalists. My father worked at the [U.S.] State Department for six secretaries of state on Middle East negotiations and often traveled with the press corps. But I've always loved good stories. I was an avid reader as a kid—I went to the Cheshire Cat, which has since been incorporated into Politics and Prose—almost every week.
Are any of the characters in your new book based on real people?
There is a microbiologist in the book who is loosely based on my brother. There is also a brilliant and troubled teen-age boy who is partly based on my high school boyfriend, Ben Cooper, who was killed in a car accident the summer before our senior year. The Year of the Gadfly is in many ways a tribute to Ben's life.
Do you often do your work in coffee shops?
I often have an easier time getting motivated to write when I'm around other people writing and studying. I started hanging out at Politics and Prose in high school and it quickly became my home away from home. Even though I live in Brooklyn, I'll often travel back to DC for a few days of writing and hanging out at the bookstore and Modern Times Coffeehouse. I love their iced coffee and tuna sandwiches, but the tuna sells out, so you have to get there early!
To purchase Miller’s book, visit Politics and Prose (5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC), where Miller will read from the book on Monday, May 14, at 7 p.m. Or, purchase the book on Amazon.com.