Julie Dill talks about using the game of poker as inspiration for her book, Bluff.
1. Tell us more about Bluff.
Bluff is a first-person narrative about a seventeen-year-old girl who sneaks into the casinos to play poker. She is desperate for money, and the tension of the book is 1.) the ups and downs of her wins and losses and 2.)the fact that she’s underage. Chelsea is a gritty, self-reliant character who isn’t afraid of much.
2. Do you have a favourite character?
I personally love Ms. Stella. Chelsea, the main character, doesn’t have a mother at home so she is seeking that maternal guidance. She meets Ms. Stella at casino, and they develop this beautiful, special bond.
3. Where did you get the inspiration for the novel?
Bluff is loosely based on my some of my experiences from the first time I entered a casino. When I turned 21, I flew to Las Vegas and walked into a poker room at the Mirage. I was outnumbered. The players were mostly older men, but I didn’t let that intimidate me.
4. What was the hardest part of the book to write?
I’m a mother of teenage girls, so it was hard for me to put Chelsea in danger. She makes bad choices – a lot. I always wanted her to be safe so those scenes were probably the hardest to write.
5. What does your average writing day look like?
Sporadic. I don’t have a rigid routine, but I need to get better at this. I try to squeeze in writing anytime I can. That may mean jotting down an idea on the back of an envelope after a run or drafting in a booth at a coffee shop for a couple of hours. My writing schedule is a little all over the place.
6. What is the best thing about being a writer?
Creative freedom. It’s liberating to be able to make all of the decisions for the world you create.
7. What is the worst thing about being a writer?
The worst thing is trying to find time to devote to your craft. We live in a busy, over-scheduled world (guilty!), and it’s hard to find big chunks of time to write.
8. What is a great book you’ve read recently that you would recommend to others?
I really liked Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Also, I like all of Billie Lettes’ work. She has a real knack for creating interesting characters you care about.
9. What is one thing about you your readers would be surprised to know?
Readers may be surprised to know that some of the players in the poker scenes are based off of real experiences. I was playing poker in Tulsa a few years back, and there was a really drunk cowboy at the table…you may or may not see him in the book.
10. What’s next for you?
I have lots of projects brewing. I’m co-writing a children’s picture book, and I have a middle grade series I’m working on.
Seventeen-year-old Chelsea Knowles is your average teenager. But she’s harboring a secret that very few people know: she and her dad can’t pay the bills. Broken by his wife leaving, Chelsea’s father ignores his parenting responsibilities. Between cheer costs, grocery bills, electricity, and other financial burdens, Chelsea knows it’ll be up to her to keep the lights on.
She manages to sneak into a casino, and her first big poker win sparks the beginning of a downward spiral. Money stops being a problem, but a complicated web of lies begins to spin out of control, threatening to reveal her bluff.
Julie Dill currently lives in Oklahoma City where she serves as an adjunct professor and loves helping students achieve success. She holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Oklahoma City University and continues to work on various writing projects. From hiking in Colorado, to playing poker in Vegas, she’s always up for a new challenge.