Interview with WHEN I WAS ALICE author Jennifer Murgia -- by Jen Doktorski

Coming June 25, 2024!

Fame is a dangerous game.

As her brother lies in a coma after a near-fatal car accident, twenty-two-year-old Grace Brighton climbs the Hollywood Sign to make a desperate wish for his recovery. She loses her footing and plummets to the ground below―only there is no impact. Instead, she finds herself the center of attention at a film studio . . . in 1953 Hollywood. Everyone believes she's Alice Montgomery, a rising star she bears an eerie resemblance to, who disappeared just days earlier.

Grace has no choice but to step into Alice's shoes. Meeting Alice’s entourage and noticing not everyone is happy that she is back, Grace begins to suspect that something terrible has happened to the young actress. Afraid Alice’s miraculous return has now made her a target, Grace must find out who wants to harm Alice to find her way back to her own time. When she discovers one of the missing starlet's deepest, darkest secrets, Grace finds herself in grave danger―she may die long before she’s even been born.

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I LOVE the premise of WHEN I WAS ALICE! Where did the idea come from?

Aww, thank you! This was such a fun book to write, even the dark parts of the book, which were very necessary. About five years ago, my son and I were in Starbucks while my daughter was at a movie, and there was an old newspaper (old as in outdated by a week or so) but someone had spilled coffee on it, making it seem older than it was. As I looked at it, I wondered how weird it would be to see something from another decade in your present time, something to make you wonder if you’re really where you’re supposed to be? That idea morphed into a character visiting a time from the past but everyone around her believes she’s supposed to be there—to be someone else.

Did you need to do much research?

I wanted my book to be as authentic as possible, so yes, that sent me on a mission to research Hollywood, both in the present day and in 1953. Which buildings are still standing? Which aren’t? I researched a lot about the film industry: the lingo, the directives for sets, proper equipment. Lots of maps, bus routes, types of houses, neighborhoods, and most importantly, the trek to the Hollywood sign since it’s under tight surveillance. It was important for my character to slip around those restrictions to allow her to climb the sign.

How did your deal with CamCat Books come about?

I feel like my deal was a fairy tale, ha ha! I had just been “orphaned” and was no longer agented, and I was beginning to consider self -publishing WHEN I WAS ALICE. On a whim, I entered a CamCat pitch party on Twitter last minute and received two “likes” which were invitations to send me book in for consideration. There was an extensive form (no lie, that form took two days to fill out) to submit and a month later, I received an email that the entire acquisitions team loved the book, and they were interested. I needed to make some adjustments, so this was an R&R, but I one hundred percent agreed with it and that turned into my deal!


I see there’s an audio book for ALICE too. Have you had a chance to listen to it yet?

Not in its entirety, but what makes CamCat so remarkable to work with is that I was able to assist in auditioning the audio narrators. I was given six brief clips to choose from. Lisa Larsen was chosen—her voice was fabulous!


You’re the author of six YA books, which have been published in the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, and Poland in addition to the U.S. What inspired you to switch gears and write an adult mystery?

As I mentioned above in how I got my deal with CamCat, the initial revisions suggested that I age up my characters. So yes, WHEN I WAS ALICE was originally Young Adult, but given the content of the book (scandal, murder…) ageing my characters seemed to make the most sense, therefore propelling me into the adult market.


      What kind of changes have you noticed in the YA world since you first published?

From an author’s standpoint, it seems much harder to sell your book—like the YA industry shrank and got smaller. I might be wrong in that, but that’s how it feels to me. I also feel like there aren’t as many YA titles in stores anymore, either. As far as what sort of YA books are on the shelves, I think there’s a smart mix. I’m noticing more historical, more edgy romance, and overall, books that are superbly original instead of a multitude of the same trend.

      What’s next?

Most likely another YA, since I’m currently writing a creepy dark academia. I think YA comes easy to me, but I admit my brain is twisting it around to see if I can turn it into an adult title. I don’t think that will work with this one, so YA it is! It’s still a long way off from being finished but afterwards, I’ll reenter the query trenches and see where it goes.

Jennifer Murgia is the author of six Young Adult fiction novels, one of which earned the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Literature Award for Horror/Mystery. Her books have been published in the USA, Germany, Poland, Hungary, and the Netherlands.

Wearing many hats, she’s founded a teen book festival, worked as a marketing director for a small publisher, an editorial intern for a NYC-based literary agency, and currently works as a freelance editor for several USA Today and NYT bestselling authors.

She resides in Maryland with her family and a spoiled cat named Oscar. When I Was Alice is her adult debut. Visit her at




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