Welcome back for the second episode of Talk Back Thursdays. Today we are we are talking to Debut YA author, Dianne Salerni.
Hi Dianne! Welcome to Talk Back Thursdays, and thank you for agreeing to be a part of this month’s spotlight, Authors in April.
Your book, WE HEAR THE DEAD debuts next month. Tell us about the book.
WE HEAR THE DEAD is a historical fiction novel that retells the true story of Maggie Fox, a young girl who, in 1848, accidentally invented “the séance” and founded spiritualism with a high-spirited prank. Maggie and her younger sister Kate pretended they could speak to the dead. When their older sister realized the money-making potential of the prank, she took custody of the two girls and set them up as spirit mediums. Maggie and Kate became America’s first teenage celebrities – but fame came with a price. The girls were living a lie; they faced accusations of witchcraft, and when Maggie met the love of her life – the heroic and dashing explorer Elisha Kane -- her unconventional occupation stood in the way of their future happiness.
I’m no history buff, so historical fiction seems like a tall order for me. What was your research process like? Did it help that you’re a teacher?
No, it didn’t help. As a full time teacher and also a mother, I couldn’t travel to do any research in person. I read biographies of the Fox sisters and Elisha Kane. Most helpful to me were excerpts from Maggie and Elisha’s love letters. I also read Elisha Kane’s own book, Arctic Explorations, to help me understand him better – his voice, his humor, and his personality. The only “research” I did in person was to visit Elisha’s grave in Philadelphia. I wanted to pay my respects, so to speak, but the visit also helped me write the scene in which Elisha takes Maggie to the Kane family vault as part of a romantic outing. Yeah, that was a 19th century guy’s idea of a date! Go figure!
When did the idea for WE HEAR THE DEAD come to you? Was it influenced by the East Coast preoccupation with witches? What was the biggest challenge you faced in converting it from an idea to a novel?
I was less interested in witches than in séances. I was toying with the idea of writing a YA book about séances, having been inspired by reading the adult book Inamorata by Joseph Gangemi back in 2004. However, when I began my research, I stumbled onto Maggie Fox’s story, which was cited in every book as the starting point of spiritualism. Maggie’s tale began with a ghost story and ended with a love story – and it seemed perfect for adaptation to a novel. The biggest challenge I faced was filling in the gaps of history – understanding the motives for people’s recorded actions and making them believable in my novel.
How did you find your agent and what’s your relationship like?
I don’t have an agent at this point. I’m one of those rare, un-agented authors who stumbled into a publishing deal on her own. Sourcebooks has been wonderful to me – supportive and helpful and encouraging. However, I am beginning to search for an agent now because I realize I need a “minder” – someone to keep me on track, point me in the right direction, help me sort out my priorities, even take me by the shoulders and shake me when it’s necessary! So, that’s the kind of relationship I’d like to have. Here’s hoping he/she is out there!
Any fortune cookie jewels of wisdom for aspiring authors?
Opportunities appear in unexpected places and sometimes the path to success heads in unusual directions before ending up just where you wanted to be all along. Keep writing – and it doesn’t matter whether you are writing stories or poems, blog posts or reviews, or participating in conversations online. Be generous to the universe, and hopefully the universe will pay you back tenfold!
Thank you for joining us this week for Talk Back Thursday. Good luck on the book.
WE HEAR THE DEAD is due for release on May 1, 2010. Get thee to your nearest online book store and pre-order it now!
Take a gander at the book trailer!