What is your working title of your book (or story)?
The working title was Blackbirds; the final title is In the Shadow of Blackbirds.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In 1918 San Diego, sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black must face a world war, the deadly Spanish influenza, and the ghost of her first love.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
It took nearly three decades, a couple manuscript attempts, and a conversation with my agent, Barbara Poelle, before the plot of In the Shadow of Blackbirds fell into place, but that show about those phony fairy photos and the widespread grief during the WWI time period is where everything first began.
What genre does your book fall under?
It's a YA historical, paranormal, apocalyptic, romantic, coming-of-age mystery/horror story. Is that a genre yet?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I don't have any suggestions for the love interest, Stephen Embers (a young, dark-haired, budding photographer who enlists for war when he's seventeen), or his older brother, Julius (a troublemaking fellow who claims to photograph the spirits of his customers' loved ones). For Mary Shelley's aunt Eva, I sort of imagine a cross between Michelle Williams and the teacher Miss Wilder from the old Little House on the Prairie TV series.
|Michelle Williams +|
|Eliza Jane Wilder (Lucy Lee Flippin) =|
|Jude Law +|
|Michael Fassbender =|
Mr. Aloysius Darning
I’m represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, and In the Shadow of Blackbirds will be published by Amulet Books/ABRAMS. My editor there is Maggie Lehrman.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About six to seven months. However, I had thoroughly researched the time period for other potential book plots before I even started writing this novel.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
After I finished writing In the Shadow of Blackbirds, I discovered Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown's Picture the Dead, a YA novel that deals with the spirit photography craze during the Civil War (mine deals with the WWI version of the craze). Other books with themes in common with In the Shadow of Blackbirds include Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, Libba Bray's The Diviners, Teri Brown's upcoming Born of Illusion, and even Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The more I researched 1918 America, the more similarities I found with our modern, post-9/11 world. It's often hard reassuring my own kids that we're living in a country that's safe and good, and I really feel for today's youth, who are subjected to images of terrorism, random acts of violence, and fear all the time. One of my driving forces for writing this book was to show teens that young people have been surviving and overcoming the world's darkest moments throughout the ages.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The book contains actual photographs from the time period—images that are both haunting and mesmerizing.
I included the pictures for three reasons: (1) Photography plays an enormous role in this plot. (2) The history of 1918 (the fear and paranoia from the war, the lethal flu pandemic, and the desperate search for spirits through séances and photographs) is so surreal and stranger-than-fiction that I felt the need to prove that I wasn't making up those particular details. (3) I want to invite readers to step completely inside this dark and incredibly fascinating era.
_________________________________________For a future Next Big Thing post, I'm tagging Sharon Biggs Waller, a fellow member of Corsets, Cutlasses, & Candlesticks and the author of A Mad, Wicked Folly.