The pros of writing together are plentiful. We both came to this project with different professional backgrounds (Lisa is a designer and a writer and illustrator of picture books, and Adele is a writer of middle grade and young adult fiction) but a similar personal interest in what we enjoyed reading and writing. We like to say that we are graduates of the “schoolofBrontë” because we both grew up devouring that genre of dark, windswept gothics. So our biggest pro was that we had so many of the same points of reference, and such a kinship of influences. Plus we were always bookswapping.
Our big con was geographical. Adele lives inNew Yorkand Lisa lives inCalifornia. Which meant that if either of us had an epiphany, it might have to wait for the other one to enter a (relatively) normal hour of the of day. Of course, some ideas just can’t wait that long …
In what ways do each of you relate to Jennie?
Jennie is a quietly determined character, and there was something quietly determined about the process of creating this book. And of course she had to have some kinship with us, because we wanted to relate to all of her choices. We both would have liked to hang out with Jennie—and that’s an important litmus test, when creating a heroine.
More personally, Jennie shares our romantic streak, and our dislike of pointy French heels. We are all three more about the perfect T-shirt and stompy boots. Alas, it was 1865, nothing but hoops and stays for poor Jennie.
How did you tie in the illustrations with the storyline?
The illustrations tell parts of the story that the text cannot. They’re Jennie’s scrapbook, and so they’re the objective glimpse into the truth of what she, as the subjective narrator, can’t see. In some cases, we even embedded clues to the mystery that a sharp reader could actual stumbleacross before Jennie did herself. Lisa conceived the characters visually at the same time that we were building up our cast, so we had the fun of looking at portraits as we built scenes. It was a very dramatic, highly satisfying way to invent a book.
Was it difficult to use paranormal elements, but still keep it historically accurate?
Just the opposite! Spirit photography was a brisk industry during the American Civil War, so we had a great jumping-off point as we set up our theater in our Spiritualist Heinrich Geist’sstudio. It’s much easier to build a credible ghost story on the back of the actual mindset of the period. Civil War era folk were in shock and in mourning, and therefore very susceptible. So it wasn’t hard to shake up our heroine, as she was already rattled from everything she’d been through in wartime.
If you could go back in time to any period in history, when would it be?
Adele: My great-great-grandmother’s home was destroyed in a flood in 1889, and so she left her husband and kids for a few months to do “dramatic readings” around the country to raise money to build a new house. When she was older, she wrote about it in her (self-published) memoir. I’d have loved to comealong on that tour of ’89 because it seems very weird and I just can’t figure it out. Who would pay for that? Talk about a hoax.
Lisa: I have always wanted to be a fly on the wall during one of Gertrude Stein’s salons inParisin the 1910s and 1920s. But also to completely skip World Wars I and II, thank you very much.
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