If you love supernatural elements in a historical setting and like me, you’re obsessed with YA books, then you need to read SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY by Susan Dennard. Susan is today’s PSC guest and has agree to answer a few of my questions about her debut novel, which was released July 24, 2012. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!
The book was originally titled The Spirit Hunters. Personally, I think the current title, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, is way more awesome and appealing. Why did you change it? And how did you come up with the newer title?
THE SPIRIT-HUNTERS was always just a working title. I knew that publishers very rarely use the author’s chosen title, so I decided to name the book something I wasn’t attached to–but something easy to recognize in my Documents folder.
A few months after sale, my editor, agents, and I sat down to brainstorm possible titles (erm, there might have been sangria and cupcakes involved). We were quite giggly, throwing titles back and forth–each more ridiculous than the last–when Sara Kendall (my agent at the time) said, "What about something STRANGE AND DEADLY?"
We all oohed, and then she said, "But what could we put instead of ‘something?’"
Then we all realized she’d meant "something" as filler. Maria Gomez (my editor at the time), said, "Why not just SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY?" And then we seriously spent a solid 2 minutes chanting "SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY", nodding our heads, and smiling at each other.
And that, my friends, is how the title—and the theme of titles for the series—was born.
Obviously the book is set in the past and revolves around International Centennial Exhibition of Philadelphia in 1876. What kind of research did you have to do to stay true to the exhibition? And how did you go about it?
I did heaps and heaps of research. I always forget how much research it was until I sit down to write the next book and I’m faced with MORE research.
One thing I do is to rely on primary sources. I scoured guidebooks for the Exhibition, etiquette handbooks, guides to Philadelphia, diaries from Exhibition visitors, and newspaper articles from the time. I found original maps and paintings (and even a few photographs). I even went to Philadelphia just to get a feel for the city (even though only 1 of the structures from the Exhibition still remains) and—I’m not kidding—to run at full-speed across Laurel Hill Cemetery. I needed to know how long it would take Eleanor to get from the Schuylkill River with a zombie on her tail and hundreds of tombstones in her way.
The same happened for book 2, which is set in Paris. Loads of primary documents followed by a trip across Paris to all the places Eleanor goes.
There was never a mention of zombies in the book. Instead, you used the terms "The Dead" and "The Hungry". Is there a reason why you chose not to call them zombies?
Well, technically, zombie is a corpse raised by a voodoo sorcerer. I really wanted to get back to the roots of the term "zombie"–necromancy, mysticism, and already dead bodies (versus the viral zombies we see so often these days). But I also realized that no one in Victorian times would have heard the term "zombie". Plus, since corpses rising from the grave are a known hazard of life in my alternate 1876, I figured people would have long ago started calling these zombies something. So…why not the Dead? And when the corpses are fast and desperate to feed on soul, why not the Hungry?
Perhaps I’ll throw the term zombie in for the third book–but only if it’s a true, true voodoo zombie.
Will we see more steampunk machines and inventions in the next book? What can we expect from the sequel? (Can you reveal anything or is it a big secret?)
Oh, absolutely!! Without giving too much away, Daniel has definitely been designing some more portable means of electricity as well as Dead-destructive weaponry. There’s more…but it’s of the romantic variety, and I don’t want to spoil it for you.
As a child, have you ever been to summer camp? If so, what is your best memories of those days?
So, I never got to go to standard summer camp—though I desperately wanted to. But it was always too pricey.
Instead, my parents sent me off to Scholar’s Camp (which was actually a day camp). Now, don’t get me wrong: even without the cabins and horseback riding, I ADORED Scholar’s Camp. My most vivid memory is of dissecting a frog. I was only 8 years old, so I’d never done anything like that. It was the first time I’d seen inside a body—and also the first time I smelled formaldehyde. Blech!
But, I think what I liked most about my science class at Scholar’s Camp, was the cute boy who was my lab partner. He was my first crush, and I recall his 90s style, blond mullet with great fondness…
Do you like your fire-roasted marshmallows burnt and black or nicely golden and gooey? Or are you more of a smores kind of person?
Oooh, I’m more of a smore’s person. But with out the chocolate. Not sure why, but that golden gooey marshmallow flanked by grahm cracker is DIVINE. I’m still trying to convince my French husband of this who has never encountered smores…or even marshmallows, really.
Thank you Susan, for visiting the blog!
More about SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, which was released July 24th, 2012!
The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…
Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.
And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.
Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.
Susan is offering a copy of Something Strange and Deadly to one (1) lucky American winner!
Harper Collins Canada is offering a copy of Something Strange and Deadly to one (1) lucky Canadian winner!
To enter the giveaway, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
Open to US and Canada only
Ends Wednesday, August 5th, 2012
(like all of our Paranormal Summer Camp giveaways)
She is a writer turned marine biologist turned writer again. Among the traits she shares with her heroine Eleanor are a weakness for Shakespeare quotes, a healthy appetite for baked goods, and an insatiable curiosity. Sadly, Susan does not get to wear a corset or wave a parasol on a daily basis, but you can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog, twitter, facebook, or Goodreads.
Something Strange and Deadly is her debut novel, and for extra content, giveaways, and news, check out http://somethingstrangeanddeadly.com.
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