Interview with Adele Griffin & Lisa Brown, Authors of Picture the Dead
Today I have the pleasure of having Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown authors of Picture the Dead here to answer a few questions. I hope you enjoy this interview:
These are answers from Lisa Brown
1. What inspired you to write about this time period.
LB: It was this amazing show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005: “The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult.” It was an exhibition of spirit photographs from the 19th and early 20th centuries; that is, photographs of ghosts. The mania for contacting spirits seemed to go hand and hand with the US Civil War: a time where so many people were dying so very far from their homes. It was spooky, and at the same time, emotionally realistic.
AG: Lisa and I had been having a lot of conversations about gothic ghosts, haunts on the moors, ghouls in crumbling estates. And we wanted a visual component—which was specifically inspired, as Lisa notes, by that wonderful MET exhibit on Mumler and Spiritualist photography.
2. Do you believe in ghosts?
LB: I believe that there are things in this world that we don’t understand.
3. What books/authors inspired you to become an author?
LB: Edward Gorey has to be number one with a bullet, for me. He was not only an illustrator and a writer, but a world-creator. For this book in particular, however, I went back to the historical fiction and fantasy of my childhood: Elizabeth George Speare (The Witch of Blackbird Pond), Richard Peck, Susan Cooper.
AG: I loved the Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I also wanted to be named Daphne du Maurier so it was a whole identity thing.
4. Do you have any advice for young writers?
LB: Read. A lot. And learn how to read like a writer: not just for fun, but with an eye towards stealing things that will make your own work more interesting.
AG: I’ll second Lisa! Read, read, read. Anything you can get your hands on. Some of my first “real” books were my mother’s pulp novels back in the 70s and I was a hooked—they made a lifelong reader of me.
If you could travel back in time, where/when would you go and why?
New Year’s Day, 1947. My grandmother’s wedding day to my grandfather. She’d been a war widow and my grandfather was the first person who could make her laugh.
5. If you could travel back in time, where/when would you go and why?
LB: I like to think about times of war, they seem so much more intense than peacetime. But that said, I am glad that I never had to live through a war like the Civil War, or either of the World Wars. So I guess I’d like the 1920s, with that peacetime explosion of art and culture. I’d miss antibiotics, though. And the Equal Rights Amendment. The 1880s have an appeal, as well. I’m fond of a corset and a bustle.
AG: New Year’s Day, 1947. My grandmother’s wedding day to my grandfather. She’d been a war widow and my grandfather was the first person who could make her laugh.
6. What are you working on now?
LB: I’m finishing up paintings for a picture book by Lemony Snicket, starting illustrations for a new picture book by author Cathleen Daly, and continuing to work on a graphic novel about conjoined twins in an early 20th century circus sideshow.
AG: I have a novel coming out this October with Knopf called All You Never Wanted, about a pair of sisters whose lives do not end happily ever when their mother remarries a very rich man.
7. What was the hardest part about writing your book?
LB: Having to kill off a favorite character. It turned out to make more sense that this character was dead before the book even began, and that broke my heart. He was such a lovely boy.
AG: We had so many great pieces—characters, plot moments, visuals. Fitting it all together was a challenge. Things were tossed and lost. Like our cute boy, as Lisa notes. R.I.P.
8. What do you do when you're not writing?
LB: When I’m not writing, I’m drawing. When I’m not drawing, I’m reading. When I’m not reading, I’m tweeting and looking at other people’s art online. And at the same time that I’m doing all of the above, I’m drinking coffee.
AG: These days I am often listening to the plot-heavy books straight from the imagination of my four-year-old child. They are very long, with illogical twists and turns. I would not say she has the editing piece yet.
9. What is one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
LB: I was thrilled to find such a wealth of historical information online. Not just history-books type information, but tons and tons of primary sources: photographs, letters, journal entries and newspaper articles. It was like my computer became a time travel portal.
AG: With Picture the Dead, I was surprised by how many Civil War buffs are out there—ready to share. More personally, with both the hardcover and the paperback, the bound book was such a gift. The book was a long time in the making so just that heft of it . . . ah.
10. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
LB: Come on over to our new and improved www.picturethedead.com… pretty soon it will have an interactive component where you can post your own real-life or imagined ghost stories. Boo!
AG: What Lisa said. Ghost tumblr! Also, Picture the Dead is brand spanking new in paperback and I can honestly say that it’s the prettiest paperback I have ever held. Go check it out for yourself. It’s something!
Thank you so much to Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown for answering my questions. Don't forget to check these sites out to find out more about these authors: