1. Do you believe that communication with the dead is possible?
2. Have you ever felt the presence of someone who was not physically present?
You can also receive an extra entry by tweeting about the contest, linking to either your blog or Sourcebooks' contest page: http://teenfire.ning.com/forum/topics/do-you-see-dead-people-too. PLEASE NOTE: Answers to the above questions MUST be entered onto the contest page, NOT this blog. However, feel free to leave comments to the author on this blog. Thanks and good luck.
Aurora is pleased to have Lisa Brown and Adele Griffin, co-authors of Picture the Dead. Even though there something amazing about the first published work for each of them, Lisa and Adele admit that Picture the Dead is a big deal for them. They had collaborated on another project, The Book of Humiliations--a graphic novel of teen persecution and redemption that borrowed from the Salem Witch Trials.
"It was a really, cool, creepy book that we put aside to create our even cooler and creepier Picture the Dead. But the genesis of this idea—our heroine, some of the antagonists, a bit of the mood, came from this other project. So in a way, it’s been eight years in the making."
Adele told me that she loves how a young person's life can get so totally wrapped up in a book--to the point where nothing else matters. It's the reason she likes to write books for kids and teens.
"Pure book escape—that’s how I remember summer vacations, when I wasn’t scooping ice-cream and babysitting," she said. "So now I make up stories with the hope that they might fuel the escapism of someone else’s summer."
Lisa told me that, as a kid, she loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond "absolutely to death."
"To this day," she said, "I am completely and utterly obsessed with the Salem Witch Trials. I even took a course in college called “Witchcraft in Medieval Europe” just to feed my obsession. I aced it. And my crazy love for historical fiction persists. Just sped through Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel about Thomas Cromwell and King Henry the Eighth and The Children’s Book by AS Byatt, about Victorian and Edwardian England up until WWI. Beautiful stuff."
While they were working on Picture the Dead, Adele and Lisa told me that they continuously referenced and plundered their memories for what it was like to be a teenager-- to be sixteen and in love, to be angry and yet powerless, to be frightened and alone. Then they had to make the leap to things they couldn't have known about-- living through the Civil War, the haunted house, being 1865.
Those types of things took a lot of research and Lisa admitted, "Research for Picture the Dead was an endless point of fascination and digression for me. The Library of Congress was a wonderful resource. In fact, the book is completely over-researched, which was why we needed to design the website. To present all those tidbits we couldn't fit into the book."
"What person has helped you the most in your career?" I asked.
Adele answered, "Our first and only agent, Charlotte Sheedy. She is just an excellent, first-rate mentor, a champion and advocate for great stories."
"Here, here," Lisa responded.
Both of them feel that with the internet, it's easier than ever to keep a finger of the pulse of today's kids and what they want in terms of reading material.
"Kids give us so much access to their critiques, their picks and preferences on their blogs, through their reviews and ning networks. We have more dossiers on youth than ever before."
It's a two-edged sword, however, because it also plays into one of the largest challenges the youth of today face.
"Generation Facebook makes it hard for kids to make their youthful mistakes and move on. Any text or jpg becomes a constant reminder. Your diary is up there for everyone in perpetuity."
Finally, I asked Lisa and Adele, "What's the most embarrassing thing your mother ever did to you?"
Adele answered, "She always made me sing at family get-togethers. With my reedy voice, it was like I was deliberately cursing the gathering. Such a bad call, Mom."
"I wish I could have seen that," Lisa said.
Lisa Brown is the bestselling illustrator and/or author of a growing number of books, including How to Be, The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming, and Baby Mix Me a Drink. Lisa lives in San Francisco with her son and her husband. Find her at www.americanchickens.com.