Wednesday, December 1, 2010
December's Debut Author~Saundra Mitchell
Summer in Ondine, Louisiana is always predictable: hot and boring.
Not this one.
This summer, Iris is fourteen. This summer, she doesn't have to make up spooky stories for excitement, because a real one falls right in her lap.
Years ago, before she was born, a teenager named Elijah disappeared. All that remains of him are whispers. Until this summer. A ghost begins to haunt Iris, and she's convinced it's the ghost of Elijah.
What really happened to him? And why, of all people, has he chosen Iris?
Does that not give you the chills? I know it does me! So Saundra, what compelled you to write a ghost story?
Saundra: I've been a big fan of ghost stories all my life. Not only were they among my favorites at the library, my family has tons of ghost stories too. My grandmother always claimed she saw her late parents in her turned-off television just a few months before I was a born. She swore they told her that I would be a girl!
Wow, your family sounds awesome! What was your favorite part of writing this book?
Saundra: Shadowed Summer was a struggling kind of book to get on the page. The characters were uncooperative, the story didn't go where I expected it... But I think I had the most fun writing the scenes where Iris and Collette talk over each other. They've been friends for each other, so they just say what's in their head, and keep going whether they're on the same wavelength or not. (I really like the exchange where Collette tells Ben they have spells for invisibility, and Iris adds that they only work if no one's looking.)
I loved Irish and Collette's conversations so I can easily see where that would be fun to write! Can you tell us a bit about Shadowed Summer that we may not know from your website?
Saundra: The first draft of Shadowed Summer was significantly longer than the final book- twice the length as a matter of fact. And I had to cut one of my favorite parts because it really had nothing to do with the story. Here it is, a deleted sequence from the original manuscript:
Where I lived, people who went crazy were allowed to with respect. Nobody went to psychiatrists, we didn't take happy pills, and we didn't go to the state hospital unless we did something so wild nobody knew how to handle it. Clotille Rydell's granny had gone that kind of crazy; Clotille told us all about it during show and tell in fifth grade.
Apparently, when her granddaddy passed on, her granny waited until the family finally left with the last of their casseroles, then went down to the family plot to drag her husband from his crypt. A couple weeks later, an uncle came to check on Granny. He found her sitting at one end of the dinner table, making conversation with Granddaddy down at the other end.
Off to the institution went Clotille's granny while the family put granddaddy to rest again, that time with a cement seal on the slab to make sure Granny couldn't get at him again. For Clotille's show part, to prove her Granny really had been there, she held up a menu from the state hospital, and passed around letters Granny had written on hospital stationery.
I don't think our teacher liked the presentation much, but Clotille hopped to most popular girl in our class. At least, until Peter Nash brought in a scrapbook of casket pictures that had been in his family for years. Rebel soldiers sleeping in pine trumped a crazy granny, and shortly thereafter, our teacher cancelled show and tell for good.
Saundra: Call me sick, but Clotille's granny cracks me up!
Thank you so much for sharing that! From your website I see that you have quite a bit of writing experience as a screenplay writer and successful short story writer. With that experience under your belt, is there anything in the publishing process that surprised you?
Saundra: Yes! I was surprised to find out that the chain bookstores- Barnes & Noble and Borders- didn't have to stock a book. In fact, they skipped books all the time! Until I was published myself, I just kind of assumed if I went to those bookstores at the right time, any book I could imagine would be there. Turns out, that's not the case!
From your website I also see that you have another novel, The Vespertine coming out in March of 2011, about a young woman in 1889 who has visions of the future. It sounds fascinating, I can hardly wait for it! Your writing tends to run along the mystic side, I love that. Where do you get your inspiration for such wonderful, creepy stories?
Saundra: It all depends on the story! I'm not sure where the idea of a girl who sees the future in the sunset came from. I'd been kicking that around for five or six years, and tried it out in various mis-starts. One version was set in contemporary southern Indiana. Another version was set at a boarding school in Maine. They never really took shape, though.
What kickstarted the story that became The Vespertine was this: I was watching Burn Gorman play Hindley in the recent BBC adaptation of WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Watching his scenes with Catherine, I thought to myself, "Now that's a dude who would lock his sister in an attic!"
Something about that sparked my imagination, and before I knew it, I was writing The Vespertine at light speed. And yes, it does start with the main character being locked in an attic by her brother! Thanks, Burn!
I love how your mind works! What a wonderful way to come up with an idea for a novel. Any closing thoughts to leave us with?
Saundra: Thank you so much for your support of debut authors. I'm passionate about debuts myself, and I'm particularly looking forward to these fresh new debuts in 2011- Myra McEntire's Hourglass in May, Victoria Schwab's The Near Witch, and Sonia Gensler's The Revenant in June.
You're very welcome. I like to pay things forward and besides, so many debuts are fantastic! Thank you so much for joining us Saundra. I'm confident my readers are going to love your book just as much as I did. I can't wait for The Vespertine!
Hurry peeps, click on the title and grab a copy of the wonderfully creepy Shadowed Summer and get it read before The Vespertine comes out in March! Which by the way, I'm looking forward to so much that I have pre-ordered it.
Check out the website for Shadowed Summer here.
And learn more about Saundra and her upcoming works at her website here.