Thought for the day: You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.
It doesn't require much imagination to appreciate what an overabundance of imagination our feline friends have. Ever watch 'em stare at a wall? For hours?
they see...? Or how about when they gaze mesmerized at the ceiling? (Just to make us
look up, I suspect.) And then there's the times they suddenly jump up and tear out of the room at top speed, as if they're off on some important mission.
Yep, no doubt about it. A cat's imagination can provide us with great entertainment. Come to think of it, I could say the same thing about writers with great imaginations, too. Imaginative writers who can create a whole new world and transport us there with their words truly have a gift. (And they
never jump on your head or lick your face in the middle of the night, either. At least, none of the writers I
Like this gal. Dianne Salerni. She's a writer with a great nose for a story. That's what led her to research and write two YA historical novels, We Hear the Dead,
about the early days of spiritualism, and The Caged Graves
, about a couple of, um... caged graves.
A couple of real
caged graves she spotted in a Pennsylvania cemetery. It took a lot of digging (HA) to ferret out as many facts as she could for both of those books, and a good deal of imagination to flesh out the bare bones of history to create books as good as those two. But her next book took her imagination to the next level. (Kinda like going from staring at the wall to looking into the future...)
The first book in her imagination-out-the-wazoo MG series the Eighth Day
came out last year. Reeeeally good.
And NOW... (ta DA!) the second
book in this series is gonna be released on January 27, just a couple short weeks away. I may not be in the MG category... heck, some of my GRANDKIDS are even beyond that... but I WILL be reading this book. Know why? Because good is good, and Dianne's books are... good
. And did I mention? Very imaginative.
And now, I'm very pleased to say that the lovely Dianne has agreed to answer some
questions I asked her recently. Hey! Inquiring minds want to know!
So here we go, for your entertainment:
: So how did it go down, Dianne? Were you just sitting back in your easy
chair one evening, sipping an adult beverage, and listening to an
old Beatles album when they started singing Eight Days a Week
and a light bulb suddenly went off in your head? I mean, what inspired you to
come up with such a super cool idea as a secret eighth day of the week?
DIANNE: The idea of a secret day came from a family joke. Whenever
my daughters asked my husband when
they could do something (go to the beach or to an amusement park, for example)
and he didn’t have an answer handy, he’d say, “We’ll do it on Grunsday!” One night, as this joke was being played out
over dinner conversation, I wondered out loud, “What if there really was a
Grunsday, but only a few people knew about it?” My family loved the idea, but after that initial thought, it
took about 18 months for me to come up with a plot to go along with the premise
and start writing.
ME: It must be fun to write continuing tales about
characters you know and love, but how difficult is it to strike a balance, such
that you include enough background information to draw and keep the interest of
new readers, without annoying your return readers who want
to get on with the new story without too much back-pedaling and re-hashing?
In other words, is it your goal for each book to stand on
its own, or are you primarily trying to develop a returning fan base
of readers who will eagerly await each new installment? Yeah, I know... BOTH!
(And I hope you get both.)
DIANNE: It’s not impossible to read these books out of order, but
readers will probably enjoy the series a lot more if they start with Book 1.
The re-hashing thing gave me some trouble when I started drafting Book 2, but I
thought I had a clever way to do it. In chapter one, I introduced a new POV
character, 12-year-old Dorian Ambrose who, as a member of the nefarious Dulac
clan, watches his father interrogate a prisoner about the events that occurred
in the climax of Book 1. Doing the recap as a prisoner interrogation?
Brilliant, right? My beta readers hated me starting the book this way. HATED
IT. But they couldn’t articulate a reason why it didn’t work for them, so I
ignored them and sent it to my editor anyway. My editor, being truly
brilliant, explained why this didn’t work as an opening. If readers didn’t
remember who the Dulacs were and what threat they posed to our heroes, the tension
and significance of the scene would be lost. She convinced me that I needed to
start the book with my protagonist, Jax, and make sure the reader was re-acquainted
with all the characters before throwing the villains at them. She was right, of
course, and I wrote a new first chapter that hopefully will serve as that quick
re-hash and still keep the reader interested.
The prisoner interrogation comes in chapter two. ;)
ME: Do you already have a long list of plot ideas for future
installments, or do you prefer to operate with more of a one-book-at-a-time
DIANNE: When HarperCollins signed me for a 3-book contract (with two
more optioned books), my editor asked me to plan a 5-book story arc that could
end on Book 3 if they decided not to pick up the options. At that point, I planned out a premise
for each of the 5 books. But I didn’t develop
a plot for each one until it was time to write it.
ME: Are any of your beta readers youngsters? If so, is their
DIANNE: My youngest daughter served as the #1 reader for The
Eighth Day when I was writing the first draft. (I recall printing out
my latest chapter one day, walking into the next room to pick up the pages and
discovering they were already gone. She’d been standing next to the printer to
collect them as they came out!) Of course, she was 12 back then. Now that she’s
14, she’s far too busy with her social life to read Mom’s work! However, I still had other young beta
readers. Lenny Lee, blogger extraordinaire, read the first and second books,
and of course I had my fifth grade students.
Their feedback was immeasurably helpful! I will miss them now that I’m
ME: I'm way outside the parameters of the target age
for your books, but I thoroughly enjoy them. I don't know if that's because you
do such a good job tapping into the imagination of my inner child, or
if it's something else. I mean, the most successful animated children's films also
incorporate some language and humor directed at an adult audience. Is any of
that in play in your books? Do you consciously try to appeal to an adult
audience, as well?
DIANNE: I do try to appeal to adults, especially by adding a
self-aware wink and a nod here and there. A number of adult readers commented
that they enjoyed how Jax, the first time he experiences the un-populated
eighth day, assumes it’s the zombie apocalypse and stocks up on survival gear
just like he’s seen people do on TV. Jax asks his guardian if they (the people
who experience the eighth day) are human, and Riley answers: “Of course we’re
human! What kind of bad science fiction movies have you been watching?” When
Jax learns about his connection to people in Arthurian legends, he does what
any of us would do: Googles his famous ancestor – only to find out he was “kind
of a jerk.” And anyone who has ever lived with a teenage boy has mentioned to
me how much they laughed at Jax and Riley blaming each other for why they were
constantly running out of groceries. I guess it’s no coincidence that these are
some of my favorite parts of the book too. I’m also way outside the target age!
ME: What's next for you? Is your focus going to be on
writing more Eighth Day books, or do you have another
series or more stand-alone books on the horizon?
DIANNE: I recently revised a YA historical mystery that I
wrote several years ago and also wrote a brand new kids’ science fiction
adventure. Both of these will go to my agent for consideration, and I hope
she’ll decide they’re worthy of submission to publishers. In the spring of 2105
I’ll need to expand the premise I have for the optioned Eighth Day books into something resembling a synopsis to submit for
I also have a few more ideas germinating (2 Middle Grade and
1 Young Adult) that might need that 18-month germination period before they
blossom into full plots ready to be drafted.
Publication of any of these books is not guaranteed. Even
with two prior YA historicals and this 3-book fantasy series under my belt,
every work I write has to go through the same submission process as my first
book. Sometimes, the answer will be “no.” All I can do is write as many as I
can and hope that some of them get a big “YES!”
ME: Anything else you'd like to share with us?
DIANNE: Just that I’m ridiculously excited for this release. The
Inquisitor’s Mark was probably my favorite book to write in the series
so far – and my favorite scenes involve a chase through the Central Park Zoo, a
garbage chute and a fire escape ladder, and a monster under a luxury Manhattan
Plot Summary for The Inquisitor’s Mark:
After the all-out Eighth Day war in Mexico, Jax, Riley, and
Evangeline have gone into hiding. There are still rogue Transitioners and evil
Kin lords who want to use Riley, a descendant of King Arthur, and Evangeline, a
powerful wizard with bloodlines to Merlin, to get control over the Eighth
So when Finn Ambrose, a mysterious stranger, contacts Jax claiming to be his
uncle, Jax’s defenses go up—especially when Finn tells Jax that he’s holding
Jax’s best friend, Billy, hostage. To rescue Billy and keep Riley and
Evangeline out of the fray, Jax sneaks off to New York City on his own. But
once there, he discovers a surprising truth: Finn is his uncle
and Jax is closely related to the Dulacs—a notoriously corrupt and dangerous
Transitioner clan who want Riley dead and Evangeline as their prisoner. And
family or not, these people will stop at nothing to get what they want.
Thanks, Dianne. I hope you sell a bazillion copies, and kids are lined up outside the book stores to get a copy.
Wow, I'm ridiculously excited about Dianne's new release, too. She isn't just a terrific writer; she's a terrific person. With a great imagination. (Did I happen to mention that?) And now... I hope you're excited about her books, too.
Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
|Things are definitely looking up. [Morguefile}|
P.S. While I have you looking up, how about looking into a nest... an eagle's nest... with two adorable babies in it? This eagle cam
is set up in the Fort Myers. Florida area. Really cool