IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS deftly combines historical fiction with horror. And I happen to be a fan of both – so naturally, I had to say YES at the chance of interviewing the author, the lovely Cat Winters. So without further ado, here’s a little Q&A I had with the author herself. And be sure to scroll down to the end – there’s a pretty awesome giveaway!
Cat Winters: In 1918, bright and logical Mary Shelley Black must face a war, a deadly flu, séances, Spiritualist frauds, and the ghost of her first love.
IceyBooks: Why did you decide to write a ghost story set in history rather than the present?
Cat Winters: I’ve loved ghost stories ever since I was a kid, but this story started when I stumbled upon the strange, sad, and fascinating history of séances and early trick photography, which began in the 1800s and flourished during the WWI era. I wanted to put my love of ghost tales into that intriguing historical environment.
IceyBooks: Do you have a favorite line that was removed from the original draft of IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS?
Cat Winters: The day before my father’s arrest, I read an article about a mother who cured her daughter of the Spanish flu by burying her in raw onions for three days.
(This is the original opening line that made it all the way to the advance reading copy stage, but my editor and I needed to trim ten pages off the book before the final version could be printed.)
IceyBooks: Tell us a little bit about how you signed with your agent.
Cat Winters: I originally queried my agent, Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, back in 2007. Back then, I was still trying to break into the market of mainstream fiction for adults, and I had a contemporary vampire suburban satire out on submission to agents. She called me up, which she said she never typically did, and told me she loved the book but felt it needed some work before she could offer representation. I revised the manuscript for about six more months, all the while gathering feedback from critique partners and other readers, and then I sent the book back to Barbara.
She offered to represent me in October 2007, and although that vampire novel never sold, we agreed to stick by each other and keep plugging away. Four years after I signed with her (almost to the day), we sold In the Shadow of Blackbirds to Amulet Books/ABRAMS.
IceyBooks: Give us the three:
-Items on your desk right now
My laptop with a little koala bear toy hanging off its side, a copy of BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA: THE CRITICAL FEAST by John Edgar Browning, a plastic mug that says, “Shooby Dooby Down to Ruby’s,” from one of my old Southern California hangouts.
-Books you can’t wait to read:
Cat Winters: Two 2012 novels I still need to devour are Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, and I’m itching to read Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys.
-Types of snacks you’re craving right now:
Cat Winters was born and raised in Southern California, near Disneyland, which may explain her love of haunted mansions, bygone eras, and fantasylands. She received degrees in drama and English from the University of California, Irvine, and formerly worked in publishing. She currently lives outside of Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two kids.
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In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?
Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time