Lisa Brown (in the hat) and Adele Griffin (sporting a mustache)
at their book launch
A few weeks ago I reviewed a splendid book called Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown. I also interviewed the book's creators just as they were about the launch the book. As I read about what Lisa and Adele were doing, I became interested in finding out what it was like to get a book off the ground once it was accepted by a publisher. I asked Adele if she would like to tell us a little bit about this journey, which she did. Here is her letter.
Dear Looking Glass,
We are launched! A whirlwind month to cap a fascinating year, when Picture the Dead first landed at our editor’s door—not with a thunk, mind you, but a polite and hesitant tap. As longtime collaborators on the project, we were both braced for rejection but hopeful that someone might find our Civil War ghost story worthy of an audience bigger than just us two. It’s a quirky read, for sure—a story about photography that is not illustrated with photographs. A serious young adult novel with pictures of a scrapbook that hold
s clues to its mystery. Historical fiction where much of the “historical” is tucked into our website.
Kelly Barrales-Saylor, the marvelous editor who answered our tap, jumped into our off-kilter world with both feet. She had no qualms—though plenty of queries. And so we spent much of last year tugging logic, plot and sentences into shape; placing and replacing the art; vetting for historical accuracy, and spinning out at least fifty titles (The Recognized, Find Me When I’m Gone, The Ghost of William Pritchett) before we arrived at the one that is stamped on the jacket.
But that was so last year. This year, we’re devoted to getting the book into your hands.
The Booksmith in San Francisco, where we just launched Picture the Dead, is not only the kind of bookstore you cross your fingers you’d get to grow up near, but has the added benefit of being Lisa’s local Indy. With our May 6, 2010, date set, and enterprising folk at the literary media site Red Room live-streaming the event, we were ready for our close-up. In full Victoriana, that is. Corsets, funny hats, and mustaches had been hunted down. Lisa’s husband, Daniel Handler, lent the wit and charm of his alter-ego Lemony Snicket, who acted (in absentia) as Master of Ceremonies. Booksellers were duly outfitted in Union uniform. We read from the book, presented slides, raffled T-shirts, tintypes, and lockets, signed books—and pinched each other in disbelief. After all, it had been almost seven years since that first afternoon when we conceived our gothic ghostly tale.
We gave readings in Brookline, Massachusetts, our book’s historical home, last weekend, and with Philadelphia upcoming, plus BEA and ALA around the corners, we’re putting out the word out bit by bit. The wonderful world of online marketing has been remarkable, too—and with a book like Picture the Dead, we are never short a “tag.” Which, depending on the interview or guest blog, has included: spirit photography, fraud photography, Civil War, twins, ghosts, hair art, festering head wounds, malarial swamps, Boston, Brookline, William Mumler, Mary Todd Linclon, séances, neck clamps, Godey’s Ladies Book—well, you get the Picture.
And, yes, through the whirlwind, we do have an open folder called: New Book. With plenty of possibilities, as we muse on another odyssey, and another “will this or won’t this work?” format. We have no idea what course we might take, but an element of risk seems certain. And then, look out … we’ll be tapping.
Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown
Thank you Adele and Lisa, and I look forward to hearing about what you do next.