Dianne K. Salerni: We Hear the Dead Q&A

Posted May 26, 2010 by Sara | Novel Novice 0 Comments

Yesterday, we brought you our exclusive review of We Hear the Dead by Dianne K. Salerni. Today, we’re delighted to bring you our exclusive interview with Dianne about writing We Hear the Dead, starting out as a self-published author, who she’d pick to play her characters in a movie, and more! Special thanks to Dianne for answering our questions, and to Paul at Sourcebooks for setting up the interview!

What is the self-publishing experience like, and how do you think it helped you sell the book to the publishers at Sourcebooks?

Self-publishing can be very lonely! You don’t get a lot of support or advice when bringing the book to publication, and marketing is completely on your shoulders. There’s also a stigma attached to self-publishing that has to be overcome. However, there are support networks out there, and if you work at it, you can build credibility. I was able to sell enough books for Amazon to recommend my novel to a Sourcebooks editor, and the great reviews already written for it prompted her to buy it and read it herself. When the company decided to make an offer for the publishing rights, they already knew I was hard-working and willing to help them market the book, based on the work I’d done so far.

Your book is based on real people and true events. What made you decide to write a YA book about this subject?

I was researching séances and spirit mediums with an idea for a different project, when I encountered the story of Maggie and Kate Fox. I had no idea that the entire spiritualist movement originated with two adolescent girls and a ghost story they later admitted was made-up. I was fascinated. Then, when their older sister launched them into business as spirit mediums, Maggie and Kate became America’s first teenage celebrities. It was a classic rags-to-riches story, and fame came with a high price for both girls. I feel that today’s YA readers can relate to this experience, and I think it is important for young readers to develop a sense of history and relate it to modern society. There’s really nothing new under the sun, as they say!

You’ve also sold the movie rights for We Hear the Dead. What has that experience been like so far?

It was a dream-come-true, especially since the offer came out of nowhere. I was additionally surprised that the producer who bought the option wanted me to write the screenplay. I tried to get out of it at first, citing my lack of experience. But she sweet-talked me into attempting a first draft, with the idea that a professional screenwriter could revise it later. Somewhere between the second and third draft, we completely forgot that we had ever planned to call in anybody else. She was a fantastic collaborator, and with her assistance, I learned quickly. The current draft (the sixth) is ready for pitching to financial backers, and I am totally in love with writing screenplays!

Let’s talk fantasy casting: Who would you like to see play some of the major characters in the movie version of We Hear the Dead?

This was a really hard question! But how about this line up? I’d like Emma Roberts for the lovely and mischievous Maggie Fox and wide-eyed Saoirse Ronan for the dreamy Kate Fox. The role of Leah Fish, the girls’ manipulative older sister, calls for an icy and strong beauty, like Kelly Reilly. And for Elisha Kane, the Arctic explorer who steals Maggie’s heart, I’d take Jake Gyllenhaal in a beard.

At Novel Novice, one of our main goals is encouraging teens to read. What would you say to reluctant teen readers to convince them to pick up a book?

The teen book market has got to be the fast growing one in the business. Teen readers have never been more powerful. It’s their interests and tastes that dictate what gets published. Whether it’s manga, fantasy, action, cell novels, steampunk, or paranormal – the publishing industry is listening and eager to learn what today’s teens want. For the first time, I am seeing teen novels in e-book form, and I expect we’ll see more and more titles available as audio downloads. “Picking up a book” doesn’t mean what it used to mean, but there’s something out there for everyone, and teens are at the forefront of the changes!

What question do you always wish someone would ask you during an interview?

Which character was your favorite one to write about?

Now answer that question.

The first character I really enjoyed was Leah Fish. History painted her as manipulative and overbearing, but I knew she also had to be extremely likeable to accomplish everything that she did. I tried to make her bold, sassy, and very changeable, depending on whom she was dealing with. However, when Elisha Kane entered the story, I had a new favorite. He took center stage and refused to get off. I especially loved the scenes where Elisha and Leah battled for control of Maggie’s life, and I was able to take lines from their real historical letters when Leah called Elisha “pompous” and Elisha nicknamed Leah “the Tigress.”


If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be & why?

I’d like to walk in the shoes of an editor. Writing and editing is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bringing a book to publication. I’d love a peek at the rest of the process!

What was the last movie you saw?

How to Train Your Dragon, which I absolutely loved. But why did all the Vikings have Scottish accents?

Biggest TV addiction?

LOST! I’m a proud member of Team Sawyer.

Guilty Pleasure?

Chocolate chip cookie dough — raw.

Fruits or veggies?

Veggies, as long as there is dip.

Favorite childhood toy?

Oh, the embarrassment! My brother had a Star Trek Enterprise set with all of the accompanying action dolls – Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and my favorite, Ensign Pavel Chekov! Barbie used to kiss Chekov a lot. Kirk was jealous.

Sara | Novel Novice

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