Saturday, November 27, 2010

Guest Post with Julie Chibbaro

I have the amazing Julie Chibbaro for a guest post on her research for Deadly. First, here is the summary of Deadly:
A mysterious outbreak of typhoid fever is sweeping New York.
Could the city’s future rest with its most unlikely scientist?
If Prudence Galewski is ever going to get out of Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls, she must demonstrate her refinement and charm by securing a job appropriate for a young lady. But Prudence isn’t like the other girls. She is fascinated by how the human body works and why it fails.
With a stroke of luck, she lands a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of the fever bound to change medical history. Prudence quickly learns that an inquiry of this proportion is not confined to the lab. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, she explores every potential cause of the disease.
But there’s no answer in sight—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. Strangely, though, she hasn’t been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in a new scientific discovery?
And here is Julie on writing historical fiction:
The great part about reading historical fiction, for me, is the sense that I’m having a fabulous time while also learning something. After the last page, I feel full and solid, like I ate a good meal. I try to write my books that way – entertaining and enlightening at the same time.
So how did I find the story for Deadly? Well, I grew up in New York, a place that always struck me as rather notorious for its epidemics (all big cities have this problem). I’d always heard about Typhoid Mary – mostly from teachers and parents who admonished us not to spread our germs around – and I always thought she somehow injected epidemics into people, or worse. In doing research for another book, I came across the real story of (Typhoid) Mary Mallon. Turns out she was a cook for rich NY families working in 1906. She never got the fever, only spread it unintentionally in her cooking.
This epidemic seemed a perfect set-up for a historical novel. I started to think about a girl who might be affected by this epidemic, and how she might be involved in this story. I began to hear Prudence’s voice, a 16-year-old girl saddened by the loss of her brother and father, who wants, in her words, “to fight death.”
As the story began to take shape, my research brought me into wonderful areas of discovery about the time period – the latest technology: telephones, cars, electricity – and how Prudence used this new technology to hunt down the cause of the epidemic. The Internet was very helpful in this area – quick dips to Google to find out small things. For bigger facts, or for getting a whole sense of the time, I had to get on my feet and go to the Lower East Side of NY where the story takes place, or visit a museum to look at old paintings or photos, or to the NY Public Library to look at old newspapers.
Using history in my novels allows me to do my two favorite things, reading and writing, at the same time. I hope after reading Deadly, you come away with a full feeling, or at least a sense of wonder about the world that existed a hundred years ago.

I hope you enjoyed!

1 comment:

  1. I just recently read this book and LOVED it... Thanks for this awesome guest post!


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