Tuesday, April 27, 2010

GRAFFITI WALL: Dianne Salerni, We Hear The Dead

The GRAFFITI WALL is so excited today to introduce you to a wonderful YA author whose debut novel is set for release this Saturday, May 1st. She's a writer, mom, teacher, and an all around great lady.
Dianne Salerni, author of WE HEAR THE DEAD

Welcome Dianne. I always like to ask how an author was first attracted to the art of writing.
I’ve been making up stories since before I could write, so I can’t remember a specific author or book that inspired me.  My earliest foray into authorship is a little paper book called The Dragon and The Girl. My father penciled in the title for me, and the story is told through pictures. I cut the pages out myself (crookedly) and pasted them together with Elmer’s Glue. 
I love stories like that. Great memory. 

Favorite authors? I know you like history, which is a fantastical place to scope out material. What era has interested you the most?
My reading tastes have changed a lot over time. In high school and college I mostly read science fiction and fantasy (CJ Cherryh, Roger Zelazny, Douglas Adams).  Later, I was into mysteries (PD James, Elizabeth George, Reginald Hill), and as a teacher, I also read a ton of MG and YA fiction (Suzanne Collins, Nancy Farmer, Margaret Peterson Haddix). It’s only been in the past several years that I’ve taken a big interest in historical fiction (Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir).  I love to read about many different eras, but I’m most comfortable writing in the 19th century.

You're a wife, mother, teacher, and now published author. Any way to put it all in perspective?
Sometimes, it’s hard to put it all in perspective!  My family has been super supportive, but I know there are times it wears on their nerves.  When I’m deep into writing, my husband says I’m time traveling, and more than once I almost called him by the name of the romantic lead in my most recent manuscript! My daughters claim that when I’m busy on the computer, I’ll respond to any question they ask by saying, “Hello!” but I can’t corroborate that.

I've also read that you are a reviewer. What are your favorite books i.e., subjects to review?
I usually pick a lot of YA, as well as historical fiction, science fiction, and paranormal.  When I first started reviewing, I had trouble turning anybody down.  I wanted to help out any author who needed a review.  However, I quickly learned that I wasn’t doing anybody a favor by picking a genre I didn’t enjoy.  I’m more selective now, which increases the chances of being able to write a favorable review.

Being a 5th grade teacher must keep you busy. How have your students responded to your success?
They are very excited for me, and I keep them updated on the whole publication process.  They like to see the tables turned on the writing teacher – like when my producer/collaborator told me I needed to rip off the first 30 pages of the screenplay and write a new beginning.  They almost fell out of their chairs laughing! At conference time this spring, many parents congratulated me on various successes I had shared with my class. This tells me the kids are enthused enough about their “author teacher” to take the stories home.
I'm sure that added support helps. That's great.

So what about your own children? Doing more laundry for Mom, cooking, cleaning...?
Yes, they do help more around the house than they used to, but at ages nine and thirteen, they are the age for it!  Okay, so their version of “dusting” and “vacuuming” doesn’t quite meet my standard – but that’s probably true in every house! I figure they owe me some cleaning, because I suspect they get away with a lot of stuff while I’distracted by writing. (Them: “Can we have a 3rd bowl of ice cream?” Me: “Hello!”)
*Smile again* (I can relate.)

Okay. Big stuff. Can you explain the process you've undergone to bring WE HEAR THE DEAD to public light? I know you went the self-publishing route first. How was that process different then what is going on with the book now?
There was no “release date” when I self-published. One day the book turned up live on Amazon, and that was it – no fanfare, no publicity.  Promoting the book was totally up to me. I pitched the book to various review sites and paid for the review copies.  If I participated in a signing event at a store or a fair, I bought the books and paid for the booth.  And of course, I had to overcome two major obstacles to promote my work: the price of a POD book and the stigma of self-publishing.
Releasing this book with Sourcebooks has been an entirely different story.  I need only to point out the absolutely kickin’ party my publishers threw in New York City to launch the Sourcebooks Fire imprint. I have to admit I was nervous when I went, since I was probably the least experienced author there that night.  But that’s not the way I was treated, and I left that evening flying high and proud to be associated with Sourcebooks!

Sounds so exciting!!

Would you recommend a writer try self-publishing or should I ask what are the major pros and cons you ran into that would influence their decision?
A writer should very carefully weigh all the pros and cons before self-publishing.  On the plus side, you have a book and some number of people will read it.  You have creative control over it, and you make all the decisions.  On the downside, the cost of publishing and promoting the book are yours to bear, and a POD book is always going to be over-priced. (E-book publishing is a different story, of course, and a great way to get some exposure!)
In the end, I was lucky.  My book had great reviews and it was based on a true story.  These were the two factors that brought High Spirits to the attention of Sourcebooks and a producer in Hollywood -- and ultimately led to the creation of We Hear the Dead and hopefully the (as yet unnamed) movie!

You mentioned the story is based on real events. How much of the book is actual fiction and how much is based on history? 
The book very closely follows recorded history. Everything that happens in We Hear the Dead really did happen, although I sometimes changed the order in which it happens (or the location) in order to make the plot flow smoothly. I used E.E. Lewis's pamphlet describing the Hydesville Haunting to write the beginning of the book, where the Fox sisters begin their hoax. And I used lines from Maggie and Elisha's love letters to create dialogue between them. I often had to guess at people's motives and sometimes fill in missing information with my imagination, but I kept as close to the facts as I possibly could.
That sounds so interesting and fun to write.

Congratulations on working on the screenplay for We Hear The Dead. That must be a trip. How is writing a screenplay different than the actual manuscript?
Thank you!  Never in a million years did I imagine myself speaking the words “my screenplay!” A movie script is a completely different animal than a novel.  I had to shift my entire schema of writing to draft the screenplay.  At first, I didn’t like it at all, but the better I got at it, the more enjoyable it became.  My collaborator has been wonderful (even when she told me to ditch the first 30 pages).  She is currently sending version 6.4 to Hollywood insiders for feedback, which gives you an idea about how many drafts there were!  Based on that feedback, we’ll decide whether there needs to be a 7.0 version before she starts pitching the book to financial backers.`

Have you had a lot of say in the re-write? And the ultimate question: will you have any say in the casting process?
Sourcebooks was very supportive during the re-writing process, and they never asked me to do anything to the story that made me unhappy.  In fact, I thought most of their suggestions improved the book.  Since We Hear the Dead is based on real events, it was not a matter of changing the plot so much as trimming out the fat.  I learned a valuable lesson in the process: not everything I learned during my historical research really needs to be in the book!
As for the movie, if the producer finds financing, my role is pretty much over!  I won’t be choosing the title OR the cast … however, my contract does state that I’ll be flown out to the filming site for three days on the set.  I’m more than happy with that!

Ooh...so cool!

I have to ask, what will you be doing on release day?
I’ll be attending a Rotary Club Sweetheart’s Ball at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA.  It was actually a Valentine’s Day event that was rescheduled due to one of the 2010 Blizzards. So, on Release Day, I’ll be dressed up pretty and dancing with my husband! Not a bad way to celebrate!
This has been an amazing pleasure, so insightful and encouraging. Thank you for taking the time to share your life and writing experience with us, your fans. Best of luck and can't wait to read the book and see it on the silver screen!! 

Want more of Dianne? Feel free to visit her website and blog, and visit your local bookstore or online store to purchase WE HEAR THE DEAD. Oh, and watch her book trailer below. Really sweet!



  1. Great interview, thanks Sheri and Dianne. This sounds like a really unique book.

  2. Thanks Dianne and Sheri! I love the book's cover and it sounds really interesting.

  3. Awesome interview! I love the "Hello." I think I'm going to start using that with my kids when I'm in my writing zone! :-)

  4. Diane,
    I just love to hear success stories like yours. The book sounds awesome - creepy YouTube video!

    Great interview, Sheri.

  5. Great interview, ladies!

    LOVE your book cover.


  6. That was a FANTABULOUS interview Ladies!

    Your book sounds RIGHT UP MY ALLEY - I'm HUGELY looking forward to reading it!

    Sheri - I can't keep up with you - what a prolific girl you are.


  7. fantastic interview! I can't wait to read this book.

  8. I can't wait to read this book! I've seen it around the blogosphere and it's on my list! Great interview.

    And I say "You're in the queue," when my family asks me questions when I need to think. :)

  9. Congrats Dianne. What an inspiring story. I always am so inspired to see authors succeeding who work full time like me. It helps me remember others can do it when I get overwhelmed. I can definitely relate to your response to your kids when you're involved in your book.

  10. Great, great interview! I love the cover of this book. It's on my wish list already! He he. :-)

  11. Great interview! Love the trailer. The cover is amazing!

  12. omg FAB interview!! can't wait to read the book!!

    thanks for this, sheri!!

  13. What an awesome interview!!!! I love meeting new authors and the book sounds really good!

  14. Great interview!!!!!! This book sounds AWESOME! ANd a movie??? Too cool!

  15. She sounds hilarious and the book sounds intriguing. I love it that her class is so excited for her.

    Thanks for the interview. I love to hear about other writers' journeys!!

  16. Great interview! I love that Dianne shares her wins and ouches with her class. That must be so inspirational for them!

  17. Wonderful interview. I love hearing about other authors. Everyone has a story, nice to find one who blazed their own path and came out on top.


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