The new novel Picture the Dead is a collaborative effort by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown. The story, set in the aftermath of the Civil War, has regret, remorse, reconciliation, and romance as one young woman struggles to come to terms with those she's lost, and those who were left behind. This exclusive interview with the authors reveals how they came up with the story, and includes a ghostly encounter or two.
Little Willow: How did you two meet?
Lisa Brown: We went on a blind date set up by our agent. She is a very, very, wise woman. She said: "You will love each other, you should work together on something... Now, go!"
Adele Griffin: Then we went down this bizarre, wonderful ride called The Book of Humiliations, our retelling of the Salem Witch Trials, only set in a New England High School in present day. With extensive graphics and visual clues. Ambitious, unpublished, beloved.
Little Willow: For what it's worth, I would snatch that book up right away, as I'm fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials! Now, for Picture the Dead, which came first, the text or the illustrations? Adele, did you complete the manuscript and then have Lisa create the illustrations, or was it truly collaborative, page by page, step-by-step?
Lisa Brown: Neither, really. First came these incredible 19th century photographs that we found on the Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs Online archive. The nameless people in those old photos just reached out and grabbed us, like they were begging for their stories to be told. And then I became morbidly obsessed with the Andersonville prison camp, and then we were both salivating over this exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York about spirit photography, and then postmortem photos and mourning art; our various fascinations just grew and grew.
Adele Griffin: Yes, and also we'd re-inspire each other throughout. A musty, 19th century of some anonymous corpse. A necklace made of human hair. Remembering that part in Jane Eyre when the first Mrs. Rochester is dragging around at midnight, her fingernails scratching the corridor walls. We have a talent for spooking each other.
Causes Adele Griffin Supports
Brooklyn Historical Society
Harlem Village Academies
Boys Latin School of Philadelphia