Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Birthday! Part 3 Discovering America's Past through Historical Fiction

Dear Reader,
I'm pleased to introduce you to Author Julie Chibbaro and deadly, her hot off the press historical fiction novel set around the turn of the century in New York City. What you'll find in this post is a brief bio about Julie and the article she wrote for YOU, dear reader, along with some special links you'll want to check out.  An insightful interview with Julie about her first historical novel and writing process will follow next week. Julie has generously donated an ARC of deadly as a giveaway to celebrate her Book's Birthday! It's easy; simply leave a comment. Your comment will be numbered and random.org will choose the winner! Now, please join me in welcoming Author Julie Chibbaro! Let's all celebrate her Book's Birthday by leaving a comment to congratulate her.

Author Julie Chibbaro
A Short Bio: JULIE CHIABBARO grew up in New York City wondering how so many people could live together without infecting each other with mortal diseases. She is the author of Redemption which won the 2005 American Book Award. Julie teaches fiction and creative writing in New York. Visit her here: juliechibbaro.com
(I'd rush over there if I were you--if you don't win her book here, you have a chance to win one of five books she's giving away!)

And now, Julie Chibbaro shares an inside look at deadly: how do you catch an invisible killer?  

Julie Chibbaro:

"I’ve always been interested in other people’s business.  Not just their personal business, but their backgrounds as well.  Where did they come from, how did they get there, what do they do with themselves all day? 

Pretty early on in my life, I found that other cultures fascinated me for just these kinds of human stories – when I lived in Mexico as a 19-year-old, I spent a lot of time learning about the Aztecs and their evolution, their language and history.  Every time I visited a new country, I’d explore their story – who conquered this place, how did they settle, why did they stay?  Ten years later, after living in the Czech Republic, I came back to my side of the world (I moved to Montreal, where my husband was from), wondering who I was, and what my American history was. That was the genesis of Redemption, my first book.

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro
My second novel, deadly, came when I returned to my hometown of New York City after a seven-year hiatus.  I felt surprised by the dense population, the dirt in the streets.  It occurred to me (as it had many times in my youth) how easily an epidemic could wipe everyone out.  I grew up in New York City, and I’d always thought about how packed together we all lived – but upon my return, it came flooding back to me in memories, how friends and sisters often joked about spreading germs. 

While doing research for another book (one I never wrote), I stumbled on the story of a woman I’d only heard about in urban legends, one who tied directly in to my rekindled awareness of germs.  I’d always thought that this woman, who most called Typhoid Mary, was an intentional killer, slaying masses with her germ-spreading powers.  When I came across her real story, I knew I had to write about her.(Purchase deadly by clicking on this long link: http://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Julie-Chibbaro/dp/0689857381/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1298131294&sr=1-1

The real Typhoid Mary lived at the beginning of the 20th century in New York City.  Her story contained very interesting elements to me – she was an immigrant (which fit with my previous fascination with other people’s business), she spread disease among rich and poor, and she was a real firecracker of a lady (busting the stereotype of the refined “Gibson Girl” of the time).  I knew that writing about her would answer a lot of questions I’d always had about the city in general.  I wanted to use her real story – the scientists who tracked her down, the way they found her – but of course, I had to figure out a whole fiction around her too.  I needed to create a teen with a desire to fight disease.  I write for teens, so how could I involve them in this story?

Prudence Galewski, my 16-year-old heroine, shares with me only a love of journaling and a curiosity about the world.  Other than that, she is a lot smarter than me, and certainly braver.  She helps her mother the midwife deliver babies (an occupation that takes her close to life and death often), and she loses her brother to disease.  This makes her need to know why people get sick, and why they die.  Prudence’s voice was a struggle for me to find – I rewrote this book from scratch a number of times, first as a boy, then as a series of letters.  Once I understood her strong desire, once I could hear her secret whisperings to herself (in the form of a diary), then I could write this book.

My research took me many times to the New York Public Library, where I buried myself in the many tons of microfiche they have of the newspapers of the time (about 20).  I read the whole paper, not just the articles about Mary.  Newspapers tell you what price apartments rent for, how much salaries are, what people are buying and eating and reading in a time period.  I also visited the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side, a building that is preserved from that time period.  And I read historical fiction of the time (especially helpful was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), and looked at many pictures (my favorite photos were Byron’s).  I read a great book called Typhoid Mary by Judith Walzer Leavitt.  Imagination was really my best tool.

I think the trailer for Deadly gives you a good sense of the book.  Made by the artist Jean-Marc Superville Sovak (supervillesovak.com), with music by Eric Helmuth:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHMFec_e6Vk

I’m currently working with Jean-Marc on another book.  It’s about a graffiti artist (though he wouldn’t call himself that) and a poet (though she wouldn’t call herself that) who live in the parks of NYC.  That’s about all I can share about it right now.

I love to hear from readers, who can visit me and download an excerpt of Deadly from my website, juliechibbaro.com.  I’m also on FB (Deadly by Julie Chibbaro: http://bit.ly/bHtTBx), and twitter (@juliechibbaro).  I will be at the Empire State Book Festival (http://empirestatebookfestival.wordpress.com/) in Albany, NY the first weekend in April, and would love to meet readers there.

Thank you, Julie, for stopping by to share with us! Congratulations on your new book, deadly!
Thank you, dear reader, for joining the celebration! We'll be back in a week with more from Julie!


  1. Hi Clara and Julie,

    Great interview--questions and responses.

    The turn of the 20th century is one of my all-time favorite historical periods. What a fascinating way to look at the past!

    I would love to win a copy of DEADLY.

    Donna v.

  2. Clara and Julie:

    Sounds like a fascinating story. I love historical fiction and it would be great if I could win a copy of "deadly."

    Gayle :)

  3. I found historical fascinating as a youngster and still do. History came alive for me when I read about it in stories. That's why my ancestors' stories are so interesting for me, as I learn more about them than names and dates. I'm currently writing a novel set in the Civil War era, based on my family history.

  4. Thanks, Donna (irishoma) and Gayle, for leaving a comment! Always happy to hear from you wonderful history lovers! :D Plus, you names/numbers #1 & #2 go in for the book drawing from random.org. Best wishes!

  5. Mary Emma Allen, So wonderful to hear from you! Terrific news that you're working on a historical novel based on your family stories. You won't want to miss the upcoming posts later in March--I think they'll have special interest for you! :D

  6. This looks like an amazing book. I'm definitely going to check this out even if I don't win! I love historical fiction and I love the sound of this premise.

  7. Hi Rebecca, Thanks for leaving a comment! Your name/number goes in for the drawing for deadly!

  8. Puhlease! Enter me. I want this book. Julie your book trailer is to die for.

    Clara, thanks for hosting Julie. I love this post.

  9. Hi Joyce, Thanks so much for dropping by to leave a comment. Your name/number goes in for a chance to win the ARC of deadly! :D

  10. Sounds like a must-read. Isn't it funny how research for one book can propel you into another? It's happened to me, too.
    Kathy Cannon Wiechman

  11. I agree with Joyce, I love the book trailer! I would love to be entered in the drawing for the book. Thanks!

  12. Hi Kathy Cannon Wiechman, Thanks for celebrating Julie's Book Birthday with us! What are you writing now?

  13. Welcome to my blog, Sarah Putnam! Indeed your name/number will be added to the drawing for deadly! Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Hi Clara & Julie,
    What a wonderful interview, and Happy Book Birthday to your new book Julie! The trailer was great and the book sounds fascinating. Thanks for sharing it. I can't wait to read it!

  15. Lorrie, Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm glad so many of you are checking out Julie's links. Don't forget that you could win a book from her web-site, too!

  16. I really enjoyed the post. It sounds like a great book and one she put a lot of research into. Put my name in for the drawing, please. I'm going to go now and check out all the links. Thanks, Janet

  17. Thanks for stopping by, Janet. Glad you were inspired by Julie's article. Your name/number is added to the drawing. :D

  18. Wow! What a fantastic interview, Clara. Julie seems very passionate about her work. How inspiring. I would love to win her fantastic book. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  19. Hi Jennifer, Thanks so much for leaving a comment. So glad you were inspired by her article. You're really going to love her follow-up interview! Stay tuned!

  20. I really love reading how ideas for books come to be. Also, LOVE THIS TITLE! It sure catches your attention! Best of luck to you and your book.


  21. Clara, I enjoyed reading about Julie's research process, especially her perusing of the newspapers of the time period. They are so revealing. I also liked reading about her many rewrites until she found her protagonist's voice. I can relate to that. And the book trailer is great! I'm looking forward to the interview next week.

  22. Hi Margo, Thanks for dropping by to celebrate with us! The title, Deadly, does grab you, doesn't it?

  23. Hi Toby, Thanks for your thoughtful comment!I know you're going to love the interview, too! It'll be posted on Tuesday!

  24. Clara,
    The book just arrived. I am so excited to begin reading it. Thank you again.

  25. What a neat idea for a book! I can't wait to read your interview.

  26. Hi Linda, I'm so glad the book arrived safe and sound. Enjoy! Thanks!

  27. Hi Margaret, You're gonna love the interview and Julie's book, REDEMPTION! Thanks for stopping by to leave a comment--your name is added for the drawing.

  28. Thanks for bringing this new novel to my attention, Clara. I'm always drawn to book set in New York City, no matter the period. I love the Tenement Musuem -- highly recommend it to anyone visiting New York.


  29. I read REDEMPTION and loved it --I loved the mood and tone and the image of what it was like to arrive in a land where there were no obvious roads, just trees, and no way to know where or in which direction to go. And I love the interview, especially this: "About my writing process, I have periods of “in” and “out.” I go “in” myself to write, and come “out” to promote my work. Each period can last days or weeks, but I find it hard to do both simultaneously." As a writer, I share this ongoing struggle.
    Congrats to Julie --DEADLY is undoubtedly a hot one! Can't wait to read it.

  30. Wendy, Thank you for your thoughtful comment, and for adding your very valued recommendation for REDEMPTION.