Wednesday, June 8, 2016

THE CAGED GRAVES by Dianne Salerni

Not only was THE CAGED GRAVES inspired by two real caged graves in an abandoned Pennsylvania cemetery, it contains the perfect blend of historical and fantasy that I always like to see in YA novels. Have a look:

17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.

You taught fourth and fifth grade for 25 years. In what ways, if any, does this experience inform how you relate to your book audiences? 

For all those years, my daily co-workers were 10 and 11-year-old kids. (I spent a lot more time with them than with my fellow teachers.) I know what they like to read. I know how they talk and how they behave. This really helps me with my middle grade books. Characters like Jax Aubrey, Billy Ramirez, and Dorian Ambrose are based on blends of various students.

That kind of authenticity is definitely needed and appreciated by readers. THE CAGED GRAVES is also a Junior Library Guild selection--congratulations! I love how it was based on real caged graves, and how the plot intertwines both the American Civil War and the Revolutionary War. Did you initially know how the story would play out, or did it grow organically as you went along?

Thank you! I am an incurable “pantster,” so the story definitely evolved as I wrote the first draft. Since THE CAGED GRAVES is a murder mystery, I had the solution to the crime worked out in advance, but I had no idea how my main character was going to figure it out!

I decided to set the story in 1867, fifteen years after the real women in the real caged graves died. This dictated a post-Civil War setting. Then, when I was researching the history of central Pennsylvania I came across some interesting events from the Revolutionary War: a supposed massacre conducted by British troops and their Native American allies. I knew I had to weave that into the mystery! The first draft was a bit of a mess (they always are), but that’s part of my process, and I’ve come to accept it.

As a fellow incurable "pantser," I know exactly what you mean! Your novel, WE HEAR THE DEAD was the inspiration for a short film, The Spirit Game. In what ways did you feel the film encompassed your vision of the story?

Although they aged up my teenage characters to adults, I thought they did a remarkable job of capturing the themes of the book in seven minutes! The personalities of the three sisters are true to my vision: Leah, for whom it was all business, Maggie, who wanted to help people, and Kate, who is wiser than her years. The movie makes it clear that their séances are faked, and yet Kate knows things about her client that she shouldn’t know. How much of it is supernatural talent, and how much of it comes from the laudanum we see her add to her glass? The short film is currently being used as a promotional tool by the producer, who wants to see this as a TV series.

Very exciting! What are some of your current projects? 

As usual, I have several projects in various stages. I’m finishing up agent-requested revisions on a YA manuscript while the first draft of a MG story is “resting” in an awful, messy state, awaiting future revisions. Meanwhile, I’m toying with ideas for a future project and sitting on a first draft of another Eighth Day book while I wait to hear if my publisher will continue the series. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Thanks for hosting me today! Thanks for being here, Dianne! 

To grab a copy of THE CAGED GRAVES for yourself, feel free to click the links below:

Buy: ~ BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

And for more about Dianne and her books, you can visit her website:

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