PICTURE THE DEAD began on a blind date, when our agent, Charlotte Sheedy, decided that she had two clients too similar not to meet. So one afternoon, we sat down for a pot of tea and discovered that, yep, we were twins on different coasts, with a shared fascination for (among other things) the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Mary Todd Lincoln, the Brontë Sisters, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Turn of the Screw, and early photography. By six o’ clock, we’d decided to collaborate on … something. A history mystery, maybe, with tragedy, romance—and a ghost. Or two.
Whenever Lisa came East, we’d set up laptops in my kitchen (more tea) and pore over Library of Congress archives, letters of Civil War soldiers, and images by Brady and Mumler. We invented our characters, their scandals and their secrets. They became so vivid—and so many—that we were devastated when we had to kill off a few. Lisa started to create portraits, and our final story began to shape up.
In those early days, we came to understand that while we shared a similar sensibility and vision of the story, we’d also arrived at the project with different strengths. Lisa tended to find points of historical and visual interest and then dug deep. Whereas my focus became exploring the fictional path—finding the arc of the plot, and then sending Jennie off on her journey of twists and turns. The old saying that the sum is greater than its parts was never so regularly and delightfully realized for us than throughout this process.
LISA BROWN is the author and/or illustrator of a growing number of books, including How to Be, The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming, and Baby Mix Me a Drink. She draws the Three Panel Book Review cartoon for the book section of the San Francisco Chronicle. Lisa lives in San Francisco with her son and her husband, who is rumored to be Lemony Snicket.
She is an unapologetic history geek.
ADELE GRIFFIN has written a number of novels for middle grade and young adult readers, including the Witch Twins and Vampire Island series, as well as the novels Sons of Liberty and Where I Want to Be, both National Book Award Finalists. She lives with her husband and daughter in Brooklyn, New York.
She is merely unapologetic.