Author Susan Dennard’s debut novel, Something Strange and Deadly, is an addictively creepy tale of a strong-willed teenage girl battling zombies and evil spirits in 1870s Philadelphia (read the review).
Dennard’s initial career ambition was marine biology – she even has a masters degree in it! A move to Europe (and away from the ocean) prompted her to pursue writing instead. Now that she’s had a taste of writing novels, she says that she “can never do anything else.”
This is good news for fans of Dennard’s unique work, and she’s sure to attract more admirers with her creative plots, strong characters and ambient settings. With Halloween around the corner, it’s the perfect time to check out Something Strange and Deadly for a dose of horror mixed with some mystery…and even a little romance.
Susan was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about Something Strange and Deadly and the upcoming sequel, A Darkness Strange and Lovely.
On to the Interview!
The Daily Quirk: Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you came to pursue writing?
Susan Dennard: I grew up a big daydreamer and reader, and when I was around 13, I started writing for fun. I didn’t share my stories, but for years and years, I would write every spare second–in class, after school, on the bus. My writing tapered off in college when I got busy with my degree (marine biology), but during grad school, I started writing again as a way to de-stress at the end of each day. Then, a few years later, when I moved to Germany with my husband, I couldn’t get a job…so I turned to writing full-time! Instead of just writing for fun, I worked at it–studied the craft, joined online writing communities, and learned all I could about the industry. And of course, I wrote a book or two. ;) Eventually, all my hard work paid off!
TDQ: Something Strange and Deadly is set in Philadelphia in the 1870′s and focuses on paranormal themes. Historical fiction tends to involve a lot of research, whereas paranormal themes are much more abstract. How did you balance those elements when writing this story?
SD: First, I did a TON of research. I needed to know 1876 so well that I could just sink into it as if it were modern day. But I also wanted my version of 1876 to have some fantasy elements. I wanted there to be a dark side to the world, and I wanted there to be this constant threat of “What if death isn’t the end but a really terrifying beginning?” I definitely developed the necromancy and ghosts as I wrote the story, figuring out how the magic worked as new things (like a spirit brought in from a seance) were introduced.
TDQ: The main character in Something Strange and Deadly, Eleanor, is incredibly bright and independent and learns from her mistakes. I felt that she set a great example for teenage readers. Did you have any specific inspiration for her character? Were you consciously trying to create a character for readers to look up to?
SD: Honestly, Eleanor is very much the kind of girl I wish I’d been when I was a teen. She’s fearless, loyal, and committed–a true hero. She starts off concerned what people think, but as the story develops, she develops too and starts to really analyze her values. I wish I’d been that self-aware at age sixteen!
TDQ: Is there a specific scene in Something Strange and Deadly that you particularly enjoyed writing?
SD: My favorite scene to write was Chapter 19, which takes place at a dynamite factory. It was a pivotal scene in the story because Eleanor makes a choice–perhaps not a good one–that greatly impacts how things unfold in the rest of the book. She finally reaches a point where she knows what she stands for, and she’s willing to fight for it. Plus, it’s a super exciting scene with some romance–what’s not to like about writing that? ;)
TDQ: What can you tell us about the upcoming sequel, A Darkness Strange and Lovely?
SD: A Darkness Strange and Lovely takes Eleanor and the Spirit-Hunters to Paris. The necromancer from Something Strange and Deadly is back, but there’s also a new threat lurking in the Parisian streets. Plus, there’s still some unfinished business between Eleanor and Daniel…
You can learn more about Susan on her blog at susandennard.com
- Book Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
- An Interview with Author Jennifer Echols
- Interview with On the Island Author Tracey Garvis Graves