Deadly has received a lot of attention, with The New York Times calling it a "rare young adult novel" that "reads like a medical thriller." Julie is here to share with us her tips for creating powerful, realistic worlds:
I’m so pleased to have a chance to write for your wonderful site, Vicky. My novel, Deadly, is historical fiction – not ancient history, unless you consider 100 years ago ancient, which some teens do, but a history that can seem unreal and far away to us.
Deadly is about a girl’s hunt for the cause of a typhoid fever epidemic in NYC, 1906, which ultimately leads her to the killer Typhoid Mary. In the process of writing, I realized that the most important thing to remember was: Make the reader experience the time period, then she can really live it! The trick to bringing history and science to life in fiction is a difficult one. To make it more vivid, I relied on the five senses to help me paint a living, breathing picture.
What was the smell of life in early 20th century NYC? Horses dominated the streets, their manure piled high before cleaners could remove it. Can you smell it now?
|Horse manure, the smell of NYC in 1906.|
What did the streets sound like? An organ grinder playing right outside the window, the sounds of new inventions – steam-engine car, 20-pound telephone.
What did girls look like? Prudence struggles with The Look – Gibson Girls with their feminine ideal, soft hair piled high, waists cinched tight.
What was the taste of frustration? A girl who wants to be a scientist in a roomful of boys with microscopes. Desire tastes like metal to her.
|The "hot" look of the era: Gibson Girls.|
What does Mr. Soper feel like? Prudence falls madly in love with her boss, the head epidemiologist Mr. George Soper, who’s as handsome as the most gorgeous explorer of her day, Mr. Peary. When she nears him, she can feel the rough tweed of his coat; when she kisses him, the edge of his mustache.
The senses can bring any text to life, but they’re especially important in a historical work. I hope, when reading Deadly, you can live this history, and imagine yourself fully involved in the hunt for a dangerous killer.