I have been so silent! On every front — I’m finally writing a new novel, one I’m really happy to be writing, and it’s taken me away from all social media. Also, my mom and Wayne came to visit, which was absolutely wonderful. I’ll try to write about their visit next week.
Anyways, I came across Jennifer Murgia’s name a few months back when new owners took over the small press that published As Waters Gone By. Jennifer and I chatted on Facebook a couple of times and I liked her right away. Down to earth, kind, and very interested in what you’ve got to say. I read her latest historical novel and asked if I could do an author interview… If you’re a writer and you like write historical fiction, this is a great interview to read! More Soon!
1. Forest of Whispers is a wonderfully multi-layered historical novel. Can you tell me a little about how you came up with the idea of this story?
~ Thank you! I had so much fun writing it. I’m sort of a history “sponge” and particularly fond of witch tales. My own family tree sprouted in Germany (both maternal and paternal sides) and there have been plenty of stories passed down involving rumors of witchcraft. That’s fodder for a novel! My grandmother lived with a gypsy witch for some time in Germany and read Tarot Cards. Further back, my mother was able to trace the lineage of a great, great, great grandmother rumored to have been a witch in Southwestern Germany, the very location FOREST OF WHISPERS unfolds.
2. I can only imagine you had to have spent considerable time researching your story. It takes place during the era of the Black Plague in Germany… Do tell… Why Germany? And what kind of research did you do?
~ I could spend hours combing for facts: online research, Medieval studies, books, movies… Even as a fiction author, I do believe bringing an authentic vibe to the table is crucial. Why Germany? German witch hunts started the original frenzied wave of perscecution. Not Salem. Not England. In Bavaria, Bamberg alone condemned over 60,000 men, women and children for witchcraft during a time that was particularly chaotic and full of religious tension.
The Great Plague first appeared in Germany in 1348, quickly spreading throughout Europe and not returning again until about 1709. In total, the Black Death is believed to have killed 137 million people during a span of 400 years.
3. Do you research and write together or did you do all the research at the beginning and then write your novel?
~ I did quite a bit of research at the onset of writing my novel to get a solid foothold, but I did do plenty of research as I wrote – sort of bouncing back and forth to make sure my facts were straight: the herbs that are indigenous to the Black Forest, the acts of torture and tools of the time period, clothing . . .
4. As I was reading this story, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the depth of your prose. You have rich layers of description but you never let your words get away from you. How many drafts does it take you to get your story to a place where you’re satisfied?
~ Wow, thank you! I wrote about 2 drafts after hearing back from my agent (I’m so terribly lucky that she’s editorial-minded) and fine tuned and polished the final draft numerous times before sending it out on submission. There were about 2 rounds of edits (nothing major) with my editor before it went to production. But I always feel I need draft after draft, after draft to get it right. I’m very critical of my writing and have been immensely lucky to be paired up with incredible people who share the same vision as I do.
5. Tell me a little about your writing journey… You helped start Playlist Fiction, didn’t you? And you run YA Fest on the East Coast … You are busy! You also recently came alongside the marketing side of Leap Books… Do you like marketing more than writing? Or are they two sides of a similar coin? In all the things you’ve done, your creativity shines… Is that your favorite part of the writing life?
~ Goodness, I guess it is a journey now that I look back on it. It’s so hard to believe FOREST OF WHISPERS is my 5th book. There will soon be six. Its sequel, CASTLE OF SIGHS releases Sept 15, 2015.
My writing journey started in 2007 when I wrote my first book, ANGEL STAR (Lands Atlantic Publishing). It was released in 2010. There are three books in the series.
My YA Contemporary, BETWEEN THESE LINES, was unable to find a home in the market, so under the hybrid umbrella Playlist Fiction, it was self published through MacGregor Literary Agency, along with four other incredible authors. Publishing under Playlist gave my book a home and it gave me the creative control to manage the book. However, I’ve really found that I prefer traditional publishing. It’s just my thing.
In 2012, I co-founded YA FEST with fellow author and friend, Cyn Balog. It’s become a POWERHOUSE of an event that unites teens and authors at the local library in my hometown. What was meant to be a homegrown festival has garnered interest from NY Times Bestselling authors nationwide and publishing houses who “book” their authors to appear. We now have a waiting list a mile long and are booked two years in advance. 2015 will also introduce YA FEST Junior, an event aimed for Middle Grade authors and readers.
Yes, I was asked to not only head the marketing department of Leap Books, LLC, but to join the ranks as partner with fellow authors Shannon Delany and Judith Graves. I never saw it coming and am enjoying it immensely, and yes, there are days where I truly think I’ve found my “other” passion. Creating, as a whole, brings me great joy.
6. Advice to other YA writers who want to do historical fiction? What are some of the important aspects to keep in mind?
~ I tend to think of historical fiction as “Literary Archaeology”. My advice on retelling the past? Become the past. Absorb it. Read and research. Print pictures and leave images around to help pull that time into NOW. Imagine your life as it would have been back then and add your voice. You’ll find, I’m certain, that the past isn’t so different from today.
Once again, Jennifer Thank you! It’s so fun to meet and work with other writers. and I wish you all the best with this novel and many more to come…
~ Thank you!
Jennifer Murgia writes moody fiction for teens—from paranormal fantasy, to contemporary gut-punchers, to her latest, a 17thcentury historical mystery (about witches!) She also moonlights as Marketing Director for Leap Books and runs a teen book festival on the east coast called YA FEST. In her spare time she chills out with her kids, snuggles with her cat, obsesses over THE WALKING DEAD and tries not to eat too much ice cream. Find her at www.jennifermurgia.com
FOREST OF WHISPERS is a 17th century Bavarian witch mystery published by Spencer Hill Press. It was chosen as a FALL 2014 HOT TITLE by School Library Journal and is a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Award Winner. It is available in print and eBook through booksellers nationwide.
Indie Bound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781937053567