Kathie: Hi Adam, and thanks so much for letting us be part of your cover reveal today! Your third middle-grade book, Ghosts Come Rising, comes out in September from little bee books. Please tell us a bit about it.
Adam: Ghosts Come Rising takes place in Pennsylvania in the 1920s, shortly after the Spanish Flu pandemic and WWI. At that point in time, there was a resurgence in Spiritualism, a movement that believed the living could communicate with the dead.
Liza and John Carroll both lost their parents to the flu, and are living with their uncle, a con man who uses them to create fraudulent spirit photographs for clients. They move from town to town, eventually stopping at a commune called the Silver Star Society.
Because Liza helps her uncle in his lies, she doesn’t believe Spiritualism is real, but she begins to see things at the Silver Star Society that make her question herself, and fear for the safety of her and her brother.
Kathie: This book is a different genre from your last novel, THE THIEVING COLLECTORS OF FINE CHILDREN’S BOOKS (which I loved!) Can you tell us one way in which writing this story was different from your earlier books, and one way in which it was similar?
Adam: In my previous books, I often rely on humor and narrative tricks. In The Magicians of Elephant County, I had two competing narrators who would often disagree with each other, and in The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books, I had the narrator actually become a character in the book midway through.
I really wanted to try something different with this book.
Ghosts Come Rising isn’t funny, and there isn’t a narrative gimmick. For that reason, this was the hardest book I’ve written so far, and the one that I rewrote the most. Structure-wise, it’s the simplest and most straightforward, which I had thought would make it easier, but it was exactly the opposite.
Kathie: What sort of reader you would recommend this book to?
Adam: I place this book in the upper-middle category, so most likely a 10-13-year-old. It is scary, but hopefully not too scary, and I think it will leave them feeling hopeful rather than terrified. It may be too scary for an 8-10-year-old, which I realize will probably make them want to read it more. And I’m OK with that.
Kathie: What’s one thing you enjoyed about writing the characters in this story?
Adam: I really enjoyed writing a character who is as conflicted as Liza. She believes what she’s doing is wrong, but needs to help create fraudulent spirit photographs to keep her and her brother in the good graces of her uncle, Mr. Spencer. She believes she’s a liar, and it colors the way she sees the world and other people in it.
Kathie: I was so pumped when I saw the cover for your book. Please tell us about the illustrator and your reaction when you first saw it.
Adam: That’s a difficult one, because the illustrator and I did not get along, and in fact had many … ahem … discussions about what should be shown/not shown. I really hope I don’t have to work with him again because it was quite an unpleasant experience, and …
OK, I will admit, I was the illustrator.
Ghosts Come Rising has ten images throughout the book, created to look like spirit photographs or other images related to the story. I made them by creating composite images from old photos of that time period. To do that, I searched through thousands of images in the Library of Congress’s collection. At the beginning of that process, I found an image of the woman who would become the ghost on the cover behind Liza, and was drawn to it. I downloaded it and used it to test my creative process. That image doesn’t exactly depict a scene from the book, but I liked the way it looked and showed it to the team at Little Bee who liked it enough to use it for the cover!
Since I created the image, my reaction was a bit less surprised than in the past when I’ve first seen one of my covers. I will say, I loved the lettering of the title, which was done by Natalie Padberg Bartoo, who also did the title for The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books.
Kathie: Oh wow, that is SO cool. I think that’s the first time I’ve interviewed an author who created their own cover image.
Let’s do a big drum roll and show everyone what it looks like?
Kathie: What a creepy cover! Do you have a favorite element, or is there a detail you can share with us that ties to the story?
Adam: The ghostly woman behind Liza is the grandmother of a woman named Ms. Eldridge, the owner of the Silver Star Society. The two of them (if you believe Ms. Eldridge) are linked and can communicate through the barrier between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Much like photography, in the story, I play on the idea of the two worlds being positive and negative. On the cover, the shadowy ghosts in the background are actually negative images. If you invert the images, you would see something like this:
Kathie: What would you like readers to know about this book that we haven’t talked about so far?
Adam: While the book is fictional, with many completely fabricated elements, it does pull inspiration from real-life locations and events. I did a lot of research on spiritualism and communes.
The main inspiration for The Silver Star Society was a place called Camp Silver Belle, located about twenty minutes from where I live. While it’s no longer in operation, they were famous for mediumship and spirit photography in a similar timeframe. Here are some “real” spirit photographs from Camp Silver Belle:
There’s something about the topic that has always interested me, particularly looking at it with modern eyes. It’s so obviously fake, and some people are clearly taking advantage of others, but there’s real sincerity and humanity behind it. My emotions are conflicted, which is what I think makes a good basis for a story.
Kathie: Where can people go to find out more information about you and your writing?
Kathie: I’m anxiously awaiting September because this synopsis has piqued my interest, Adam! Thanks for chatting with me today.
Adam: Thank you so much!
Adam Perry is the author of The Magicians of Elephant County and The Thieving Collectors of Fine Children’s Books. The son of an elementary school librarian, he discovered a love of stories at an early age. He lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with his wife, children, and a growing collection of children’s books. Find out more at adamperrybooks.com.