It’s been awhile since I posted an interview. This month, I bring to you Dianne Salerni, author of THE EIGHTH DAY series (HarperCollins) and a number of other books. I’ve been following Dianne’s blog for some time, so I’m stoked to have her here on my blog. Dianne is a native and resident of Pennsylvania. She is an alumna of the University of Delaware, where she fondly remembers calling her mother to come pick her up when she didn’t feel like eating at the dining hall. Having studied Elementary and Special Education at UD, and then arming herself with a Masters in Language Arts Education from the University of Pennsylvania, Dianne taught fifth grade for 25 years. Imagine all the juicy story ideas she must’ve gathered from observing this age group! Dianne retired early and now writes full time.
THE EIGHTH DAY is about a 13 year-old orphan named Jax who discovers a secret extra day of the week. On this day, it appears at first glance that the rest of the people in the world have gone missing. But Jax learns soon enough that people do exist here, and he gets caught in an ongoing war between two groups of people.
When I first heard about THE EIGHTH DAY from your blog, I daydreamed about what I would do if I discovered there was an eighth day where seemingly, only I existed. I decided I could spend that day working on my novel and catching up on pleasure reading. What would you do on an eighth day where only you existed?
If I had a secret day all to myself, I’d spend it visiting places that are normally so crowded you can’t enjoy them properly. Maybe not Disney World, since no one would be there to operate the rides. But I’m recalling my visit to Versailles two summers ago when I was pushed and shoved and trampled by the crowd – and how after that experience I didn’t even bother trying the Louvre. Those are two places I would love to see with NOBODY else there!
Jax, your male protagonist, reminds me of many boys I know. What was your process exploring a boy’s POV in your writing?
This is where all my years of teaching fifth grade helped a lot! I’ve spent a lot of time around boys about Jax’s age. I know how they talk, how they think, and how they try to wiggle out of trouble. There’s one particular spot in THE EIGHTH DAY where Jax lies to his guardian, Riley, about something important. Some adult readers have questioned whether it was realistic for him to do so, given the stakes in that situation. But no tween reader has ever questioned it! They know as well as this teacher-turned-author does that most boys in that situation would lie, trying to keep themselves out of trouble above all else.
I thought it was clever how you were able to weave Arthurian legend into your story. How was it like to take an existing story and put your own creative spin on it?
I loved taking the legends and stories and twisting them into something different. I ended up borrowing not just from Arthurian legend (for the Transitioners) but also from general Celtic mythology (for the Kin). This connection continues in the other books of the series, and occasionally I find something in the legends that makes a surprising parallel with what I’ve already written. For instance, when I named the race of people trapped in the eighth day “the Kin,” it was originally only a place-holder name, until I thought of something different. But I never did think of a better name, and the book went to print with Evangeline and her race called the Kin.
Much, much later, I was researching Celtic legends for Book 3, and I came across the Tuatha de Danann, a legendary race of people gifted in magical powers who arrived in the British isles in ancient times and ruled there awhile. Eventually they were defeated and driven away to a secret, hidden kingdom where they lived extended lives and were never seen by humans again. Kind of like the Kin in my story.
But here’s the part that was just a little freaky. Tuatha de Danann translates as the people, the nation, the tribe … or … the kin.
Can you tell me what is coming up for THE EIGHTH DAY series?
THE EIGHTH DAY is the first book of a 3-book deal, but there is an option clause for two more. When HarperCollins acquired THE EIGHTH DAY, I was asked to plan out 5 books, but to make sure the series could end on Book 3 if necessary. That seemed a pretty daunting task at first … and then I figured out how to do it. (Yay!)
In Book 2, THE INQUISITOR’S MARK, Jax – an orphan – discovers that his late father lied to him about who they were. Jax actually has an extensive family, including an uncle and an aunt, grandparents, and many cousins. Unfortunately, they happen to be members of the Dulac clan, the organized crime family responsible for killing everyone in Riley’s family. These people are anxious to meet Jax and give him a home. But they also want him to turn Evangeline over to their custody – and when they discover Riley escaped their previous assassination attempt, they want to fix that mistake as soon as possible.
In Book 3, THE MORRIGAN’S CURSE, a prison break at the ancient Welsh fortress of Oeth-Anoeth results in the escape of the Llyrs, a Kin family with such a powerful talent for working with weather, they were once treated like weather gods. Now free after centuries of imprisonment, they seek to break the Eighth Day Spell, and they have a secret weapon: Evangeline’s little sister Addie. Jax is determined to rescue her … but it seems like Addie doesn’t want to be rescued. She’s chosen her side of the conflict: the wrong one.
Any upcoming projects you’d like to share about?
I’m afraid I can’t talk about some of my projects, but I can tell you that I’m working on a synopsis and sample chapters as part of my proposal for the optioned books in the Eighth Day series. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
Which books/authors did you like to read while you were growing up?
My first love was mysteries, and I quickly passed beyond the books meant for children (Nancy Drew, The Three Investigators) and on to my mother’s collection of Mary Stewart, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Virginia Coffman. I also loved ghost tales and stories about madness and the bizarre. Think Shirley Jackson. Later on, in high school, I fell in love with fantasy and science fiction, tearing through books by Roger Zelazny, C.J. Cherryh, and Douglas Adams.
I think my writing as an adult, from WE HEAR THE DEAD and THE CAGED GRAVES to the Eighth Day series (not to mention various manuscripts that are, as yet, unpublished) shows the influence of all those authors! I don’t know if you are what you eat, but I believe you write what you read!