IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS TRIVIA Ten fun facts about the novel and its setting

131129151. One of the earliest inspirations for this book was a television show about the Cottingley Fairies, a real-life story about two girls in WWI-era England who fooled people into believing they had photographed fairies in their backyard.

2. Most modern people think of the 1918 Spanish influenza as “the flu that was killing Edward Cullen in TWILIGHT” or “the flu that killed that poor blonde girl from DOWNTON ABBEY.” I first learned about the deadly illness in the 1990s when I read the book STRANGER THAN FICTION: VIGNETTES OF SAN DIEGO HISTORY by Richard W. Crawford. The flu plays a major role in IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS.

3. Ghostly experiences in the novel tend to occur at 3:00 am, known in legends as “the witching hour” because of an increase in paranormal activity during that time. Near-death-experience survivors (like Mary Shelley Black, the book’s protagonist) often wake up at 3:00 am.

4. I formerly lived in San Diego, California, and some of my favorite hangouts—Balboa Park; downtown; the beach along Ocean Avenue in Coronado—became the settings of key scenes in the novel.
5. In Chapter 13, there’s a reference to 1918 Americans calling hamburgers “Liberty steaks” to avoid sounding pro-German during WWI. They also called sauerkraut “Liberty cabbage,” Dachshunds “Liberty dogs,” and German measles “Liberty measles,” even though there’s nothing liberating about having measles.

6. The book’s spirit photographer character, Julius, was originally named Michael. I gave him a more distinctive name after early readers kept getting him and his brother, Stephen, confused. They felt both names were too normal.

7. My hazel-eyed teenage daughter’s favorite character is Aunt Eva, which is why I made Aunt Eva’s eyes hazel.

8. Two young war veteran characters, Jones and Carlos, didn’t show up until I was working on one of the last drafts of the book with my editor, Maggie Lehrman. Their scenes became some of my favorite parts of the novel.

9. I originally called the novel simply BLACKBIRDS. My agent, Barbara Poelle, came up with IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS, and I’m thankful she did so.

10. Two minor characters mentioned in the novel, Mrs. Martin and Miss Deily, were named after the elementary school teachers who encouraged me to be a writer when I was a child. Those teachers are still alive and well, and they know about this book. Thanks to all teachers who encourage creative writing!

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