Thursday, 27 February 2014

Six Months of Sleepless Reading: an interview with Cat Winters + US/CAN giveaway

It's Day 5 of my blogaversary, and today I get to share with you my interview with Cat Winters, author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Also, you can enter the chance to win a signed copy of her book bellow! Note, this giveaway is US/CAN only!


Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time


Hello Cat! I'm so glad to have you here on Sleepless Reads to celebrate my blogaversary! I'll start off with some easy questions: do you like tea or coffee?
I’ve never been a big coffee fan, but I enjoy a good cup of tea, prepared the English way with cream and sugar. I also LOVE hot chocolate.
Are you a candy person (eg. Sweetish Berries, Sour Patch Kids) or a chocolate person?
Chocolate, definitely!
If you were able to travel back to any time-period, which would it be and why?
I would love to visit the 1920s. The fashions were wonderful, literature, movies, and music flourished, and women in the U.S. were finally given the vote and some independence.
I just finished In the Shadow of Blackbirds and was completely blow away from the ending! I totally didn't those people causing Stephen's downfall. Did you do a lot of research on shell-shock and ghost photography for this book? Were there really desperate people out there during the war who would do anything for money?
Yes, I studied quite a bit about both shell shock and spirit photography, using books and online resources, as well as chatting with photography collectors. Sadly, numerous people did turn to phony spirit photographers and mediums for comfort as a result of the widespread grief that occurred during WWI. The same thing happened during the U.S. Civil War, which is when spirit photography scams first showed up. Online collections of these historical “ghost” photos can be found at and
Your character's name is Mary Shelley- did you try incorporating yourself and/or Mary Shelley herself in her?
Mary Shelley Black is much more outspoken than I was as a teen, and I don’t completely share her scientific and analytical mind, although I was always good at biology, and my dad is an engineer. When I was a little kid, I once tried inventing a doorbell out of my toys in my bedroom, but I couldn’t do it, which frustrated me. In one of the early chapters of In the Shadow of Blackbirds, Aunt Eva refers to Mary Shelley inventing an improved version of a doorbell for a science fair project, and that came straight out of my desire to do such a thing as a child.

Although my character is named after the author of Frankenstein, I didn’t specifically want to make her similar to the novelist. However, I did enjoy adding Frankenstein elements into the book, namely the use of lightning as a catalyst for the supernatural, as well as the dangers of going too far with scientific experimentation. 
Are any of the other character's based on other people in your life?
Not consciously. I would have loved to have been friends with a book-loving photographer boy growing up, but Stephen was purely a fictional creation. Aunt Eva is a worrier like all of the women in my family (myself included), so in some ways she’s probably the most like the people I know. I can also see a little bit of both of my kids in Mary Shelley.
I really need to know: did you make those anagrams (boy, I hope that's what they're called) for Stephen's photographs before hand, or was that something you later incorporated in later drafts? (Because to be honest with you, they were pretty genius!).
Thank you! I’m thrilled you enjoyed the anagrams. Originally, there were no anagrams in the novel, and Stephen hid his message for Mary Shelley by writing the words in French. I realized that was an unfair advantage for French speakers—they’d know the answer to his puzzle immediately, whereas everyone else would have to either look it up or wait until the end of the book. Finally, it hit me: I should make Stephen a fan of anagrams. I made up the anagrams that appear in the book the old-fashioned way: by writing out the word I wanted to hide and crossing off letters until I found a fun scrambled version of the word. Yes, there are online anagram decoders, but I wanted to create the puzzles the way my characters would have in 1918.
Did you already have the ending scene for Stephen and Mary Shelley planned out before hand, or did it take you a couple of times to get that scene right? (That scene had me crying like a baby at 2am by the way!).
Yes, that ending was always a part of the book. Some details about it changed, including the addition of the blackbirds, which actually weren't a part of the original draft. Reading Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach a couple months after finishing the first draft also helped me figure out the motivations of one of the characters involved in the ending.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds is a standalone novel, am I correct? Do you have any upcoming projects coming up soon?
It is indeed a standalone novel. I have a few upcoming projects in the works: The Cure for Dreaming, a YA novel involving hypnotism in 1900 America (coming October 2014 from Amulet Books), and a short story that will be published in the YA horror anthology Slasher Girls & Monster Boys (coming Fall 2015 from Dial). In addition, William Morrow will be publishing an adult novel of mine called The Uninvited. Like In the Shadow of Blackbirds, that one is also a paranormal tale set in 1918.
What's one thing that you wish to accomplish six months from now?
I need to turn in my draft for The Uninvited by June, so that’s my biggest goal for the upcoming months.



Now, Cat and I are giving YOU guys a chance to win a signed copy of In the Shadow of Blackbirds! Note, this is a US/CAN ONLY giveaway! Must be 13+ or have a parents permission to enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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