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Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Happy Book Birthday, Dianne!
 *launches confetti rockets*

I met Dianne last summer when I signed up for First Impressions. Could you tell us how First Impressions works and why you do it? 

First Impressions was Marcy Hatch’s idea. She asked if I’d like to join her in critiquing first page samples of people’s work – especially people who were getting ready to query and wanted to polish the first thing an agent/editor would see.

We do it because we love helping people, and we’ve been thrilled to have writers come back and share first pages that were revised based on feedback they received from our blogs. We also love sharing success stories – like you, Robin, and Pk Hrezo, who received offers of representation afterwards. We like to imagine we helped!

You did help, Dianne. You and Marcy still do, to me and countless other writers out there. How much you give back not only helps me want to be a better writer, but it makes me want to be a more giving person. 
I did First Impressions twice as honed by first page of LOVESENSE. I remember the little things that confused readers. Do you remember her trainers--not people, but her shoes? It was on your recommendation that I focused the first page more on Rae not looking at the photo and really made my first page pop. 

Could you tell us about yourself and how you became a writer?

I’ve always been a writer. Even before I could write, I drew the pictures and got somebody else to write the words down for me.

But I became a published writer because of my husband.  He’s the one who submitted my early (and unready) works to agents and editors. He’s the one who suggested, when I wrote the novel that would eventually become We Hear the Dead, “Let’s try self-publishing.”

Self-publishing High Spirits in 2007 led to an offer in 2009 to re-publish the work traditionally with Sourcebooks AND a film option with a Hollywood producer.  The film option recently took a leap forward with the creation ofThe Spirit Game, a short film premiering at Cannes Film Festival 2013.

I enjoyed reading  We Hear the Dead-especially the dynamics of all the Fox sisters. The cover is brilliant; it speaks so much about the story unfolding inside. Congratulations on the short film! Cannes Film Festival starts  tomorrow. How wonderful to have so much goodness is one week. 
Can you tell us the legend that inspired The Caged Graves? I'm still impressed with your husband's ability to locate the cemetery using Google Earth.

I was researching ghost stories connected with the Pocono Mountains for a short story when I stumbled across a photograph of a grave enclosed in an iron cage. The grave was supposedly located in a cemetery “near Rorhbach’s Orchard” in Catawissa, Pennsylvania. The article was not very factual. It said a girl was buried this way because her family thought she was a vampire. Or a werewolf. Nobody seemed sure. But the grave was dated 1852, and legends of vampires and werewolves were NOT common in North America at that time.
My husband found Rorhbach’s Orchard on Google Earth, then started searching the surrounding area. He was pretty sure he’d pinpointed the cemetery, and when we drove out there in January 2010 (while on our annual family ski trip), we did indeed find the cemetery.

Only there were TWO caged graves there, not one. And from that moment, I knew I was going to write a novel about these graves.

Ohh, I have chills. The premise behind the story is so creeptastic. I keep putting myself in Verity’s place and trying to imagine how I would react to seeing my own mother’s caged grave. Could you tell us more about creating your main character? I love that she’s named Verity. Seeking truth seems like the theme of THE CAGED GRAVES.

Verity chose her own name, as most of my characters do, and her name shaped her character. I decided right away that Verity prided herself on her truthfulness. Of course, when I started writing her story, she immediately showed the flaw in her character: Sometimes the truth hurts! Verity won’t tell a lie even for social nicety, and even though she tries to be devastatingly polite, she will tell you the truth to your face.

This rubs a lot of two-faced people the wrong way. And the young man she agreed to marry to further her father’s business prospects has never met anyone like her. Not to mention, there are some people in town who want the truth to remain buried and might be willing to see Verity buried along with it.

I can't wait to read it. You’re represented by Sara Crowe, could you tell us about how you signed with her and your road to publication? 

Continuing the story I started in question #2, after Sourcebooks re-released my novel, I realized I needed representation for future works. I started querying a historical paranormal novel and received about 30-35 rejections, including 2 Revise & Resubmits that did NOT end with an offer of representation. However, I credit those R&Rs with helping me see what my manuscript needed. By the time I queried Sara Crowe in December 2010, it was good enough for her to fall in love with it.

As these things often happen, however, this was not the first manuscript Sara sold for me. The Caged Graves, the second manuscript I turned over to Sara, received an offer first. Lesson for everyone: Keep writing that next story!

6. Dianne is a pantster like me. When I feel guilty for not being a detailed plotter, emailing with Dianne helps me embrace my writing style. She shared a quote by Stephen King that resonates with me and my writing-LOL. 

"I don't take notes; I don't outline, I don't do anything like that. I just flail away at the goddamn thing."

Can you tell us what you're working on now and how that's affected your pantstering?

Ha, ha – You know I’ve hit a slight problem with my pantstering! I have no apologies for being a pantsterer. It’s part of my process that I discover the story as I write it. But I’ve come up against a little problem.

In October 2012, Sara sold my MG fantasy story The Eighth Day as a 3 book series to HarperCollins – with the potential for more books if the series is a success. And now I have to plan and plot – two things I’m not good at!

I have to know where I’m going in the series to make things exactly right, even in Book 1. Details have to be correct. Characters need a history and a future. The conflict has to grow over the series, building to a climax in Book 3, but with the potential for continued conflict beyond that book. And unlike in YA, cliffhangers aren’t all that welcome in MG. Each book should be complete in itself.

So yeah, this pantster is trying to learn how to plot.

Here's a link to her post A Pantster Plots. The premise of The Eighth Day is super fun. It'll be a read aloud at the Hall house when it releases (if I can keep my oldest from sneaking it and finishing the book himself--not that he's ever done that *cough, cough*) You're doing great tackling that series. 

Robin, thank you for having me here today to help celebrate the release of The Caged Graves!

Thanks Dianne, for being here!
You can find THE CAGED GRAVES goodreads, indie, amazon, b&n
S.A Larson has a giveaway and sneak peek on her blog: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dianne K. Salerni is the author of YA historical novels We Hear the Dead (Sourcebooks 2010) and The Caged Graves (Clarion Books 2013), and the forthcoming MG fantasy series The Eighth Day (HarperCollins). Salerni lives in Chester County, Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters, where she teaches fifth grade.


  1. Well done on a wonderful interview.
    Pleasure to read.


    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it Yvonne! Dianne gives so much back to the writing community. I'm glad to have her as a friend.

  2. Wonderful interview. The Caged Graves sounds fantastic! I need to read it. ☺

    1. I hope you do. What a story, right? Creepy and exciting. I love reading things with a thread of truth/based on real history.

  3. I love hearing about road to publication stories, and this book looks amazing. Congrats!

    1. Thanks, Ilima. I agree, I can't seem to get enough "road to publication stories" myself. We writers like seeing how others do it, even when we know our road will be different. Hoping to share your story soon:)

  4. Fun interview, Robin and Dianne. I love Dianne's road to publication, too, and I can't wait for that historical paranormal novel to make it to the stands.

    1. Thanks, Marcy. And thank you for creating First Impressions!

  5. Robin, thanks for having me -- and thanks to everyone who commented! I am excited to finally have this book out in the world!

    1. Thanks so much, Dianne! I hope today was a great one! Go CAGED GRAVES, Go!

  6. I love hearing about this! I totally want to read the book now :)

  7. Hi Robin you wrote and said I had won an ebook but don't own a kindle or the like, perhaps you could give it to someone you know who have one.
    Thanks anyway, most pleased I had won something, email address is: