ABOUT THE BOOK
The Addams Family meets The Westing Game in this exhilarating mystery about a modern magical dynasty trapped in the ruins of their once-grand, now-crumbling ancestral home.
Twelve-year-old Garnet regrets that she doesn’t know her family. Her mother has done her best to keep it that way, living far from the rest of the magical Carrefour clan and their dark, dangerous mansion known as Crossroad House.
But when Garnet finally gets summoned to the estate, it isn’t quite what she hoped for. Her relatives are strange and quarrelsome, each room in Crossroad House is more dilapidated than the last, and she can’t keep straight which dusty hallways and cobwebbed corners are forbidden.
Then Garnet learns the family secret: their dying patriarch fights to retain his life by stealing power from others. Every accident that isn’t an accident, every unexpected illness and unexplained disappearance grants Jasper Carrefour a little more time. While the Carrefours squabbles over who will inherit his role when (if) he dies, Garnet encounters evidence of an even deeper curse. Was she brought to Crossroad House as part of the curse . . . or is she meant to break it?
Written with loads of creepy atmosphere and an edge-of-your-seat magical mystery, this thrilling story reads like The Haunting of Hill House for preteens. Perfect for late-night reading under the covers.
Today, we have the pleasure of hosting a favorite author of mine, Dianne K. Salerni, to talk about her latest release from Holiday House Books called, The Carrefour Curse. Here’s her official introduction:
Dianne K. Salerni has written many books for children, including Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selections Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts and Jadie in Five Dimensions. After teaching elementary school for twenty-five years, Dianne now spends her time hanging around creepy cemeteries and climbing 2,000-year-old pyramids for book research. Visit her online at https://diannesalerni.com/
Dianne can also be found online at:
MH: One of my favorite things as a reader and a creator is the author’s story of their story. The journey and brain science behind how a story grew from bits and pieces of an idea to a book on the shelf is fascinating to me. What is the origin story of your latest middle-grade release, The Carrefour Curse?
Dianne: There were two main inspirations for The Carrefour Curse: Dark Shadows, the supernatural soap opera, and The Spook House, a vignette written by Ambrose Bierce. My mother was a fan of Dark Shadows, and I used to watch the show as a young child even though I wasn’t allowed to. I hid behind the sofa and became a lifelong fan of all things gothic. As for the Bierce story, the image of a locked room filled with dead people haunted me for a long time, and I tried for years to build a plot around it. When I got the idea to combine Dark Shadows and The Spook House, the result was The Carrefour Curse.
I wrote the first draft in 2017, and when it was finished, I proclaimed it “a terrible mess,” closed the document, and forgot about it. Fast forward to early 2020, when I devoured the Netflix series, Locke & Key. I loved that show so much, I made a list of all the elements that called to me and thought, I’d like to write a story with these elements. Then I remembered I already had! For the first time in three years, I opened the document named Crossroad House, read it, and discovered that, although it was messy, it wasn’t terrible. Revising this manuscript soon became my pandemic project.
MH: I’ve always been drawn to your ability to create real and believable fictional worlds within a recognizable “normal” story world. From the magical extra day of The Eighth Day series to the extra dimension worlds of Jadie in Five Dimensions, you build logical worlds that allow the reader to seamlessly move in and out of. I realize my begging at your feet and screaming, “How do you do this?” is too broad and too unfair of a question to ask, but can you share a few steps of how you create such effective world shifts in your books?
Dianne: Well, it certainly doesn’t happen in the first draft, that’s for sure! The world-building usually starts with an idea. Like: There’s a secret day hidden between Wednesday and Thursday. Or: Our 3-dimensional universe exists inside a larger 4-dimensional universe. In my first draft, world-building is thin, disjointed, and often contradictory as I try to nail down the plot. After the story is complete, I work on a list of “rules” for my alternate world, with my priority being that the rules have to allow all my events to happen and still make sense. In successive drafts, I work on the inconsistencies and the logic and make sure that the world elements saturate the story, instead of feeling tacked on. In the final drafts, I make a list of the chapters and chart what elements appear in each one. Has it been several chapters since my main character felt like Crossroad House was watching her or influencing events? I’ll work a mention in.
MH: Can you describe your creative process of how an idea becomes a fully-formed story in your hands?
Dianne: Every book starts with a premise, like the secret day or the nesting universes, or an inspirational source, like Dark Shadows and The Spook House. Next, come the characters. Who are they and what happens to them? What is the main conflict? In rare cases, before I start writing, I’ll outline the entire story on Scrivener. I did that with Eleanor, Alice, & the Roosevelt Ghosts and also with the second and third books in the Eighth Day series. But most of the time, I outline the first third or half and then jump into writing because I don’t know how it all works out until it happens on the page. Sometimes there are surprises. In The Carrefour Curse, a rather important character invented herself in Chapter 23 and inserted herself into the climax, forcing me—in later drafts—to weave her very existence into the first half of the book. Sometimes, the surprise is that the book is a dud. There are many, many unfinished manuscripts on my computer.
MH: Are you a multiple-irons in-the-fire creator or a one-story-at-a-time creator?
Dianne: Usually, I’ll work on only one story at a time. If I’m struggling with it, I might put it aside to revise and polish an old manuscript. (The Carrefour Curse is not the only one of my books to come out of a resurrected manuscript.) Once in a while, publication deadlines require that I work on more than one thing at a time. While I was under contract for the Eighth Day series, I once found myself proofreading the galley of Book 1, making editorial revisions on Book 2, and drafting Book 3. I got so confused about what Jax knew and when he knew it that I had to rearrange my schedule to work on one at a time: first the proofreading, then the revisions, and finally back to drafting.
MH: Can you describe your experience with Holiday House in bringing The Carrefour Curse to its publication date?
Dianne: Holiday House has been wonderful to work with. My last three books have been published through Holiday House, and I think my editor, Sally Morgridge, is brilliant. I love the covers they’ve commissioned for all three books – they’re all very different but each one perfect in its own way. The publicity department is enthusiastic and very communicative. In the past, I have worked with bigger publishers where I never had any contact with my “official publicist,” so this is a refreshing change!
MH: What’s next?
Dianne: I have a book on submission. Because it’s not recommended that we talk about works on submission, I’ll say only that it’s a comedy-mystery and somewhat different from my other books. While I wait for word on that, I’m drafting a middle grade horror story. We’ll see how that goes because I’m approaching the end of the “index cards” on my Scrivener corkboard and wading into the un-outlined part of the story. For me, this is the scariest part of my horror story!
MH: What are some of your favorite activities, outside of the butt-in-chair life of an author, to recharge your creative battery?
Twice a week, I volunteer at our local animal shelter. I walk dogs and service the cat room – feeding and cleaning up after the cats and assorted critters. (Currently, we have more rabbits than cats in the so-called cat room.) I have three hydroponic gardens in my home. I typically grow lettuce, tomatoes, and baby bok choy, but I’ve also experimented with sweet peas (too much vine and not enough peas), dwarf eggplants (they do better outside), and Swiss chard (nobody at my house would eat it). I also enjoy skiing and scuba diving, and my husband and I LOVE to make homemade pasta.
Thank you, Dianne, for a fantastic insight into your writer’s life and The Carrefour Curse. How can one not want to read a book with a tagline like, The Addams Family meets The Westing Game? The entire MUF family wishes much success for the book and for you. Personally, I can’t wait to read the next one.
For more information on The Carrefour Curse and Holiday House Books, check out the following links.
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