Rebecca Devers: I want to start by congratulating you on Speakers of the Dead. The reviews are exuberant, and I have to agree that it was a fun read, if one can call a tale of corpses and corruption “fun.” I think what made it fun for me was the way the mystery plot was interwoven with what is clearly a great deal of research about nineteenth century New York City. Could you say a little about the process behind a novel like this one? I guess I’m wondering how you approached the balance of historical accuracy and creative license.Visit J. Aaron Sanders's website.
J. Aaron Sanders: I’ve said elsewhere that I researched this novel like I was writing another dissertation, and it’s true. I had that same dissertation feeling that every line needed to be backed up by research. In fact, I started researching Speakers of the Dead at the University of Connecticut when I was writing my dissertation. I spent the mornings on my dissertation and the afternoons on the novel. Half of the shelves in my library office were filled with books on violence in contemporary American male fiction writers and the other half were filled with books on Whitman and 19th-century New York. It took some time for me to wrap my head around the period before I could start writing, and even then, I would discover some detail that inflected my understanding of 1843 New York that I then had to account for in the narrative.
As for the tension between historical accuracy and creative license, that was something I had to get comfortable with. In other words, I was...[read on]
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