As part of the promotional tour through Teen Book Scene, I'm very excited today to welcome author Julie Chibbaro to the blog to answer a few questions about her young adult medical mystery Deadly.
What is one of the most interesting tidbits or pieces of trivia you learned while researching the time period? One of the most interesting facts about typhoid?
I was amazed to find out that as late as 1906, people still believed that disease was spread by miasmas, which are clouds of filth. This was called the “Filth Theory” as opposed to what we believe now, which is the “Germ Theory.” Back then, the public didn’t know there was this little invisible thing called a germ that could kill you. I find that fascinating – it really makes me wish I could live a hundred years in the future just to learn what sort of foolishness we believe in now. The most interesting fact about typhoid is its name, which is salmonella typhi. If you follow the news, you’ll see that we still do battle with this salmonella food poisoning. It still makes us very sick to our stomach, and causes thousands of deaths a year.
Prudence pushes gender roles in her time by pursuing a field typically reserved only for men. If you lived in Prudence's New York City and had to secure a job for yourself, what type of work would you go in search of? Do you think you would push boundaries as Prudence does?
I know I had trouble being a brave woman even 20 years ago. Young women are still worried about going into certain fields because they’re not seen as “feminine.” Science, engineering, technology, math; girls don’t want to be seen as nerds. Is it possible to make science more lovely? Maybe girls need to take more control – paint the microscopes pink! If I lived a hundred years ago, I think I might have wanted to be a newspaper reporter – it was a time of yellow journalism, and sensational stories sold papers. I’d like to write some good juicy stories for the papers of the time. I’d push boundaries if my job was fascinating enough, I think. If I were compelled enough.
Whenever I read books that feature a virus or disease, by the time I’m finished I’m completely convinced I have whatever it is I’ve just read about and psychosomatic symptoms emerge in full force. Did you experience any such symptoms while writing or researching?
Um, yes, totally. Because I researched the history of medicine for the book, I had that experience over and over. Mostly because typhoid is a kind of food contamination or poisoning – if I had a stomachache after eating, I thought surely I had salmonella. Luckily, these paranoias don’t last very long!
If Prudence could jump forward in time to the present, what advancements in medical care and research do you think would most impress her?
Antibiotics! An amazing discovery. I wish we had something like antibiotics for every illness. It’s too bad they only work against bacteria. The polio vaccine, also, would impress her. The flu shot. I could go on and on.
Is there one other virus/disease/medical ailment either historically or more recently that you think would particularly fascinate Prudence?
I’ve been thinking of what might be a sequel for her – what sort of case would she become involved in next – and about ten years after the book ends, in 1918, was the influenza pandemic. I could see her finishing medical school, and getting involved with tracking down causes of that disease.
If you could only promote Deadly using a single line from the book (no blurb, no book cover, no other marketing tools whatsoever), which would you choose to most grab a reader’s attention?
That’s a tough question! Deadly is about so many things. But if I had to pick one line that would describe the essence of Prudence, it would be: “I always feel outside, the observer who writes what is happening, and I don’t know whether I will ever get inside, whether I will truly understand the workings of the field of science.” That’s sort of how she feels about everything.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Julie! To learn more about Julie and her books, you can find additional information here:
With a stroke of luck, she lands a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of the fever bound to change medical history. Prudence quickly learns that an inquiry of this proportion is not confined to the lab. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, she explores every potential cause of the disease. But there’s no answer in sight—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. Strangely, though, she hasn’t been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in a new scientific discovery?
Prudence is determined to find out. In a time when science is for men, she’ll have to prove to the city, and to herself, that she can help solve one of the greatest medical mysteries of the twentieth century.