Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Interview: Julie Chibbaro + Deadly

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:



If Prudence Galewski is ever going to get out of Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls, she must demonstrate her refinement and charm by securing a job appropriate for a young lady. But Prudence isn’t like the other girls. She is fascinated by how the human body works and why it fails.

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.


  1. I read The Ghost Map a few years ago and loved it. I agree that it's amazing to see what people believed 100 years ago. Like Julie, it makes me wonder what we'll think of our beliefs in 2100.

  2. WOW! I love your questions because they're always the deep stuff that I would never think of asking! :) I think I'm going to like Prudence because I'm a HUGE fan of girl power and I really like that she pushes the boundaries of her time! (Female scientists rock the world! <3) LOL and I love that one quote -- very true and very inspirational!

    Amazing interview, you two! And with a catch phrase like that, it sounds like an AWESOME book! :)

  3. History is just fascinating! There are things that stun me because they happened in our grandparents era. It is just so hard to believe what can change (or maybe didn't) in a 100 years!

    Excellent interview!

  4. This book is new to me, but it sounds really good. I really enjoyed the interview. It's true, I wonder what will change in our medical thinking in a 100 years.

  5. The filth cloud, well like you say, I am sure people in the future will laugh themselves silly over things we thought were true

  6. Prudence sounds like a fantastic character! I don't know if I would have been as brave as her if I lived in that time (I'm kind of a wimp, even though I envision myself to be brave). And I can only imagine what kind of diseases I would think I had if I did the research Julie did! *I'm dying...gasp*

  7. Alison - I can only imagine the things people will shake their heads at in the future when they look back at our medical/scientific beliefs now:)

    Mimi - I really enjoyed Prudence! It was fun to read as she struggled to figure the typhoid mystery out.

    Felicia - I know:) It boggles the mind sometimes.

    Jennifer - I even wonder what we'll think in 10 years when we look back at 2012:)

    Linda - I want nothing to do with a filth cloud, I'm glad we no longer have that theory:)

  8. I'm really excited to read this! I've heard of typhoid Mary, but don't know the story. I'm also astonished how people thought taking a shower was a bad thing for your health. I can't imagine those wearing those Tudor clothes day after day without taking a shower. *shudders*

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  10. I'm sold. Deadly sounds like a fantastic read with a truly great character! Thank you for the interesting interview. I can't wait to get my hands on Deadly! *_*

  11. Deadly looks very interesting, and great interview! (: I totally get these phantom symptoms too. After reading a book about the plague I kept on checking to make sure I didn't have any weird boils/black patches of skin anywhere

  12. How have I not heard of this before?! These are some great questions and answers, I'm definitely adding this book to my evergrowing list. :)

  13. It would be interesting to travel to a 100 years from now and see how much science and medicine and disease has changed. I have a feeling it's gonna get to the point where people no longer touch, just use SIMS or something to interact... okay, possibly I've been watching too many sci fi movies. LOL

    I don't necessary see young woman being worried about going into fields that are not considered feminine. It seems like more and more, they are embracing those fields and their roles in them. Being a sexy scientist is well, sexy! And I'm glad to see how more opportunities are opening for women. :)

  14. Rummanah - I can't imagine dealing with half the things people believed in 100 years ago, I'm kind of a fan of the present:)

    Giada - Glad you enjoyed the interview!

    Celine - Thanks! And I seriously always feel the need to shower after reading virus books. Then any itch or cough or anything has me convinced I'm a carrier of whatever I just read about:)

    Christy - It didn't get much hype I don't think, but it was an interesting read:)

    Missie - I can't even fathom being told my options for employment were pretty much limited to secretarial work. Um. No. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being a secretary, but it would be so frustrating to be limited to just 4 or 5 "appropriate" jobs.

  15. That was truly one of the best interviews I've ever read, Jenny!

    Your questions were so unique and so insightful-I really do want to be you when I want to grow up :o]

    I had to giggle when I read about the psychosomatic symptoms-I'm an RN and every disease I learned about, I was sure I had! From Brain Tumors to Bowel Obstructions-I wasn't the only one, my entire class was affected to different degrees.
    It's so funny how your mind can play tricks on you like that.

    Every Time-Travel book I read if the MC has a chance to go back, my first thought is grab Anti-biotics, Anti-biotic cream, pain medicine and a high end First Aid Kit, LOL, and that's only if they have little time. If they had more time my list would get longer!

    The book sounds Fab and I loved your interview and want to thank you so much for sharing this with me/us!

  16. Ha loved your interview as always Jenny, especially that question where you talk about how you are convinced you have the disease by the end of the book...a little psychsomatic disorder? Too funny. This book sounds so interesting, I love reading a good historical piece. Thanks for calling this to my attention.

  17. How do you come up with these questions, Jenny?! I want to steal your brain. :D

    Great interview as always! I loved the sound of Deadly already from the single line Julie picked for the last question, but then I the synopsis made me want it even more! I love that it has a science aspect to it. It sounds awesome. :)

  18. Kristi - Thank you so much! I'm so happy you found it interesting:) And you're making me blush with this comment, stop it ;-) I'm often convinced I have some sort of ailment, I had to stop watching House because I would convince myself I had whatever was featured on the show that week:)

    Heidi - I can't help it! I start itching and squirming and coughing and my imagination runs away with me:)

    Sam - :) You can borrow my brain any time you'd like!

  19. I remember seeing this book all over the place last year. This interview has put it back on my radar! It sounds awesome. I'm with you, Jenny--books about illness always make me paranoid! :P Wonderful interview.

  20. I read this book when it came out and remember loving it....and loving that creepy cover.....I hate bugs and germs....:D Have you seen the movie Contagion.....Hello NIGHTMARE...that movie freaked me out!!!

  21. Yes! I think the same thing about jumping forward in time. I bet cancer will SO be a thing of the past someday. Great interview.

  22. I guess I didn't know what this book was about but it sounds fascinating! I'm always interested in historical fiction when it's talking about sickness/science, etc. That interview also has me more curious!

  23. Oh what an interesting story! One I know would be fraught with tension. I also love it when you have a woman dealing with something she is proficient in a man's world. Yep, need to read this one.

    Oh and I'm curious as to what she would feel about how antibiotics are also used today with the resistent strains developing. I wonder if she would be able to see that and stop it in the past.

  24. Never heard of this book but it sounds good! Loved the interview :)

  25. I haven't heard of this one but it sounds interesting. Plus, I'm up for anything that involves science and is well-researched.

    It's fascinating to learn that just a hundred years ago, people didn't know about germs. Handwashing probably wouldn't have been as important then.

  26. Great interview!

    "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."

    Me too. I'm very curious how the explosion in technology in the past 10 years will affect us. We'll undoubtedly think "Siri" is so ridiculously old school!

  27. This one sounds quite interesting and I really love the interview. Especially the last one! It sure was enough to pique my interest. Great interview:)

  28. Some time ago, I had a cough or something and my mom called me "Typhoid Mary". I asked where that name came from and she didn't know. So I looked it up (love Wikipedia). It was such an interesting story. For that reason alone, I think this story will be so good. I'll be very interested in reading it, though I hate the cover. I've seen it too many times.


  29. Oh I love the sound of Prudence! And the book itself sounds really interesting too. I am not at all a science person, yet I love reading books about disease and science for some reason. I remember hearing about this one when it first came out, but I haven't got around to it. Thanks for putting it back on my radar. =)