Supernatural twins and old-timey Spiritualism?!
I was scrolling Twitter last year when my eyes snagged on a tweet with the words “runaway twins” and “Spiritualist show.” It was from author Amanda Glaze; she was announcing a book deal for her supernatural YA historical: The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond. I marked the book as something I would one hundred percent want to read, and I started following Amanda, who, as it turned out, is an incredibly interesting person.
Amanda Glaze is a Los Angeles-based young adult author and Emmy-award winning film & tv producer. She earned an undergraduate degree in theater from UCLA before moving into the film industry: producing and co-producing films such as Academy Award nominated film The Big Sick and Emmy Award winning documentary The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.
Curious about what it would be like to write her own stories, Amanda started waking up before the sun and scribbling in her notebook during the quiet hours of dawn. She went on to earn an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University in Minneapolis. Her debut YA novel The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond was inspired by her real life great-grandmother Edie Bond and her twin sister Violet.
I’m so excited to read The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond (it comes out Oct. 4!), and I was also excited to ask Amanda some questions about writing, spiritualism, and life in L.A. Read on for our interview!
Hi, Amanda! Can you tell me about your YA debut novel, The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond?
I would love to! The story follows seventeen-year old twins Edie and Violet Bond who are powerful mediums, just like their mother. Violet can open the veil between life and death, and Edie can cross into the spirit world. But when their mother dies mysteriously while in the spirit world and their father threatens to commit them to a notorious asylum, they have no choice but to run away and take refuge with a traveling Spiritualist show, a tight-knit group of young women who demonstrate their real talents—such as oratory, poetry and music—under the more socially acceptable guise of communing with spirits.
One night, Violet’s act goes terribly wrong, and Edie learns that the dark spirit responsible for their mother’s death has crossed into the land of the living. As Edie investigates the identity of her mother’s mysterious final client, she discovers that someone is hunting mediums, and they may be next.
For those unfamiliar with the Spiritualist movement of the 19th century, how would you explain it?
The Spiritualist movement of the nineteenth century is endlessly fascinating. Most people agree that it really began with the teenage Fox sisters, who, in 1848, claimed to be able to hear the spirit rappings (one knock for yes, two knocks for no) of the spirit of a murdered peddler buried beneath their upstate New York home. They became a phenomenon when circus showman P.T. Barnum invited them to New York City and arranged for private séances for the fashionable crowd.
Soon, the social and religious movement of Spiritualism, which essentially believed in the possibility of communication with the spirit world, swept the nation, as did the concept of a spirit medium. Many mediums communicated with spirits in the form of a séance, an idea we’re still familiar with today. But also very popular during this era were trance lectures. It was a belief held by many Spiritualists that spirits—who existed on a higher plane—could provide knowledge about moral and ethical issues. In order to access that, a medium would go up on stage and—usually before a large audience—channel a spirit who would lecture on a certain topic.
What was the connection between Spiritualism and the women’s rights movement?
This is where one of my favorite parts of the Spiritualist movement comes in. Because while Spiritualists generally believed that anyone could become a medium through study and practice, it was also commonly thought that women—in particular young, adolescent girls—made the best mediums. This was during an era in which women were strongly encouraged to be pure, pious, passive, and domestic—qualities which effectively barred them from leadership roles. But since mediumship was thought to be, by its very nature, passive, the popularity of Spiritualism essentially created a kind of a loophole through which women were able to publicly make their voices heard without being punished for breaking social norms.
So, all of the sudden, you have teenage farm girls traveling the country as trance mediums. And what do you know? It just so happens that some of the spirits they channeled had some pretty strong opinions on topics like abolition, philosophy, women and children’s rights, marriage reform, dress reform, labor reform, and religious freedom. And what’s equally amazing to me about this corner of history is that many influential women’s rights advocates gained rare and valuable oratory skills by traveling the country as trance lecturers and spirit mediums and later went on to put those skills to use in the fight for women’s suffrage.
Your novel was inspired by your real life great-grandmother, Edith Bond, and her twin sister Violet. What was their connection to Spiritualism?
In my home growing up, there was a framed photo my great-grandmother Edith Bond and her twin sister Violet as teenagers on a bookshelf that I passed by every day. In the photo, the twins are wearing these white gauzy outfits that were likely in style back in the day, but, to a modern-day kid, looked positively ghostly. I was always intrigued by the photo, and my sister and I both became mildly obsessed with the twins. Even more so when we discovered that Edith and Violet had both been very into Spiritualism, continuing to conduct séances all the way to the end of their lives.
My fascination with Edie and Violet never fully went away, and so a few years ago, when I needed to write some new pages for an upcoming writing workshop, I just kept thinking of Edie and Violet. All I had was an image of the two of them on a gas-lamp lit street, a shadow of some sort behind them. At this point, I hadn’t done a lot of research into the Spiritualist movement, but that day I did a preliminary Internet search, found out about the fascinating cross-section between the woman’s rights movement and Spiritualism, and the beginnings of this book began to take root!
Tell me about the process of researching and writing this book. How long did it take from start to finish?
I began writing and researching the first draft in earnest in January of 2020. This book is set in 1885, so in addition to drafting, I also needed to do a ton of research not only into Spiritualism, but also into the time period and the city of Sacramento where the book takes place. The wonderful author Julie Berry said on a panel I went to once that her approach to research for historical fiction was to first get just a general of knowledge of the time period, and then start writing the draft. From there, she lets the story to guide her research. So that’s the approach I took, and I think it’s a good one!
The first draft came out in about four months, but it was kind of a mess. I put it aside for a week, re-read it, moped about for a few days, and then came up with a revision plan and re-wrote the story that summer. With historical fiction, you’re always kind of researching and writing at the same time, but once I finished the second draft, I had a much better idea of what this story was, and that’s when I dove into a more concentrated period of research, including an in-person visit to the amazing Sacramento History Museum.
There were a few more drafts after that before I felt it was ready to send it to my critique partners. They gave great notes, I made some revisions…and then I got cold feet and just sat on the draft for like three months. Fortunately, I have some wonderful people in my life (including my wonderful critique partners) who very kindly—but insistently— told me it was time to send out agent queries. I finally got up the courage to query the book and signed with my amazing agent Sara Crowe that summer. She had a few very smart revision notes, so I did those, and then we submitted it to editors it sold in in fall 2021 to my wonderful editor Laura Schreiber at Union Square & Co.
My editor and I both really wanted the book to be ready in time for Spooky Season in October 2022, but that meant we had only about six weeks to edit the book. Fortunately, the production company where I work full time was gracious enough to let me take a little time off to finish the final edits, and I turned them in December 2021.
So, all told, it took just under three years from initial idea to turning in the final edits. And of course this doesn’t include copy edits, etc., which all came later.
You got your theater degree from UCLA and went on to work in film and TV development. How has your background in theater and film influenced you as a novel-writer?
I rely heavily on my theater background when I’m writing. When you are acting in or directing a play, so much of the rehearsal process is about figuring out and understanding the character wants, motivations, and desires both for the overall play and for each individual scene. Most of my story ideas begin with a character, or a set of characters, and, just like in theater, the most important work I do is in trying to uncover what a character truly wants, why they want it, and what lengths they are willing to go to in order to get it.
I think working in film has really helped me understand story structure. Movies, in particular, often require very tight, structured plots—even the ones that might feel more meandering and character-based. I enjoy that in books, I have a little more freedom in terms of structure, but I do think my years of working in film have helped me a lot in terms of crafting my plots.
Are you already imagining The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond as a film or TV series? Do you feel like you have a better sense than the average writer about what it takes to turn a book into a film or series?
I do think this book would make a very cool television show! There are so many other fascinating stories and related threads from this era that I didn’t have room to explore in the book, and it would be fascinating to see those incorporated into one or more seasons of a show. I did get the chance to include a bonus epilogue for the Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition of this book, which gives a little hint of what the world beyond these pages might look like!
And yes, I do think that thanks to my producing experience in film and television, I have a slightly better sense of what the adaption process would be like for one of my books. My dream would be to find a collaborator who would want to take this story on and really make it their own.
What’s your connection to spiritualism? Have your spiritual beliefs changed at all over the course of writing this book?
I am someone who wants to live in world full of magic and the supernatural. In terms of what I myself believe? It changes every day. But I do have a lot of questions, and I think that’s one of the reasons I’m so drawn to including magical or supernatural elements in my books. I like to imagine, what if this were true? What would that be like?
Can you tell me more about how you found your agent and got your book deal?
I mentioned I was very lucky to have friends in my life who essentially picked me up and forced me into the querying trenches. I still think querying is such a terrifying thing to do. Fortunately, there are also some great resources out there. I was lucky to take a short online class through The Manuscript Academy that gave me an overview of the process, and since, for me, knowledge is power, that class helped give me the confidence I needed to take the plunge. I also always want to shout out my friend Sarah Ahiers who is a wonderful YA fantasy author and also a master at query letters. Her services are available for any writers out there looking for another set of very insightful eyes.
I was very lucky that one of the agents I queried in my first round was Sara Crowe, who requested the full manuscript. We had a phone call, and I loved everything Sara had to say about the book and her approach to agenting. She had a few very smart, insightful questions that guided me through one final revision before we sent it out on submission (which, by the way, I found equally as terrifying as querying).
And, once again, I was incredibly lucky when my editor Laura Schreiber read the book and loved it. Our first phone conversation was one of the most thrilling of my life. It is such a gift to talk to someone who truly understands the story you want to tell and has the insight to help you shape it.
Many, many years ago I lived in Los Angeles and worked as a background extra, so I have mixed feelings about the city, ha! What’s your favorite and least favorite thing(s) about living in LA?
I grew up in Northern California and first came to LA in college as a freshman at UCLA, and I will admit, I was not a fan at first. But what I eventually discovered about this city is that it’s the kind of place that demands to be found. It is not going to present itself to you, the way a city like New York might, where you can wander down a random street and stumble on some incredible new cafe or a museum you didn’t know existed.
LA makes you work for it, which is why I honestly don’t recommend it to everyone. It’s also—like many metropolitan cities—incredibly expensive, which is another major downside. But one thing I do like about LA is that while, yes, it’s a city that on one level is plagued with a toxic celebrity culture, it’s also a place where creators are naturally drawn. I’ve met so many fascinating people in this city, many of whom struggled as a teen to find their place, but who are able to find their niche here. I also love that the beach, the mountains, and the dessert are all within driving distance.
Finally, what’s your favorite piece of writing advice?
I always think the best piece of writing advice is the one that everyone gives and it’s to read widely, particularly in your own genre, particularly if you are just starting out. Read the recent books that have come out and then re-read the ones you liked best and take them apart. I like to make outlines of books or sections of books I particularly love to figure out how the author crafted something I was impressed by.
But before you can do any of that, the first thing you need to do is give yourself permission to write. For some people, that’s an easy thing to do, and to them I say: congratulations! But for anyone out there battling with what we might call imposter syndrome or the fear that writing books is for other people, the thing I would advise is to start with books like The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, or other guidance books that will help you find the confidence to carve out space for creating in your life. When you can connect to the joy of creating versus attaching yourself to an outcome, whether that’s a publishing goal or something else, I truly believe that’s when the work that speaks to your soul will emerge.
Oh my gosh, I just love everything Amanda has to say, and I hope the spirit of Edith Bond is peeking through the veil right now, smiling at her great-granddaughter’s accomplishments.
Buy the book by October 9th and get free goodies!
If, like me, you’re super pumped to read The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond, check out this great offer: If you preorder your book or buy it by Sunday, October 9th, you can send in your receipt or library request to receive some amazing preorder goodies including a gorgeous art print of Edie & Laws by E.K. Belsher, a Spirit Medium’s Guide to the Herbs of Death, as well as a signed and customized bookplate, and bookmark. You can find more information and submit your receipts on Amanda’s website.
Amanda Glaze can also be found on:
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