The Weirdest 5 Tidbits Susan Dennard Found While Researching

darknessI adored Susan Dennard’s debut, Something Strange and Deadly, so I am thrilled to be a part of the tour for book 2, A Darkness Strange and Lovely!

SusanAbout Susan:

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She used to be a marine biologist, but now she writes novels. And not novels about fish either, but novels about kick-butt heroines and swoon-worthy rogues (she really likes swoon-worthy rogues).

She lives in the Midwest with her French husband and Irish setter, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, is now available from HarperTeen.  Find her on the web: Website/Blog/Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads

The 5 Weirdest Tidbits I Found While Researching This Series by Susan Dennard

1) Casket bells were an actual thing. I already knew they existed prior to researching Something Strange and Deadly, but it wasn’t until I sat down to write the book that I realized just how weird they were. Victorians were so afraid of being buried alive that they built bells into their casket—bells that extended above ground and would ring if the person suddenly, you know, woke back up.

But I wanted to spin that history on its head. Why not make the bells a WARNING to other people that the corpse has woken back up? Why not make these bells like alarms to alert people nearby of the Dead?

Coolest of all, I even found this awesome advertisement that could totally work for my alternate 1876!


2) The Grecian Bend—something I’ve become kinda famous for demonstrating on panels *fans self in a totally pretentious manner*—was actually a REAL THING. I stumbled across this while researching Something Strange and Deadly, and I just knew I had to find a way to include it in my story.

Basically, because of the constriction of a corset and enormity of a bustle, women would often wind up standing in a strange, almost camel-like pose. It even became a fad, and you were expected to stand in this weird stoop. Men considered it sexy (erm…you can sort out why on your own) and I guess, with all the discomfort of the clothes, women actually found it more comfortable to lean than to attempt standing upright.

3) During my research for A Dawn Most Wicked I realized that working on the Mississippi in the 19th century was the worst job EVER. Like, ever. The living conditions and treatment from superiors were downright appalling. Yet for some reason, everyone wanted to work on the mighty river.

As Mark Twain said in his book Life on the Mississippi, “When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboatman. We had transient ambitions of other sorts, but they were only transient. When a circus came and went, it left us all burning to become clowns; the first minstrel show that came to our section left us all suffering to try that kind of life; now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates. These ambitions faded out, each in its turn; but the ambition to be a steamboatman always remained.”

Okay, granted Mr. Twain: there was definitely freedom on the river, but there was also an INSANELY high death toll. Engine fires—and then explosions—happened all the freaking time on steamboats. Twain’s own brother was killed that way…

But hey, I think people who swim with crocodiles in caves are also absolutely NUTS, but I guess that’s why it’s their job and not mine. ;)

4) The Palais Garnier, where parts of A Darkness Strange and Lovely happen, was this elaborate and gorgeous theater built in 1875. BUT, because they didn’t really do the best job planning the enormous, grandiose building, they had a problem with flooding. Basically, they tried to build it on a swamp (oops!), and no matter what they did, water kept rising into their newly cleared land. They managed to deal with it eventually, but a rumor was born there was still a huge underground lake below the Palais. Maybe you’ve heard that rumor—it’s a major setting in The Phantom of the Opera. ;)

But what really fascinated me most wasn’t the reservoir below the theater (that does exist, though not on the scale of The Phantom of the Opera), but rather the labyrinth of a basement. It’s really quite crazy how far down the theater extends, and I just KNEW I had to include that in my book. So I did. ;)


5) Croissants are actually Austrian! YUP. That famous French pastry shaped like a half-moon of buttery WONDERMENT isn’t actually French at all.

According to legend, these delicious delicacies were first introduced to France by Marie Antoinette. Is the legend true? I don’t know, but you can bet I included it in A Darkness Strange and Lovely anyway. ;)

Plus, no matter the origins, nothing could stop me from gorging on croissants non-stop every time I visited Paris for research. Even if the pastries haled from Austria, the French were definitely the ones who perfected them.


A Darkness Strange and Lovely (1)About A DARKNESS STRANGE AND LOVELY: Following an all-out battle with the walking Dead, the Spirit Hunters have fled Philadelphia, leaving Eleanor alone to cope with the devastating aftermath. But there’s more trouble ahead—the evil necromancer Marcus has returned, and his diabolical advances have Eleanor escaping to Paris to seek the help of Joseph, Jie, and the infuriatingly handsome Daniel once again. When she arrives, however, she finds a whole new darkness lurking in this City of Light. As harrowing events unfold, Eleanor is forced to make a deadly decision that will mean life or death for everyone.

Goodreads/Amazon/Barnes & Noble/The Book Depository



Now there is also a rather snazzy giveaway running along with the tour.

There will be 10 winners total and the prizes are…..

5 Winners will receive A Hardcovers of A DARKNESS STRANGE AND LOVELY and a paperback of SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, and signed swag US ONLY.

5 winners will receive an e-novella of A DAWN MOST WICKED and signed swag INTERNATIONAL.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, feel free to follow along with the rest of the tour:

7/15/2013 Bookcase to Heaven™   Interview
7/16/2013 Magical Urban Fantasy Reads   Guest Post
7/17/2013 Tynga’s Reviews   Review
7/18/2013 Supernatural Snark   Interview
7/19/2013 The Book Cellar   Guest Post
7/22/2013 Read-A-holicZ   Review
7/23/2013 IceyBooks   Interview
7/24/2013 Working for the Mandroid   Review
7/25/2013 The Reader’s Antidote   Review
7/26/2013 Two Chicks on Books   Guest Post ideas


17 thoughts on “The Weirdest 5 Tidbits Susan Dennard Found While Researching

  1. These were awesome! I love how you’re turning Casket bells on their heads and I had no idea croissants are Austrian Sooz!

    Thanks so much for hosting this stop on the tour Erica!

  2. I love background details of books! I’m borderline obsessed with figuring out why author’s of fiction choose to include certain elements in their stories, and it is always such a relief when the author offers up the explanations rather than hoping that my random inferences/guesses are in spot. Thank you for posting these juicy details. Now I’m even more excited to read A Darkness Stange and Lovely: croissants and Parisian theaters! So cool!

  3. Can’t wait to read this series! I keep hearing great things about it. I’m glad to hear that the author put so much into it. Thanks!

  4. So excited for A Darkness Strange and Lovely to be here!!!

    Loved all five tidbits…I’m going to start doing the Grecian bend!

  5. I loved Susan’s first book, and read her e-novella a few weeks ago. Such great characters. Can’t wait for A Darkness Strange and Lovely :D

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