Linda Bailey is the author of the new children's picture book Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein, which focuses on author Mary Shelley. Bailey's many other books include Carson Crosses Canada and Under-the-Bed Fred. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Q: Why did you decide to write a children's picture book about Mary Shelley and Frankenstein?
A: I read Frankenstein a few years ago as part of a “catch-up-on-classics” that I was doing, just for myself, and was pulled in immediately by the Author’s Introduction. I was amazed to learn, for instance, that Mary wrote Frankenstein while still a teenager.
And the story of how the novel began — the ghost-story challenge on a literally dark-and-stormy night beside Lake Geneva — totally gripped me, as did the story of Mary's unusual and difficult childhood. I began to see that Mary Shelley's life might be very interesting to kids.
Q: What kind of research did you do to write the book?
A: Mostly, I lay on the couch and read — which I am always happy to do. I found many of Mary’s letters and journals available in published form, although not, unfortunately, for the period when she first started to write Frankenstein.
I also read my way through a lot of excellent Mary biographies that have been published for adults in recent years. (A list is available at the back of my book.)
Plus there are some wonderful group biographies now available that place Mary’s life in a wider context, e.g. her family (her mother was the early feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft) and her literary relationships and influences (especially Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and Samuel Taylor Coleridge).
Q: How much knowledge about Frankenstein do you expect kids have when they read your book?
A: Just the usual general knowledge. Most kids know, and are fascinated by, Mary’s main character — the monster who was created by a scientist and then ran amok.
The legend of Frankenstein is intriguing enough to kids, I think, for them to also feel interested in the person who made that monster up, and how she did it. I hope kids will relate to Mary's youthful dreams and be inspired by her imagination and determination.
Q: What do you think Júlia Sardà's illustrations add to the book?
A: Júlia Sardà's illustrations are brilliant! They bring so much to the book — atmosphere, character, drama, suspense, depth. Not only are they stunningly beautiful, they are also historically accurate — down to the titles on the books Mary read at different times in her life, and the gravestone in St. Pancras churchyard where young Mary visited her dead mother.
It’s clear to me that Júlia did a great deal of research to get the facts right in this book. I’m in awe!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a middle-grade novel (science fiction, as it happens), and I’m also noodling around with some picture book ideas.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I can’t think of anything. Thanks so much for inviting me and Júlia and Mary to visit your blog!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb