Registration is open for the 2022 Connecticut Book Awards!
When: October 23, 2022 | 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Where: Hartford Public Library
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COVID is still with us, although easing off a little, thank goodness. Did you have a favorite comfort genre to turn to when things were looking bleak? Something that lifted you away and to a different place for a while?
During Covid I did turn to a certain genre, but it wasn’t a comforting one. For some reason I delved deep into psychological thrillers by female authors. I read just about everything by Ruth Ware, Lisa Jewell, Lisa Unger, Sara Pearse, Emma Rowley, Wendy Walker, and others. In fact, I continue to favor this genre over others for leisure reading. The scariness, intensity, and plot twists have provided some much-needed escapism these last few years.
Where do you get your inspiration?
The inspiration for my YA novel MERCURY BOYS arrived circuitously—so circuitously, I’m surprised it arrived all. It started with an old photo from 1839—a daguerreotype—that was briefly in the news as the first photographic self-portrait (or “selfie”) ever identified. An American inventor and lighting entrepreneur named Robert Cornelius was both subject and photographer. The daguerreotype caught my eye because of Cornelius’s mysterious and somewhat challenging expression. I immediately wanted to know more about him. While learning about his life, I also learned about the daguerreotype-making process and how dangerous it was. Toxic chemicals were involved, including cyanide and mercury. I then started reading about mercury and the history of “quicksilver” (see, my inspiration was very circuitous). I was fascinated to discover that throughout the ages mercury has been considered a magical elixir, capable of doing everything from curing depression to extending life.
Somehow, all of these different subjects—poison and pseudoscience, invention and historical photography—coalesced in my mind and formed the plot of Mercury Boys. This is a story about modern teen girls who stumble across a method of time travel using mercury and daguerreotypes. At first their discovery is a thrilling diversion from ordinary life. But it soon takes a toxic turn, both literally and figuratively
Who made reading important to you?
I was lucky to grow up in a house full of books (my mother was an English teacher). I had hundreds of stories at my fingertips. I was also lucky to be able to read whatever I wanted. There were no off-limit books, and book-leveling in school wasn’t yet a thing (it still shouldn’t be, in my opinion). Reading became a pathway to wonder and discovery. My mother and various teachers and librarians made it so.
What’s the last book that had you reading past your bedtime?
The last book that had me up very late was The Golden Compass from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I can’t believe I didn’t read it earlier in life. I also really liked When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain, which is both beautifully written and utterly gripping.
Who is the most supportive person in your life when it comes to your writing?
The most supportive person is my husband, Basil Petrov, who has supported and believed in my writing career even at the times when I didn’t believe in it myself.
What are you reading now?
My younger son and I are reading the Alex Rider spy series, and I just started the YA novel Your Corner Dark by Desmond Hall. It’s exciting so far—and the cover’s gorgeous.
Chandra Prasad is the author of the critically acclaimed novels On Borrowed Wings, Death of a Circus, Breathe the Sky, and Damselfly, a female-driven young adult text used in classrooms in parallel with Lord of the Flies. Prasad is also the editor of—and a contributor to—Mixed, the first-ever anthology of short stories on the multiracial experience. Her shorter works have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Week, New Haven Noir, and Teen Voices, among others.