Meet the author of the young adult novel Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore. Anna-Marie shares more about their inspiration for this book, their most memorable teachers and librarians, their favorite childhood books, and more!
When describing Dark and Deepest Red, what’s your elevator pitch?
Anna-Marie McLemore: The short version: A Romani girl faces a mysterious dancing plague in 1518 Strasbourg, and a Latina girl discovers its terrifying legacy 500 years later.
The very short version: Red Shoes reimagining + Medieval queers
What inspired you to write/illustrate Dark and Deepest Red?
Anna-Marie: I’ve been interested for a while in the medieval Alsatian dancing plagues, but I was drawn to 1518 Strasbourg because it was one of the largest and best documented. One day in dance class, a day when I was wearing my red practice shoes, I thinking about how I might write about 1518, when the daughter of a woman in my class called me “the girl in the red shoes.” That was the moment I knew these stories belonged together, the dancing plague and the Hans Christian Andersen tale The Red Shoes. It wouldn’t be until later, deep in the research process, that I’d find out The Red Shoes and 1518 actually have a secret history together, one that I got to weave into the book.
Tell us about a librarian or educator who made an impact on you.
Anna-Marie: I had several librarians and teachers who saw a reader—and writer—in me even when I didn’t see one in myself. Those librarians and educators, the ones who saw me struggling with reading but who encouraged me anyway, the ones who told me there was nothing wrong with me reading picture books far beyond the age most of my peers were, they helped me stay connected to reading and writing.
Is there a book that you wish you wrote?
Anna-Marie: I marvel at the way Kelly Loy Gilbert writes the small but significant moments of everyday life, especially in Picture Us in the Light. Her books are beautiful, riveting, and so real.
What is the first step in your creative process?
Anna-Marie: I love research, whether I’m finding out about medieval Strasbourg for Dark and Deepest Red or the science of moving forests for The Mirror Season, so I often start there.
What was your favorite book when you were 10 years old?
Anna-Marie: Because I struggled with reading growing up, my favorite book was often whichever one a teacher or family member was willing to read with/to me! I remember my dad reading me this book of mythology one story at a time, and that became my favorite part of the day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and taught by their family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. They are the author of The Weight of Feathers, a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris Debut Award; 2017 Stonewall Honor Book When the Moon Was Ours, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature and was the winner of the James Tiptree Jr. Award; Wild Beauty, and Blanca & Roja.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
With Anna-Marie McLemore’s signature lush prose, Dark and Deepest Red pairs the forbidding magic of a fairy tale with a modern story of passion and betrayal.
Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.
Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.
Praise for Dark and Deepest Red:
★”McLemore weaves another magic spell…The author spins a tale of first love, misfits forging their own places in the world, and the inherent prejudices of people who fear what they don’t understand. This novel will leave an indelible mark on readers’ hearts.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
★”McLemore fashions another gorgeous novel that reminds readers of the ways fairy-tale evils and, more importantly, love have their roots in the real world…McLemore’s well-choreographed story will dance on in readers’ minds.” —Booklist, starred review
★”McLemore skillfully weaves together these parallel medieval and modern tales in alternating chapters…Dark and Deepest Red’s provocative, insightful collision of fairy tale and history is a powerful demonstration of McLemore’s immense talent.” —Bookpage, starred review
★”McLemore’s vision and skill inspire awe in this gorgeously rendered novel…McLemore’s settings charm and their plotting captivates, but it is their devoted and deep character development that makes the work so enthralling.” —Shelf Awareness, starred review
“A powerful exposé of how differences are misunderstood, judged, and villainized by fear… A bold contemporary journey into generational secrets and perceptions of evil and otherness.” —School Library Journal