Hello everybody! Today, I’m hugely excited to welcome debut author Jenni Spangler to the blog to discuss the Vanishing Trick (which releases this Thursday!) And also to share her post about how to photograph a ghost. Onto the post!
1. First of all, can you please describe the Vanishing Trick in 5 words?Mysterious spooky Victorian magical adventure2. In the book, Leander and his new friends are tricked into selling their most precious possessions, and this is how Madame Pinchbeck traps them in their cabinets. If she was trying to ensnare you, what would she offer to buy from you?Ooh! What a great question. Probably a boring answer, but maybe my laptop? It has all the photos and videos of my children since they were born, plus all of my work and all the ideas I hope to write someday.3. Madame Pinchbeck is such an interesting villain! Who are your favourite fictional baddies in books, film and TV? Big fan of Mrs Coulter from His Dark Materials and Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events. Mrs Coulter because she’s so poised and beguiling – it makes her evilness all the more chilling. And Count Olaf because of his outrageous antics, and the way he manages to consistently fool all the adults even though the children always see through his tricks.4. On a similar note, what tips would you give to someone trying to write a really brilliantly bad antagonist? Your villain doesn’t have to be some massive evil bent on world domination – small acts of personal cruelty can sometimes stick with the reader more.5. This book is your debut. What’s been your favourite moment in your journey to publication so far, and what are you most excited about for when it’s released?The whole journey has been one amazing experience after another, but I don’t know if anything will ever beat the phone call where I found out I was going to be published! What I’m really looking forward to now is visiting schools to share my love of stories – who knows when that will be, but I know I’m going to love it.6. What is your writing routine like? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks? I don’t really have a routine because I squeeze writing in wherever I can find a few minutes of quiet. My unusual habit is that when I edit the book, I retype the entire thing word by word, so sometimes I’ve typed out the whole book six or seven times before it’s ready. It really helps me spot mistakes and clunky phrases.7. Finally, before a couple of quickfire questions to finish off, can you tell us anything about what you’re working on now/will be releasing next?I’ve got another magical tale in the works about a paranoid inventor, a machine which predicts the future, and the plucky 12 year old stagehand named Hannah Rabbit who tries to stop the terrible predictions coming true.QUICKFIRE Favourite colour? GreenYour favourite magic trick you’ve ever seen performed? There’s an amazing trick by a magician called Eric Chien in which he sits at a table and makes playing cards change colour and disappear. It’s very simple but the skill behind it is unbelievable – I highly recommend looking it up on youtube!Hogwarts house? GryffindorFavourite thing about spring, since it’s finally here? Going outside with a cup of tea very early in the morning and listening to the world waking up.
How to photograph a ghost: One of the big themes in The Vanishing Trick is whether we can believe our eyes. Does Madame Pinchbeck really have the power to summon ghosts? And are the children really vanishing, or is Leander being tricked?In a world of special effects, filters and photo editing, we know images can deceive. The monster in that action film is CGI, and the model in that perfume advert has been touched up in photoshop. But even with the knowledge that pictures and video can be edited to mislead us, we can still be fooled. Sometimes, even when the edits are pointed out to us, they’re still difficult to spot. Imagine how convincing a photograph must have been in the Victorian era, when the whole concept of photography was new and exciting. A camera simply records whatever is set in front of it, and so it was accurate. Trustworthy.But people are inventive and playful and it wasn’t long before photographers were experimenting with what else they could do. They worked out how to layer images together to make it look like a man was trapped inside a glass bottle or shaking hands with himself. These were simply novelties. Like grandpa pretending to find a coin behind your ear, they never expected anyone to be fooled. Games, not magic.At the same time, a new craze for seances and ghosts was developing. Suddenly it was fashionable to attend a spirit-rapping, where mediums communicated with the dead through knocks and taps. As the trend spread it became more elaborate, with mediums inventing all sorts of clever tricks to convince their audiences of their abilities. And it worked – people truly believed it was possible to speak to ghosts.Photographer William Mumler branched out into the ghost business by supposedly capturing his cousin’s ghost in the background of a self-portrait. Soon many people were creating so-called ‘spirit photography’.A popular technique – and one the villain, Madame Pinchbeck uses in The Vanishing Trick – was double exposure. Two pictures taken over the top of each other, one with the ghost, and one without. In the finished photo, the ghost looks see-through, the room around it appears solid. If you have photoshop or another editing programme, you can easily do this today. Take a picture of an empty room. Then, without moving the camera at all, take a second picture with somebody in it.In photoshop, layer the two pictures over each other, with the empty room on the bottom. Adjust the transparency of the top layer to about 30% and watch as the person in the picture becomes see-through. Instant ghost. It would have been harder for Pinchbeck and other Victorian tricksters, who needed to juggle volatile chemicals and delicate glass plates to make their pictures. On the other hand, their audiences were much more willing to believe the illusion.
Thank you so much for reading! Have you read this book, or is it on your TBR? What are your favourite examples of paranormal photographs? I’d love to hear in the comments!Amy x