Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Marian Manseau Cheatham, author of Merely Dee
, a historical tale release last week. I'm fortunate to be in one of Marian's critique groups and had the pleasure of seeing this story come together. I'm looking forwarded to being able to read the entire novel.
By Marian Manseau Cheatham
The 1915 Western Electric Employee Picnic is the social highlight of the year in Cicero, Illinois. Five steamers wait to ferry seven thousand passengers to the picnic grounds in Michigan City, Indiana. As teenager Dee Pageau packs her picnic basket and prepares to board the SS Eastland, she anticipates this will be the best day of her life. Dee hopes to spend time with her best friend, Mae Koznecki—but she also wants to get to know Mae’s handsome brother, Karel, a little better. Dee has no idea that in a matter of hours, tragedy will strike.
Despite her mother’s dark premonition that death awaits her if she boards the SS Eastland, Dee decides the risk is worth a chance for more time with Karel. Dee’s excitement quickly turns to terror, though, when the ship capsizes at the dock, threatening the lives of everyone on board. Rescued from certain death—not once, but twice—by Karel and a mysterious stranger, Dee soon discovers that Mae is nowhere to be found. Dee can only sit back and wait to hear if she is trapped in the flooding bowels of the capsized ship or worse yet, dead.
In this captivating historical tale, Dee takes a coming-of-age journey like no other as she soon realizes that surviving the disaster is only the beginning.
Please help me welcome Marian.
Cherie: Tell us about your novel, Merely Dee, in your own words.
Marian: Merely Dee is YA historical fiction based on an actual event. The novel is suspenseful and tragic and sad, but also romantic, and in the end, full of hope for the future.
Cherie: It sounds like Merely Dee has it all. When will your book be available and where will readers be able to purchase it?
Marian: It’s now available and can be purchased at iuniverse.com, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com
Cherie: Where did you get the idea for your novel?
Marian: The idea for Merely Dee came from a Manseau family story. The novel details the deadly capsizing of the SS Eastland, a passenger steamer leased by Western Electric employees for their 1915 company picnic. My Grandma Manseau had a ticket to that picnic, but the night before the big event, my great grandmother had a premonition of danger and begged my grandmother to stay home. Grandma Manseau listened to her mother and remained safely at home, but my character Dee Pageau does not obey her mother and sneaks off to the picnic. And of course, she finds herself aboard the Eastland on the morning of the historic disaster.
Cherie: I’m glad that your grandmother did listen to her great grandmother and that she passed the story down to you. What was the most difficult chapter to write?
Marian: My most difficult chapter was Chapter 4 which begins only seconds after the Eastland capsizes. My protagonist has managed to survive, only to find herself a witness to hundreds of ghastly deaths. Researching the aftermath was gruesome and left me emotionally drained. I tried to express some of my own shock and horror through my character’s eyewitness account.
Cherie: What are you working on now?
Marian: I’m currently working on another historical YA. This novel is set in rural Japan during the summer of 1968. There’s romance, humor, and an exotic location. What more could a teen reader want?
Cherie: Sounds like your next novel will be just as exciting as Merely Dee. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the reader?
Marian: I hope that Merely Dee brings to light the little-known story of the Eastland Disaster. That tragic event was the greatest loss-of-life-disaster in the history of Chicago and yet, few Chicagoans know or talk about it. I’m hoping that will change!
Cherie: I’m sure your novel will do just that. Now to help lighten the mood, I have a few fun questions for you. Favorite color?
Marian: In my office I like calming colors like pale green or a warm yellow. But when I dress, I prefer bolder colors like deep purple, bright red, or hot pink.
Cherie: Do you believe in the supernatural?
Marian: I do! And I tell of a possible encounter with the drowned victims of the Eastland in my Author’s Notes.
Cherie: If you could be any mythical creature, who would you be and why?
Marian: I’d be the winged horse, Pegasus. Strong, powerful and able to soar above the landscape with grace and speed.
Cherie: Any secret crushes? (It can be anyone real or fictional.)
Marian: Oh, I really hate to admit this, but I have a mad crush on Edward Cullen from Twilight. I’m not usually a fan of vampires, but I’d make an exception in his case.
Cherie: Do you believe in love at first sight? Marian:
I totally do believe in love at first sight, but I didn’t fall for my husband that way. He kind of grew on me and now I can’t live without him. So maybe love at first sight isn’t the best thing after all!
Cherie: You might be right about that. Who are you drawn to the good guy or the bad guy?
Marian: When I was younger I always gravitated to the bad guy, but I’ve learned from my mistakes and now I’ll choose the good guy every time.
Cherie: Favorite movie or television show?
Marian: One of my favorite movies is Shakespeare in Love.
Cherie: Do you have any guilty pleasures that get you through the writing/revising process? Marian:
A hot Vanilla Chai from Dunkin Donuts. And if I’m really, really bad, a vanilla-frosted long
Cherie: This was a lot of fun. Thanks for joining me today!
Buy Merely Dee today