Dori Hillestad Butler, Author of the Month: The Underground Ghosts

August is a pretty good month. I celebrate a birthday in August. So does my son Ben. This year I’m also celebrating publication of The Underground Ghosts, which concludes my Haunted Library series.

It’s a “Super Special,” which is the technical term for a book that’s half again as long as all the other books in the series. But The Underground Ghosts is also a “super special” book to me because it’s a sort of “love letter” to the city of Seattle.

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I just moved to the Seattle area three years ago, and the day we pulled in I felt at home in a way I’d never felt before. There’s something about the Pacific Northwest, and the Seattle area in particular, that speaks to me.

When I started The Haunted Library, I knew how the series would end. I knew what would happen in the final scene, but that element was just a moment. I still needed a story to carry me to that final moment. And because this was the series finale, I felt like this story needed to be bigger than the other stories in some way. But how?

My editor said she wanted this book to be a “Halloween Super Special.” A super special is automatically bigger, and Halloween centered seems appropriate for a ghost series. That helped…but I still felt like I needed something more for a series finale.

otter award logo color_180Then, right before it was time to start outlining this book, I found out my first Haunted Library book was on Washington State’s first Otter Award list. The Otter Award is sponsored by the Washington Library Association’s School Library Division and celebrates transitional chapter books. Students in Washington state vote on the winner from this short list of contenders. I was thrilled that Washington librarians created an award for transitional readers, and even more thrilled when they put one of my books on that first list. It’s what prompted me to bring my characters to Seattle for their final story.

Somewhere along the way I realized that maybe this search for a bigger, more special end to my series wasn’t about my characters so much as it was about me. I started this series when I lived in Iowa. So it’s set in Iowa. But now I live here…and maybe instead of saying good bye to my characters (and, in a sense, to Iowa, too) what I was really looking for was a way to say, “Hello, Seattle!” in one of my books. This book is my Hello, Seattle!

It comes out August 15, which is Ben’s birthday, and I couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate pub date because Ben is the one who led us all here. He was an intern for Microsoft in 2008 and then got a permanent job offer for the following summer.

Our younger son Andy came out here in 2012 to go to the University of Washington.

Every time my husband and I came out to visit, we fell a little more in love with Seattle. Finally, in 2014 we decided to follow our kids.

As I began plotting my “Seattle Haunted Library” book in early 2016, I thought back to a family vacation we took in 2007. It was our first trip to Seattle. One year before Ben’s internship. Back when we thought, “Gee, this is a nice city,” but none of us had any idea we would all be living here one day. Back when our kids looked like this:

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And this:

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And my husband and I looked like this:

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What were the highlights of that trip? Where did we have the most fun?

Pike Place Market:

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The science fiction museum. Well…that’s what it was called then. You had the science fiction museum on one side of the building and the experience music project on the other. Today it’s all one big museum, the Museum of Pop Culture:

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And the Seattle Underground:

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Until we took the tour, we had no idea what lay beneath those purple squares in the sidewalk. It’s a fun tour! I’ve been on it several times because I’ve taken most of our out-of-town visitors on it.

I started thinking about some of the things I’ve seen down there…and a plot began to form.

So the book is called The Underground Ghosts, but the series is The Haunted Library. I couldn’t possibly set a Haunted Library book in Seattle and NOT have any scenes that take place in the Seattle Public Library. Especially when the Central Library looks like this:

 

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It’s even more interesting on the inside. Take a tour if you’re in the area! Or take the virtual tour right now.

My friend Linda Johns is a librarian there. She’s also the author of the Hannah West mysteries, which are also set in Seattle. Check them out! Linda was kind enough to give me a behind-the-scenes tour of the library when I was still plotting out my story, which brought everything together for me.

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I wrote most of the book right there in the library. They have a writers room, so I had a quiet place to work every day. Whenever I was stuck on a particular scene, I could just walk around my setting for a while until I got unstuck.

The parking attendant got a little suspicious when he caught me wandering back and forth in the parking garage one day. We had a conversation (parts of which ended up in the book).

Seattle friends…Seattle kids…I hope you have as much fun reading this book as I had writing it!

And if you’re not going to Oregon for the eclipse on August 21, please come to my book launch at Secret Garden Bookshop (2214 NW Market St. in Ballard) on Sunday, August 20 at 2:00pm. Hear more behind-the-scenes stories of this book…brush up on your Seattle trivia…and purchase a signed copy of the Underground Ghosts! Sunday afternoons are a great time to visit Ballard because you can also visit the farmer’s market and you can park for free!

If you can’t make the book launch, leave a comment on this post to enter a drawing to win a FREE signed copy of the Underground Ghosts. I’ll draw the winner on August 15, pub day!

*UPDATED AUGUST 16, 2017

Okay, yesterday was August 15. Pub day for the Underground Ghosts as well as Ben’s birthday. So I thought it was appropriate to have him draw my winner.

Yes, we gave him dragon meat for his birthday. After we ate the dragon meat, I put all the names in the can, shook it up, and told Ben to pick a good one.

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The dog wanted in on the action, too! (Actually, he wanted the dragon meat!) You probably can’t read the winner, so here’s a close up to prove we’re on the up and up here at OAV:

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Congratulations, Denise!

And here they are together in one photo. My August 15 “babies”:

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26 thoughts on “Dori Hillestad Butler, Author of the Month: The Underground Ghosts”

  1. Happy birthday and happy launch, Dori! Wish I could be there, but please save a signed copy for me. Seattle and fellow Mousers are lucky you’ve chosen to live here.

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  2. Congratulations on your new book! Loved seeing the pictures and hearing about Seattle. Sounds like you have found a new forever home that will provide you with great inspiration. Thanks for sharing this link

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    1. Denise! Good to hear from you! 🙂 I’m hoping we’re here to stay! Though…I once said I was never leaving Rochester…and for many years I said I was never leaving Iowa city. Home is where you make it, right?

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  3. What a fun back story, Dori. Thanks for sharing the pics too. Congrats on the new book! I’m sure you’ve got many more stories bouncing around in your creative brain. Waiting!

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    1. Thanks, Deb. Hey, this past Sunday Bob and I enjoyed ice cream on the beach at Mulkiteo (after wandering around the Japanese gulch for a while). I waved to you across the water! 🙂 And remembered the lovely morning we spent there together last fall.

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  4. What a fun post! I love the way you weave in old pictures and memories of your family and your feelings about Seattle. I’m eager to read the book and find out what happens in the end!

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  5. Love this, Dori! Seattle got you, and also gets you. Forget the sights, though (momentarily), I want to know every detail about your talk with the parking attendant. Congratulations on the Super Special!

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  6. Dori, thanks for sharing so many of the reasons why I love Seattle! I’m so glad your new home proved to be such an inspiration and I bet your readers will be, too. Congrats on the new book!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Dana. Yeah, I’ve wondered that, too. I’m amazed how often I tell someone about some place I’ve gone recently (or will go soon) and they say, “Oh, I’ve never been there. (or done that)” And they’ve lived here like 50 years!!!

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