How did you come to write a book about a one-handed orphan who gets roped into grave-robbing in antebellum New England?
Someone gave me the book Forgotten English, by Jeffrey Kacirk, and I came across the words resurrection man. I thought, That’s such a cool description. When I read that it meant grave robber, I got excited about the moral murkiness. Ultimately what these men did was advancing science, but they were doing the most horrible thing you could do, desecrating graves.
This is a grisly book—amputations, child abuse, people buried alive. Are you a morbid person?
It’s funny. I grew up in Salem, Massachusetts. My friends all worked at the witch museum or the witch house. One of my first jobs was working at the witch dungeon, basically a basement filled with torture devices used on witches. So my book doesn’t feel that morbid to me.
Okay, but there are two different severed hands. Do you have a hand obsession?
When I was about 5, my kindergarten was in a big church, and we would play in the graveyard during recess. I fell on this gravestone, and a shard of slate went through my left wrist. My parents were at a Red Sox game, so they couldn’t be reached. Eventually, they operated. I still can’t close my fingers all the way. But besides that, my hand function is fine.
The Good Thief
The Dial Press. August 26.