Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Meet Patti Lacy, author of What the Bayou Saw
Patti, tell us about What the Bayou Saw.
Since leaving Louisiana, Sally Stevens has smothered her childhood with a sunny disposition and sugar-coated lies. No one, not even her beloved husband Sam, knows what happened to her and her best friend, Ella Ward, when they were twelve years old.
Now a teacher in Normal, Illinois, Sally has nearly forgotten her past. Then Shamika, one of her students, is violently attacked, and memories of segregation, a chain-link fence, and a blood oath bubble to the surface like a dead body in a bayou.
Finally entrapped in her web of lies, Sally—and Shamika—embark on a quest to find Ella in post-Katrina New Orleans. With the help of friends, family, and God, Sally can glimpse a life free of the mire of deceit and truly begin to live with joy. But will she pay the price for a lifetime of deception?
How did you come up with ideas for this book?
Oh, LaShaunda, a wonderful cast of women (black, white, and everything in between) shared poignant memories of growing up in the South. With the help of several editors, including one with a PhD in literature, I tried to capture the voice, dialect, and values of 1960s Louisiana and present-day Normal, Illinois.
It all started with the story of Sheila Flanagan, director of the Mobile Museum. Though Sheila lived next door to a little girl who was her age, racism and a chain link fence kept the wannabe friends apart. For seven years, toys were stuck through the spaces in the fence so the little girls could play. That image grabbed my mind, wouldn’t let go, and formed the seed of a story. God, and my imagination, took it from there.
Who are your main character(s)?
Sally Stevens, the teacher who’s buried a swamp full of lies behind her big-toothed smile. Ella Ward, a nurse who’s fighting to forget a betrayal, deal with an addict brother, and save her patients from the she-devil Hurricane Katrina. Sam Stevens, the math professor husband of Sally who is tired of the lack of intimacy—and honesty—in their marriage. Shamika Williams, a brilliant but sullen student who decides to turn her horrific sexual assault into a get-even event. Detective Price, a bigoted cop who is about to get a lesson in how to really live free.
Did you have a favorite character? Who and why?
Yes! Shamika! I love her sassy personality and inner strength. And this girl has hairdos that you can’t believe. Check out the trailer at www.pattilacy.com to see the perfect portrayal of Shamika by Erin, a college student who is actually studying to be a teacher, just like my Shamika. One day, when Erin waited on me at a local café, I stared at her hair, her cheekbones, and blurted out, “Will you be in my book trailer?” To my shock—and I think Erin’s as well—she agreed. The rest is the coolest Godstop.
Did you have to do quite a bit of research for this novel?
Oh, my, yes. I read Conversations with Earnest Gaines and Bloodline (both by Gaines), Meridian by Alice Walker, The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, The Classic Anthology, The African-American Heritage Hymnal, and interviewed well over a dozen Southern men and women. Post-Katrina, I took a research trip both to New Orleans and to my former home, Monroe, Louisiana. God opened the door to an English class, a high school dean’s office, a bayou guest house, the Lower Ninth Ward; writing has carried me to the most unusual and fascinating places!
What do you hope readers will learn/discover from reading What the Bayou Saw?
Slavery’s and racism’s awful human stain on the people of this country. The subtle and overt ways that we all lie, and how those lies ruin relationships. The terrible reality of sexual assault in America and how young girls often don’t seek help after the incident.
Okay, a not-so-fun question. How important are reviews to you as a writer?
LaShaunda, as I’m sure you know, we writers get little affirmation for our work, and that doesn’t change after you’re published. Bad reviews hurt my feelings, but I am glad that we live in a country where people can freely express their opinions. At least those folks read the book!
The reviews that gall me are the ones where it’s obvious the reviewer hasn’t read the book. I’m talking about a recent Bayou review that didn’t mention racism, sexual dysfunction, or lies. The review basically parroted the back cover copy and added a line or two about my other books (though I’ve only written one other book). What can you do about this kind of thing? Absolutely nothin’. That’s where the Still, Small Voice and those soulmates whoosh in to offer manna and Living Water. Whew!
Visit Patti on line at www.pattilacy.com.
View the full blog tour schedule at http://bitly.com/WhatTheBayouSaw
What the Bayou Saw
Segregation and a chain link fence separated twelve-year-old Sally Flowers from her best friend, Ella Ward. Yet a brutal assault bound them together. Forever. Thirty-eight years later, Sally, a middle-aged Midwestern instructor, dredges up childhood secrets long buried beneath the waters of a Louisiana bayou in order to help her student, who has also been raped. Fragments of spirituals, gospel songs, and images of a Katrina-ravaged New Orleans are woven into the story.
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