Today I’m handing over the reins of the CTG blog to Hester Young, author of THE GATES OF EVANGELINE – the first book in a fantastic new crime series featuring journalist Charlie Cates, and set in Louisiana.
Over to Hester …
Louisiana is the kind of place that almost writes a mystery for you.
From the moment you first turn down an old, unpaved driveway and see that curtain of Spanish moss hanging from the trees, you’ll feel secrets. Stroll past the mossy crypts of a New Orleans cemetery, and you’ll wonder what walks there at night. When you take a swamp ride and suddenly find yourself facing the green-gold gaze of an alligator, it’s almost impossible not to imagine what else those dark waters might be hiding.
This is the world of my novel, and I often feel that I did not really choose it as my setting at all. It chose me.
Louisiana came to me the same way that it appears to my protagonist: in a dream.
I was sitting in a rowboat across from a young boy, surrounded by forbidding swampland. The child told me his name and age. Let me tell you how I died, he said, and when I awoke, I could not shake his horrible story from my mind.
I didn’t know then that I had stumbled upon the opening of a novel. In the thin, early morning light when all is quiet and everything seems possible, I began to wonder if perhaps this boy might be real, if he might be waiting for me somewhere in the Louisiana swamps.
The dream stayed with me for days, weeks, months. When the boy in the boat’s tale began to blend seamlessly with a tragic premonition my grandmother once had—then I knew I had the elements of a story. A boy, long missing. A grieving mother with premonitory dreams. A beautiful and sprawling Southern estate. A swamp that holds a terrible secret.
The only way to exorcise a story is to tell it.
I made three research trips in total. Husband in tow, I toured a trio of Louisiana plantation homes, cruised through the murky swamps, explored a handful of towns in Cajun country, and even experienced the joyful celebration that is Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Mostly, I ate an appalling amount of food. Though each trip gave me new material, it was my first that most shaped the book.
That April, I was newly pregnant. As the trip began, I was practically dancing at the thought of my impending motherhood—in stark contrast with the main character of my book, Charlotte, whose frightening dreams begin after the death of her young son.
Sometimes the stories we create echo faintly in our own lives.
Days later, I found myself in a New Orleans hospital, weeping as a gentle nurse informed me that I had miscarried. In the rawness of that moment, grieving what was really only the idea of motherhood, I came to understand my protagonist in a new way.
For me, Louisiana will always be a place of ghosts, of lost children. But it is also a hopeful reminder of the good that lies ahead. I haven’t forgotten that hospital and the baby that never was, but now I have another image of Louisiana to carry with me: my one-year-old son perched high upon his father’s shoulders, wide-eyed and joyful as he clutches a string of Mardi Gras beads.
That, I hope, is the Louisiana that I have captured in The Gates of Evangeline, a place of light and darkness and all the strange shadows in between.
A massive thank you to Hester for dropping by to talk about Louisiana and the inspiration behind her novel THE GATES OF EVANGELINE.
THE GATES OF EVANGELINE is published today (13th August). Here’s the blurb: “When grieving mother and New York journalist Charlie Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children after her only son passes away, she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet she soon realizes these are not the hallucinations of a bereaved mother. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees – if she can make sense of them.
The disturbing images lead her from her home in suburban New York City to small-town Louisiana, where she takes a commission to write a true-crime book based on the case of Gabriel Deveau, the young heir to a wealthy and infamous Southern family, whose kidnapping thirty years ago has never been solved. There she meets the Deveau family, none of whom are telling the full truth about the night Gabriel disappeared. And as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust – and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could have imagined.”
To find out more about Hester Young pop on over to her website at www.hesteryoung.com/books/ and follow her on Twitter @HesterAuthor
And to check out THE GATES OF EVANGELINE on Amazon click here.