- 2017 Debut Author Bast with Joanne O'Sullivan -

7:00 AM


Between_Two_SkiesHurricane Katrina sets a teenage girl adrift. But a new life — and the promise of love — emerges in this rich, highly readable debut.

Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Louisiana, is home to sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; her wise, beloved Mamere; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo. But, dearest to her heart, she has the peace that only comes when she takes her skiff out to where there is nothing but sky and air and water and wings. It’s a small life, but it is Evangeline’s. And then the storm comes, and everything changes. Amid the chaos and pain and destruction comes Tru — a fellow refugee, a budding bluesman, a balm for Evangeline’s aching heart. Told in a strong, steady voice, with a keen sense of place and a vivid cast of characters, here is a novel that asks compelling questions about class and politics, exile and belonging, and the pain of being cast out of your home. But above all, this remarkable debut tells a gently woven love story, difficult to put down, impossible to forget.

As a writer do find yourself drawn to plot or characters more when you start developing a story idea?
I’ve always been really character and voice-driven. I have been fortunate this year to attend a number of author events and was comforted to find out I’m not the only writer who hears characters speaking in my head! I hear a certain voice, some snatches of dialogue and if I’m lucky that voice will be strong enough to carry me into a story. Right now I’m working on something a little more plot driven, which has been an interesting challenge. But I still wouldn’t be able to move forward without knowing really well how my character will respond in a given situation.

How does using prose in 'Between Two Skies', help tells the story of Evangeline Riley?
I am a journalist by training, so getting fact right has always been important to me. But there’s something about fiction that allows you to get to the emotional truth of a story in ways that nonfiction writing can’t. I was looking to capture the feeling of the time period, the sense of hopelessness experienced by people who lost everything and the feeling of hope and love that can eventually come through even in the darkest circumstances. Putting all that into the story of Evangeline and her family made that possible.

What drew you to get a book during Hurricane Katrina?
I lived in New Orleans while in college and I’ve returned to Louisiana frequently through the years. There’s something about the natural beauty, the wildness of it that really resonates with me. Hurricane Katrina and subsequent hurricanes have demonstrated how vulnerable the communities on this coast are. The coastal wetlands are disappearing at an astonish rate: a football-field-sized chunk is consumed by the gulf every hour now. In a way, I wanted to document what is now a vanishing way of life.

Family, to me, is an important part of YA books, how does the role of family play in this book?
It was important to include Evangeline’s whole family because a tragedy or trauma not only affects each family member individually, but reshapes a family. That’s true whether the trauma is a death in a family or as in Evangeline’s case, a natural disaster. In Evangeline’s family, without the community they had lived in, each member had to find out who he/she was in this new place, each with varying degrees of success. That loss of self and belonging affects the way each family member responds to each other and shifts roles of power, dependency and alliance. It’s really interesting to explore.

This is your YA debut novel, what have you learned through this process?
I’ve learned so much this year! A lot of what I’ve learned has to do with publishing and being an author vs. a writer. I’ve also met a lot of readers and that’s something I hadn’t had the opportunity to do before. It was so great and helpful to find out why readers are passionate about books. I’ve also met a lot of fellow authors and couldn’t have asked for a more supportive community!

osullivanheadshot I'm a working writer. I tell stories in many different ways.
I help people and organizations tell their stories through blogging, newsletters, publications and social media.
I tell the stories of my community as a journalist.
I make up stories as a fiction writer.
I help other writers tell their stories as an editor.


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