Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Mary Anna Evans on Post Katrina New Orleans
RHYS; At the moment you read this I'll be on a plane heading to the Anhinga Writer's Conference in Gainesville, Florida. One of the organizers is Mary Anna Evans, my good friend and fellow writer. So I nailed her for a few seconds as she rushed around with last minute preparations to answer some questions for JRR fans.
RHYSz; Mary Anna, your books are wonderful peeks into American archeology, a subject that nobody else tackles. And you have a unique biracial heroine called Faye Longchamp. How did you come up with Faye. Tell us about her. Is she like you?
MARY ANNA: My books always start from their settings. Faye came out of her place. She is the owner of a ramshackle Southern plantation house that has passed through her family for generations. When I pictured that house and asked myself who would live there, a question popped into my mind.
"Wouldn't it be interesting if the owner was a descendant of the slaves who built it?"
That seemed like an interesting viewpoint through which to view the history of this house. It was only a short hop to the next question.
"Wouldn't it also be interesting if she were also a descendant of the masters who lived in it?
This ancestry gives Faye an inner conflict that will never go away, and it gives her a viewpoint on American history that isn't like anybody else's. And that's a very interesting thing for an archaeologist to have.
RHYS; What created your interest in archeology?
MARY ANNA; Well...first and foremost, I love history. Archaeology is particularly interesting, because you get to encounter *actual things* from history. The hoe used by a slave. Andrew Jackson's spyglass. A child's handmade toy. This gives archaeology a very tactile feel.
Archaeology is tailor-made for mystery stories, because you never know what you're going to dig up, nor what story that object will have to tell. It's a treasure hunt, really.
RHYS: Tell us about Floodgates and how emotional was it to write about post Katrina New Orleans? What were some of your own reactions to doing research
MARY ANNA: I love New Orleans. I grew up 100 miles away. I have family there. I've done short-term work there. And I've also traveled there as a tourist. It's beautiful, historic, evocative, and unique. It's an American treasure.
I spent a week in New Orleans, doing research. (Sometimes my work isn't work...) Some parts of town look almost as they always did, but I was heartsick to see areas where destruction is still evident for miles around as far as you can see. I think we, as a country, should have done better for our citizens and for an American city.
RHYS: What's next for Faye, or any other books on the horizon?
MARY ANNA: I'm working on Faye's next adventure now. It will be set in St. Augustine, the site of the first permanent European settlement in what is now the United States. (It has still spent more time under the Spanish flag than it has under the Stars and Stripes.) St. Augustine has been a tourist town for so long that they didn't really use the word "tourist" in the old days for their visitors. They called them "strangers." I learned this and thought to myself, "And weren't the Europeans the ultimate strangers?" There's an awful lot of history in St. Augustine for Faye to dig up. And she usually digs up some trouble, while she's at it.
RHYS: Thank you, Mary Anna. Good luck with the conference, and with Floodgates. Mary Anna and I will be setting out on a tour of Florida this weekend. Details on my website, so we look forward to seeing some friendly faces along the way, even it if is hot!
Mary Anna Evans's new book is Floodgates, from Poisoned Pen Press.