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.


  1. Oh, this is one of the many reasons I love Jungle Red. Thanks Rhys, for introducing me to Mary Anna..
    the books sound fascinating!

    Have fun in FLA, you two. Sunscreen. Margaritas. Talking about books. Pretty great.

    And please scout for the new FACE TIME--on sale TODAY! (Yes, caps,I 'm happy.)

    (Many fun new photos on my website blog--go to my site and click on Blog in the upper left, then click on "The Latest.")

  2. Yeah, Hank. I'll drink one of those Margaritas for you to celebrate the publication of Face Time!

  3. Rhys -- can't make Anhinga, but Urban Think! is in my neck of the woods (giraffe's neck, perhaps, by my normal willingness to venture downtown). I'll try to get there.

    It's HOT. If it's not hot, that means it's raining.

  4. Hank - Congrats on FACE TIME!!! Awesome! Is it still a 4 book deal w/MIRA?

    Mary Anna - The "archaeologist" take on things sounds fascinating! There is just something about kinesthetics... actually touching antiquity. Whether you believe in linear time or not there is something powerful in actually seeing and touching something material from a past time.

  5. Welcome Mary Anna! And Hank's right, meeting new (to me) authors on Wednesdyas is one of my favorite things about JR.

    Mary Anna, the cover of Floodgates is very intriguing. Can you explain what that is...and did you have any control over what the cover looked like?

  6. Thanks for your kind words, everybody. I'm just now checking in, because I've been incredibly busy organizing and teaching at the Anhinga Writers' Studio Summer Workshops with Rhys. We finished the workshops yesterday and drove to Orlando this morning, where we spent a fun hour at Urban Think. This is the first chance I've had to check in at Jungle Red.

    MTV--yes, there really is something special about touching antiquity. I think that's one of the key differences between history and archaeology, two disciplines that I enjoy reading about very much. Archaeology makes good mystery fodder, because you never know just what the next layer of soil is going to hold. It's like a treasure hunt.

    Rosemary, I've had varying degrees of input on my covers, but the only one on which I had absolutely no say was FLOODGATES...but I love it.

    The cover image is a bit abstract, but my interpretation of it is that the woman is drowning or dead or screaming. The blur above her looks, at first glance, like water. I think some of it *is* water. But if you look closely, some of it is her hair. And some of the blur is red like blood. I think it's suitably creepy.