Tag Archives: dreams

Wednesdays with Writers: Is there a difference between justice and revenge? New York Times bestselling author of psych thrillers Lisa Unger talks about this, but also dreams, reality, starting the next project, renovating homes, and so much more in THE RED HUNTER

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By Leslie Lindsay 

Red Hunter cover

One house. Two very different women. A history of abuse. THE RED HUNTER discusses the differences between justice and revenge in a way only Lisa Unger can do.

I can always count on Lisa Unger’s books to propel me to the depths of the dark and twisted minds of…well, just about anyone. She has a knack for reaching into the tangled mess of one’s life and extracting the bits that make it dark and brittle. But be aware: if rape and violence are triggers for you, then select this book with caution.

Therein lies the crux of THE RED HUNTER. It’s deep psychological suspense at it’s best. Lisa’s characters are well-drawn, multifaceted, flawed, and oh-so-relatable. 

Claudia Bishop’s perfect life with hubby in NYC fell apart after she was brutally raped in her own home. She’s worked hard to rebuild that life, and is now looking for a fresh start at an old farmhouse in New Jersey, one that’s been in her family for some time.

Zoey Drake—young and hip–but carrying around a big burden from childhood—and is caring for her elderly uncle, a retired police officer.

Neither woman knows one another but the house factors into both of their lives. So, too does trauma.

So pull up a chair, a cup of coffee and eavesdrop on my conversation with Lisa.

“One of the best crime novels I’ve read in years. THE RED HUNTER is bold and gritty but with real heart. Unger writes as only the best do, with passion and authenticity.”
—Ace Atkins, NYT bestselling author of Robert B. Parker’s Slow Burn and The Innocents

Leslie Lindsay: Lisa, it’s so great to have you back. Thank you! I think this is the forth book of yours we’ve discussed. I’m afraid I’m running out of questions. But I always, always want to know what propels a writer to peel back the layers and start on a particular story. What was it for you, for THE RED HUNTER?

Lisa Unger: It’s always a pleasure to chat with you!I’m sure we’ll always have something new to talk about.

The idea for THE RED HUNTER started more than fifteen years ago.  I was in my late twenties, in a dark place, when I discovered the martial arts. I had just come through a brutal break up, my dreams of writing lay fallow. I was disconnected from myself in almost every way. The martial arts changed me, introducing me to a new version of myself, someone stronger than I thought I could ever be. I found myself, and my path forward.df1948898142fa4e9603a1bb1da2566d.jpg

After I had my daughter, I stopped practicing.  Motherhood kind of drained me of my will to fight, and I turned to yoga instead.  Recently, I took up kick boxing and some of that fighting spirit returned; and those days, how I felt then, came back to me.  That place and moment in my life was the germ for THE RED HUNTER, and for one of its main characters, Zoey Drake: a victim turned fighter, someone looking for revenge.

L.L.: Trauma certainly plays a major role in THE RED HUNTER.  So, too do the concepts of justice and revenge. What, in your opinion are the connecting dots?

Lisa Unger: After surviving a traumatic event, we have choices.  We can fold up and hide from the world, let the pain and anger over a horrific event crush us.  We can get angry, lash out and seek revenge, or justice.  Or we can allow ourselves to heal, then find a way forward, move toward forgiveness and wholeness again — whatever that means in our changed reality.

In our culture, the journey toward justice is a very important one; we depict it as the hero’s journey. And sometimes it can be that. Sometimes wrongs must be righted.  But when that journey becomes a way to hold on to pain, a way to stop moving forward, it’s just fear, a desire to control a thing that cannot be controlled.  And it keeps us from healing.

Zoey Drake and Claudia Bishop are taking two very different paths after trauma.  One seeks revenge, and the other is looking for her way back into the light, through healing and forgiveness. One path could be confused with strength, and the other might be confused with weakness. Both ways are fraught.  It might be up to the reader to decide which way is the right way. Or if there is a right way, at all.

L.L.: I have a thing with old houses. Well, houses of any kind. I’ve read somewhere that they represent story and also dreams. Things that happen in the basement, for example, have a lot to do with one’s subconscious. There are other rooms that equate to other parts of the psyche, too. Bedrooms, intimacy. Bathrooms, elimination. Kitchens, creation and family. I often have dreams of adding-on to a house and that, I’ve learned, has to do with ‘making space’ for creative pursuits. Can you give us a little more insight into how the house in THE RED HUNTER came to be for you?

Lisa Unger: That’s so interesting! I think you should follow your dreams, Leslie!  Make more room for those creative pursuits.1a352b345bf13976c4c2013af5ee62a3

A couple of years ago, my husband and I gutted and renovated our 1968 home.  Let’s be clear: we hired someone to do this work. (We’re not crazy!) But we lived in the house while it was under reconstruction. (Okay, we’re a little crazy.)  It was cathartic to watch our home, a place we’d loved for more than a decade, torn down to the studs, and recreated as something new and uniquely ours.  But it was also stressful, unpredictable, and incredibly challenging. It was not an experience I planned to write about; rather one I swore I wouldn’t repeat and tried to forget.   But then, three years later, as I started on THE RED HUNTER, another major voice in the book, Claudia Bishop, emerges.  Guess what? She’s renovating a ramshackle old farm house. And she’s blogging about it, a way of moving forward from the trauma of her past, and recreating her future.  

A house seems so solid — until you pick up a sledge hammer.  I love how something that seems as though it’s always been there can just fall away.  It makes me think that we can tear down, change, and rebuild just about anything we want in our lives — especially old ideas we have about ourselves. It takes some doing, some pain, a few mistakes here and there, but ultimately you have the power to create what you want in your life.  I love how destruction can lead to reconstruction, if you have the will and the right tools.

[You may enjoy this article in The Atlantic about Where You Live & Why it Means So Much. Also, the original source in which I *may* have read about homes/psyche HOUSE AS A MIRROR OF SELF: Exploring the Deeper Meaning of Home, but memory evades.]

L.L.: Each of your characters are strong, kick-ass type of women, but in different ways. Was one easier for you to write than the other? Do you have a ‘favorite?’

Lisa Unger: I felt connected to both of them.  I understood Zoey’s impulse to turn herself into a fighter and take revenge on people who had harmed her.  Even though Claudia’s philosophies are closer to mine, I still understood where Zoey was coming from.  It has something to do with her youth; it’s a young idea to think that the world is black and white, that there’s a clear right and wrong.  It’s also young to think that there’s any true justice, or payback, that a wrong thing can be made right by another wrong.  Claudia’s journey toward love and forgiveness, her impulse to claim her story, and rebuild herself and her life — those choices have a very different vibration.  I think Zoey’s impulse is more basic; Claudia’s more evolved.  I was more worried about Zoey than I was about Claudia.  But it was easy for me to 6dba74105c8b1cdfb4db7e2e4eeaae22connect with both ways of seeing the world.

L.L.: The narrative structure in THE RED HUNTER is unique in that it is not exactly linear. We volley between characters, time periods, but all from the POV of strong females. Can you talk a bit about how you made that decision, or was it really a decision? Do characters often ‘tell’ you their story?

Lisa Unger: I don’t make decisions like that.  A story evolves, tells itself though the voices it selects, in the way the way that it wants to be told.  The different voices, the time and perspective shifts — that’s just how the story came to me.  I’m not sure
it could have been told it any other way.  There was no other way for it to be told.

L.L.: I happen to be between projects now. Oh, I have ideas…but where to go with them? Do you have any tips or inspiration when starting out on the next book? Because this limbo-land is a yucky feeling. 

Lisa Unger: It’s such a personal thing.  For me, the idea for a novel can come from anywhere — a song, a news story, poetry, once even a piece of junk mail.  That spark of an idea might lead me to a fascination with a subject and a swath of research.  Then, the best I can explain it is, if that idea connects with something bigger going on with me, I start to hear a voice, or maybe a couple of voices. Then I know there’s a novel and I start writing.

The best advice I can give, Leslie, is to try not to do too much thinking.  Get out of that intellectual, analytical brain. And try to follow the ideas that fascinate you, listen for those voices, and don’t be afraid to just sit down and lose yourself in the writing. Let the story take you and don’t try to control the story.

L.L.: Any ‘Lisa Facts’ you can share with us? What’s on your mind these days?

Lisa Unger: These days I’m obsessed with addiction and dreams, perception and reality.  I’m really curious about the doorway between these two worlds we inhabit, the waking and the sleeping world and the Jungian idea that there’s not such a big difference.  I continue to be fascinated by Carl Jung and his ideas, the brain, the natural vs. the supernatural. And I’m still thinking about the main theme of THE RED HUNTER: What is the difference between justice and revenge?47720dcf954e638a97ddd2fbf6a5094f

L.L.: Lisa, as always, it’s been an absolute pleasure. All the best with THE RED HUNTER.

Lisa Unger: Always a pleasure, Leslie!  Thanks for connecting, and make time and space for that creative energy to flow!

For more information about THE RED HUNTER, to purchase, or to connect with Lisa via social media, please see:

Lisa Unger_Photograph by Jay Nolan.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Unger is an award-winning New York Times and internationally bestselling author. Her novels have sold more than two million copies and have been translated into twenty-six languages. She lives in Florida. Visit LisaUnger.com.

 You can reach me, Leslie Lindsay, via these social media sites:

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Simon Schuster/Touchstone Books. Author photo credit: Jay Nolan. Image of Carl Jung/dreams as well as 1968 renovated home, woman performing martial arts, as well as typewriter/writing quote image retrieved from Pinterest/no source noted, all on 4.24.17

Write On, Wednesday: Jason Gurley on his sublime novel ELEANOR, time travel, The Americans, Grief, & so much more

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By Leslie Lindsay 

A highly unusual, yet beautiful read by emerging author Jason Gurley exploring death, grief, second chances, and ultimately…we think: hope.  Eleanor jacket

ELEANOR (Crown, January 2016) is a family drama through the eyes of a young girl.  It’s an explosive dive (quite literally) into the watery torrents that is family. Everyone’s grieving, for various reasons and it isn’t just a death we’re talking about here. The prose is absolutely stunning. If words could glitter, Jason Gurley’s would. At the heart of the story is a fantastical reality, spurred from grief and creativity, a balm to cure a weary soul.

Readers are thrust into a gloriously strange brew of fantasy, reality, dreams, and death. It’s sad, it’s deep, it’s dark. And if you’re in the mood for something like this, then you’re in for a treat.

Today I am honored to welcome Jason Gurly to the blog couch. So pull up a cup of coffee, and listen in.

Leslie Lindsay: Jason, thanks so much for taking the time to pop by. I know that you have worked on ELEANOR for a long time—like a decade, plus—that’s some serious stamina. Tell us a bit about your inspiration.

Jason Gurley: It’s my pleasure, thanks for the invitation. And yes, quite a long time—nearly fifteen years, all told. Before I began this book, I’d written three novels, and none took longer than, oh, eight months. I had no idea what I was getting into, as it turns out.

The early inspiration for ELEANOR, without question, was my own peculiar, looming crisis. I was twenty-three when I began writing the book. I grew up in the Pentecostal church—my father was and still is a pastor, in fact—and I was beginning to struggle mightily with my own faith. Of course, the novel has nothing to do with that subject now, at least not directly, but that was how it began.

“[An] elaborate mix of ghost story, time travel, and dream worlds. . . . Readers will keep turning the pages to see how it all ends up.”

Booklist

 L.L.: Like you, I have story that first hit the page when I was about 22. And then life got in the way. What’s it like to set something aside and then come back after some years—and other publications—under your belt? Had your perspective changed?

Jason Gurley: Oh, life’s really good at that. Yes, absolutely, my perspective had changed. Over the course of a decade and a half, you can’t help but grow up. Your observations of the world around you change, filtered through a very different lens. I began writing the novel as a young adult, struggling with very deep, very personal questions; when I returned to it after about a year-long break—that’s when I wrote and self-published a few other books—I realized that a break was exactly what ELEANOR required of me. Coming back to it, I found that I couldn’t relate to the story I’d been trying—and failing—to write. But I sure did love these characters; I’d lived with them for years, and I couldn’t bear to let them go.

So I made a decision that should have been painful, but was instead quite liberating: I tossed away everything I’d written, and started anew with only those characters. The book that emerged from that period of deconstruction couldn’t be more different from the one I’d begun all those years before.

L.L.: Eleanor is pulled from her reality and where she goes…well, no one knows. Exactly. Kind of. This is that part of the story where we ought to be encouraged to suspend our beliefs in the spiritual realm and what we believe to happen before life and after death. This is deep stuff…can you speak to that, please?

Jason Gurley: One of the most beautiful books that I ever read was Madeleine L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME. From an early age, the idea that time might be malleable—whether science supports it or not—simply fascinated me. The things you could do, if only time were more forgiving!

As a young man, I discovered Carl Sagan’s wonderful novel CONTACT, and it was so saturated with optimism and wonder, and his incredibly lovely way of summarizing our fragile species’ flaws. I find my own views on the subject of gods and afterlife very closely aligned with his own. He often corrected people who believed he was an atheist, explaining that an atheist would have irrefutable proof that there were no supreme beings looking out for us, and Sagan could claim no such evidence. That doesn’t make him a believer; just an honest skeptic.

And of course I grew up in a culture that believed very firmly in a life that follows death: a hell, where unsaved souls would exist, forever, in a state of permanent torment; and a heaven, where those chosen believers would celebrate with their god forever. When I was young, both were equally frightening to me. Heaven sounded perfectly cool, but couldn’t you take a break, eventually, from thanking someone for so graciously putting you there? And wouldn’t it get tiresome, perfect harmony for eternity?

This answer’s getting long, but I suppose all of these things have led me to my own conclusions about the world: there’s probably no god, no afterword to the lifelong novel we’re all presently writing for ourselves, no safety net to protect us from the lonely dark. And yet there’s so much we can’t possibly know and understand. As deep as my personal suspicions run, it’s still lovely to imagine that there’s something beyond this. And isn’t a novel the perfect place to put aside your certainties, and to explore any imagined realm you like?

L.L.: And dreams! I find them so fascinating on their own and often can’t wait to go to sleep so I may fall into my own alternate reality. What is it about dreams that we find so alluring?

Jason Gurley: For me, the dream is less fascinating; what’s really remarkable is the brain that produces it. This thing inside our skulls cranks right along while we’re away from the wheel, journeying into the most mundane and extraordinary places. What little we’re permitted to bring with us back into the waking world often seems so magical, so strange. It’s as if we’ve detoured from our ordinary lives, from time itself, to explore a series of entertaining and worrisome what-ifs. In your dreams, you might discover that the irritating cubicle-mate at work is secretly an ocean explorer. Or you might find yourself leaping in front of buses to save your own child (which is how my dreams seem to go these days). You might walk around with a lion’s head and a pink-tinted sparkler, or drift formless through some void, embodying all the consciousnesses of all the souls who ever lived.

Dreams are weird, basically, but our brains are even weirder.

L.L.: What do you hope readers take away?

Jason Gurley: For all of its fantasticality—is that a word?—ELEANOR is about something far smaller, and familiar. It’s about the gifts or curses we pass along to our children, and their children, often without even knowing it; about the small decisions that change the future of people we haven’t even met yet, who aren’t yet born. Can we understand our influence? Even if we did, would it change a thing? Are we so wrapped up in the moment that only our immediate choices—so often self-serving—matter?

But I suppose I hope people will read the book and look a little differently at their mothers and fathers, or at their children, and wonder: what do they dream of? Who were they before I came along? What are their regrets?

We don’t share enough of these things with each other. And I get it. I’m guilty of it myself. It’s a very full, complicated, distracting life we all lead. So for me the book is a reminder to ask my parents about themselves, to get to know them better as people, and not strictly the familiar, loving faces they’ve always been. To consider my own life, and how it will resonate upon my daughter’s.

L.L.: Often I find myself so very inspired by what I read that I can’t wait to get to the page. Who inspires you?

Jason Gurley: So many authors, of course! I’ll stick with who I’m reading currently, though, just to save time. I’m reading an advance copy of Alexis Smith’s new novel, MARROW ISLAND, which is so rich and beautiful that it just makes me want to be a better writer. I can’t wait until everyone can read this one; I think it’s due out in June. And I’ve just finished Ta-Nehisi Coates’s memoir BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME, which has an urgency and timeliness that I think fiction can only aspire to.

My book, of course, owes terrific debts to some wonderful novels, such as Audrey Niffenegger’s THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, or Alice Sebold’s THE LOVELY BONES, and of course A WRINKLE IN TIME, all of which taught me that yes, it was possible to write a story about a family—and blur the lines of what’s real and what’s wondrous at the same time.

L.L.: ELEANOR was originally self-published in 2014 and widely popular…and then it got picked up by Crown Publishing. Can you talk about what that transition was like?

It’s really been exciting. I don’t know any writers who, in their teens, dreamt of one day self-publishing a novel. Everyone dreams of selling a book to a major publisher, of building a terrific writing career. Self-publishing is a more viable option every single day, and I know many amazing authors overlooked by major publishers who have been able to build remarkable careers on their own terms. Most of my readers to-date discovered me because of my self-published novels and stories.

It has been a marvelous treat, however, to work with my very talented editors at Crown, and to see the kind of muscle that ripples within a publishing house. They’re capable of doing things that I simply wasn’t able to do on my own. As an independent author, I was able to do some pretty great things for ELEANOR…but mostly online. Crown published the book a few weeks ago, and since then, readers all over the country have sent me photos of the book on shelves in bookstores in their towns. I couldn’t have gotten the book onto those shelves on my own. Crown took a chance on my little book, and was able to give it the kind of wings that I couldn’t. I’m excited to see it wind up in the hands of many more readers.

 L.L.: What’s gotten under your skin lately? What’s obsessing you?

Jason Gurley: The Americans. Oh, man. Everybody should watch this show. Well, except for little kids. They might be pretty scared by it. I think it’s back in two months, and I’m just desperately anticipating it. (And yet I think I may have to put off watching it right away so I can binge on a bunch of the episodes, rather than meter them out, one by one.)

If you haven’t seen the show, or know anything about it, then here you go: it’s the story of two deep-cover Soviet KGB spies, living in America. They’re posing as a married couple; they have two children, who complete their cover story, and who don’t realize their parents’ identities. Tell me this isn’t already fascinating! Oh, and it’s set in the early ‘80s, of course, which means we all know exactly how this story is going to turn out for them, and for their homeland. And yet nothing is a foregone conclusion, and it’s simultaneously the most tense, the most compelling, and the most intimate show out there right now. Just trust me. Call in sick to work, spend a week gorging on the three seasons that are already out there. You won’t sleep.

L.L.: What can we expect next from you?

Jason Gurley: I’m working on a new novel at the moment—tentatively titled Limbs—that explores the same blurry boundary between what’s real and what isn’t. It’s about a near-perfect marriage, two people who are perfectly paired, and who without each other would be utterly broken—and what happens when circumstances irrevocably rip them apart. Oh, and it involves trees. Great, big, mythological, bad-ass trees. We’ll see where this goes, of course, but at the moment it’s ridiculously fun to write.

L.L.: Thank you for hanging with us, Jason. So very enlightening!

Jason Gurley: Such a pleasure, Leslie!

Jason Gurley credit Rodrigo MoysesJASON GURLEY is the author of Greatfall, The Man Who Ended the World, and the fiction collection Deep Breath Hold Tight, among other works. His stories have appeared in the anthologies Loosed Upon the World and Help Fund My Robot Army!!! He was raised in Alaska and Texas and now lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. Visit his website at www.jasongurley.com or follow him on Twitter at @jgurley.

Write On, Wednesday: THE GATES OF EVANGELINE author Hester Young Talks about Premonitions, Establishing a Writing Routine, and Southern Plantations

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By Leslie Lindsay 

GATES OF EVANGELINE jacketSouthern fiction has a way with me. Maybe it’s the humid air or the wind from mossy live oaks whispering hints of the paranormal. Perhaps it’s the way the words flow thick and honeyed from the gaping pages, transporting me to another world. When I came across THE GATES OF EVANGELINE, a gothic debut with romantic underpinnings, I knew it was a book I needed to explore.

Today, I am honored to have Hester Young with us to chat about her book.  

Leslie Lindsay: Hester, thanks so much for joining us today. While I am typically intrigued to learn why an author has chosen her subject matter, this time I know exactly: in 1956, your grandmother Margaret began having a recurring nightmare in which she saw her four year-old son falling from a second-floor window. What a horrific image! What an inspiration for compelling fiction! Can you talk about that, please?

Hester Young: I’ve always been interested in premonitions, having had a few myself, but this family story from my grandmother was especially powerful. After weeks of dreaming about her son falling from a window, my grandmother left him in someone else’s care for a day. A window was left open, and her son suffered a fatal fall. Not long after his death, my grieving grandmother awoke in the night to see her son standing at the foot of her bed. He told her that he was okay now, that everything was okay, providing my grandmother with a tremendous sense of peace. That was the jumping off point for my novel.

My protagonist, Charlie, is definitely a nod to my grandmother. She’s grieving the loss of her four-year-old son and grappling with some dark premonitory dreams that challenge her skeptical nature. Like my grandmother, she’s a New Yorker with a dry sense of humor and a survivor’s spirit. My grandmother loved mysteries—she would’ve been thrilled to know that she inspired a strong female sleuth.

L.L.: Full-disclosure: I am a sucker for dreams. I find them absolutely fascinating, always have. What do you think makes us so intrigued by our nightly “movies?” Do you, like your protagonist Charlotte have vivid dreams?

Hester Young: I do have a lot of vivid dreams, although my actual premonitions are infrequent and not so detailed as Charlotte’s. I think in dreaming we have the ability to tap into parts of ourselves that we just can’t access while awake. It is fascinating to know what strange things you have skittering about your own subconscious. Inevitably, a lot of these things find their way into your writing, as well!

L.L.: I just love the setting of the Southern plantation, too. Everything really came alive for me, and I wanted to be Charlotte, sleuthing around Evangeline and living in that shabby former slave quarters-turned-cottage and writing. Can you share a bit of what your research was like for the book?

Hester Young: My husband had family living in Louisiana, so it was quite easy for us to justify several research trips. I really wanted to get a feel for the landscape, since it is so integral to the story. We went on swamp tours, enjoyed Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and visited some plantation homes. I chatted quite a bit with the housekeeper at a particular estate to get a sense of what it’s like to work for one of these wealthy families. We also spent some time hanging out in Cajun country, chatting with locals, and visiting parks, municipal buildings, and restaurants. I wanted the fictional town of Chicory to be very clear in my head.

Back at home, I spent a lot of time learning about different Louisiana accents. I’m very interested in linguistics, phonology, and dialects. Cajun French, in particular, was so much fun to delve into—lots of great words and colorful phrases. 

L.L.: Let’s turn to your writing process. THE GATES OF EVANGELINE is your first novel. Can you tell us a bit about that journey? How long did it take you, and what do you think you did “right?”

Hester Young: I started messing around a bit with the novel in 2008, but as an English teacher with an 80-hour work week, I didn’t have much time or energy to devote to it. In 2011, I made the choice to stay at home with my young son, and that is when I really began to write in earnest. The thing that I did “right” was simply to establish a writing routine. Every day my son napped for two to three hours, and that became my writing time. In the evenings, too, I often chose to work on my novel rather than watch TV, clean the house, or go to bed at a reasonable hour. Books don’t write themselves, sadly. You have to make writing a priority (and accept that your house might be a bit messy as a result!).

L.L.: What might be the most challenging aspect of writing a novel?

Hester Young: Writing a novel is very much like a marriage. It starts off all fun and games, but you’ll hit plenty of bumps along the way. Some novels just aren’t meant to be finished; their foundations are weak. Others possess real potential, but only if you put in the work. As with marriage, you go in with one set of expectations and you have to adjust accordingly. You must put aside your ego and make sacrifices for the good of the novel, whether that means cutting 28,000 words from your first draft (which I did!) or getting a lot less sleep than you’d like. Sometimes it’s just an endurance contest. Can you stay focused and slog on through the hard parts? Can you recognize your own mistakes and edit accordingly? Can you do these things while maintaining some semblance of balance in your everyday life? Simultaneously attending to the rest of my life was the hardest part for me. 

L.L.: I’m hearing wonderful news that THE GATES OF EVANGELINE is the first in a trilogy. Congratulations! Can you give us a little glimpse of what’s to come?

Hester Young: The connecting thread in all three books will be Charlie and her premonitions of endangered children. Each book will have a distinctive setting, a location that is culturally and geographically unique in the United States, and that setting will function as an important character in the story.

“Hester Young’s The Gates of Evangeline is not just a riveting story about the search for a long missing child. It’s also a powerful and haunting examination of a mother’s grief and her long road to recovery. Hester Young’s protagonist, Charlotte “Charlie” Cates, is tough and vulnerable, wounded and fearless, and I simply could not stop reading this thrilling, beautifully written Southern Gothic mystery.

I can’t wait for the next entry in this captivating new series.”

—David Bell, author of Cemetery Girl and Somebody I Used to Know

L.L.: What is obsessing you now and why?

Hester Young: While in Mississippi, I picked up the Tom Franklin literary suspense novel Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter and gobbled it up within 24 hours. How did I miss this when it came out in 2010? I wish I had copies to distribute to everyone I meet.

L.L.: Thanks so much for popping by. It was so fun to chat with you, Hester!

Hester Young: So glad you could have me!

Hester Young (c) Francine Daveta PhotographyABOUT THE AUTHORHester Young holds a Master’s degree in English with a Creative Writing concentration from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and her work has been published in literary magazines such as The Hawai’i Review. Before turning to writing full time, she worked as a teacher in Arizona and New Hampshire. She lives with her husband and two children in New Jersey.

For more information, or to follow:

[Cover and author image courtesy of author. Photo credit: Francine Daveta Photography. Louisiana plantation home, “Oak Alley” retrieved from on 9.11.15 to add interest] 

Fiction Friday: Can Dreams Boost Your Word Count?

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By Leslie LindsayMisc Feb-March 2013 012

I love to read and write.  But I also love to sleep.  What happens when I combine my love for all three?  A type of Nirvana.  Here’s a clip from the nightly movie-in-my-brain:   

“She holds her  small and square-ish hand, the nails chewed to the quick.  “It’s an engagement ring,” she demurs. 

           I feel my breath quicken, “So it is.” 

          “He asked me to marry him last night when I left your room.  Well, not immediately afterwards, but later.”

          I nod as if this really isn’t the truth.  I don’t believe her.

          “I saw that ring of yours, the shiny one with the piece that dangles when you were in the bathroom,” she pauses and tilts her head looking at me as if I’m a child.  “I slipped it on my finger and admired it in the mirror, twisting my hand around like a hand model might,” she looks to me for validation.  “It fit, you know.” 

          I wince and bite my lower lip.

          “Where did you get it?  It’s different—unique.” 

          I think of the ring—cold sterling silver, a medallion in the middle.  Some may call it a charm.

          “Steve,” I whisper.  “Steve gave it to me.”  Our initials are engraved on it; he presented it to me on our two-year dating anniverary.

                                                                _____________

          I am driving but the car is moving swiftly down a hill.  To my right is a clear blue lake.  Clear blue easy.  The road winds sharply to the left, but I am too entranced by the view.  Salty sea air hangs like a curtain—no, a shroud—I am dead.  My life and vigor escaping once I hear Beth’s news.  “We’re getting married—Me and Steve.” 

          It’s not that I didn’t expect this.  I just didn’t really believe he’d go through with it—the particulars, that is, like going to a jeweler.  In my mind’s eye, I see him leaning over a glass case, pointing to the rings that strike him.  “This one.  No-no, that one—up and over to the left.” Never minding the fact that his sloppy directions are reversed to the salesperson.  Perhaps he is too blinded by love to notice—or care. 

          The salesperson  delicately pulls the settings from the case, laying them on the velvet board on top of the case, highlighting their features, covering things like the 3 C’s.

          And then, as if driven by some innate force around that sharp bend in the road, my car dips into the water, slowly sinking.  A taste of the cold, salty water brushes my lips. 

          Isn’t this a fresh water lake?  And then I realize I am nowhere near the ocean, but instead it’s my tears and snot mingling together, cascading down my face because he is hers now and forever.  Again and again. 

          When I awake, I am sure it is seventeen years ago and I am lying in a twin bed in Creswell Hall, our shared dormitory at UGA—me, Beth, and Steve.  

But instead, I’m in a king TepurPedic at the home I share with Joe on Halverson Lane.  I roll over—the insistent humming of the digital clock on the bedside table, a toxic green glows evil, a slight form of envy festers.  Illness.”

[this is an original work of fiction for my novel-in-process.  Names and places have been tweaked.  They do not represent any one living or dead]

Fiction Friday: Dream Lady

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By Leslie Lindsay

 “Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing.”  –Marsha Norman

day dreamers - my-dream-is Photo(image retrieved from fanpop.com on 7.20.12, under “dream images”)

There is something so intrinsically intriguing about the dream world.  Here’s a little sampling of a novel that is floating around inside my brain.  It’s no where near fully formed…but someday, maybe in the next 10 years or so, you’ll see this book on the shelves. 

[Remember, this is an orginal work of fiction.  It is not intended to represent any individual–living or dead.  Please do not take this work as your own.  It is for entertainment purposes only].

“I don’t dream,” she tells me with utmost certainty, her long—nearly black—hair swinging from her shoulders.

I cock my head and furrow my brow.  Not dream?  How is that even possible?

Christine pops a piece of gum into her mouth, fingers the foil pack—which I notice is mostly empty.

“I guess I dream,” she corrects herself, “but I just don’t remember them.” 

I suck in a deep breath.  That’s better.  We all dream, some of us more vividly than others—some of us imparting clarity on our lives, delving deep into the souls of others even. 

Like me.

Okay–I guess I’m short and sweet today.  How would you like to see this story go?  I am thinking a nervous Nellie type of woman (Christine) who is looking to get her life in order.  She meets a dream interpreter/medium type person who helps her out…

Your feedback would be much appreciated.  Thanks!!

 

The Teacher is Talking: Imagine How Creativity Works

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By Leslie Lindsay Product Details (image retrieved from Amazon.com on 7.17.12) 

I have this new book and I am pretty much loving every minute I am reading.  At first glance, though I will admit that I wasn’t too keen on it.*  I know, cringe.  Who can’t love a book about creativity?  I am shaking my head right now.  Ooops, that may be a little piece of my creativity falling out…

Here’s the thing: Jonah Lehrer does a fantastic job of taking all of this brain hullabaloo and making it readable.  Okay, sure there are some big words in there like dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior superior temporal gyrus.  But he breaks it all down into terms we can all understand (jeez, where was this book when I was in nursing school?!).  And he makes things seems practical, realistic, and attainable.  All qualities we can appreciate. 

In just the first sitting with this book, I learned more about creativity–and harvesting it–than I have in well, maybe my whole life.  It’s not that the book is a “how-to” by any means, but it does take simple ideas and the process of thinking to a whole new level.  For example, who knew that they color blue actually helps test-takers relax and do a better job than say the color red?  (May sound simple enough–red evokes the dreaded stop sign or pen from your teacher).  But there is actual brain science that backs all of that up. 

There’s a reason you come to epiphanies while you are jogging or hanging out on the elliptical machine.  It’s because your brain is relaxed, able to wander.  When you sleep, your brain is still working and you may get flashes of insight when you dream–if you pay attention.  Even daydreaming is scientifically studied–those who daydream, or can’t let go of a problem–are often more creative.

What the book also explains is that most creative folks only tell you about the end product of their creativity–their art, their music, their writing, their invention, their whatever…but never the frustration.  All creative types are persistent and have come across lots of stumbling blocks.  They may have been frustrated with a particular item (as in the mop–hence the development of the Swiffer), or just looking for a new idea to save time and hassle (Scotch Tape and Post-It notes).  Creative folks have been there.  They have been pissed off and down in the dumps.  In fact, that is covered, too–depression and mental illness, drug use and other “aides” to creativity. 

  

Definitely a book I will keep reading.  Thank you, Jonah Lehrer.  Much appreciated by this creative type. 

Class Dismissed!

*You are probably wondering why I wasn’t too keen on the book in the first place.  It’s simple, really.  It was crammed into bookseller windows next to all of the typical graduation gift books like Oh, The Places You’ll Go! and I thought, “Oh, another graduation book.”  It was probably just the timing of publication, but in retrospect, this really ought to be a book that everyone reads–new grads, included.