Showcase: Vanessa Lafaye‘s UNDER A DARK SUMMER SKY (June, 9 2015)
Horrifying and beautiful, Under a Dark Summer Sky is a fictionalized account of one of the most devastating natural disasters in US history.
Florida Keys, 1935. Hurricane Season.
Tens of thousands of black and white men scarred by their experiences of war in Europe return home to find themselves abandoned to destitution by the US government.
The tiny, segregated community of Heron Key is suddenly overwhelmed by broken, disturbed men with new ideas about racial equality and nothing left to lose.
Tensions flare when a black veteran is accused of committing the most heinous crime of all against a white resident’s wife.
And not far off the strongest and most intense hurricane America has ever witnessed is gaining force.
For fans of The Help and To Kill a Mockingbird, this is the story of the greatest tragedy you've never heard of.
"A haunting debut novel!" — Ellen Marie Wiseman, author of The Plum Tree and What She Left Behind"Lafaye's debut novel succeeds on the merits of its well-drawn characters, its sense of place, and on the tragic events it details...rewarding." — Library Journal"Wow, what a novel. Exquisitely written and so evocative." — Cathy Kelly, #1 international bestselling author "I absolutely loved this novel. It is rare to read something with such emotional intensity and such exciting pace." — Elizabeth Nobel, international bestselling author of The Reading Group andThings I Want My Daughters to Know "A fast-paced page-turner." — Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August
What inspires your writing?Interesting but forgotten episodes of history; people I meet while travelling; stories handed down through families; and random acts from my life and the people in it
What is your favorite thing about being an writer?When the characters become as real for the readers as they are for me
What is the toughest part of being an writer?The isolation. I’m very gregarious by nature, and solitude makes me sad and weird. Luckily, my husband works from home, and we have 3 cats, so there is always company. I also conduct our local community choir and sing in a girl group, so I have social outlets where I can interact with people for a while, before shutting myself away again. It does a lot to keep me mentally healthy. I’ve also joined a group of debut novelists here in the UK. We share our ups and downs and generally support each other, which is really nice and not what I expected from the business.
If you could not be writer, what would you do/be? I would be a manatee rescuer. They are such wonderful, gentle creatures, with no malice. I adore them, although I’m probably a poor candidate as I would not be able to avoid becoming emotionally involved with my patients. I’m ridiculously sentimental about animals in general. I was advised that I could kill off any human character in my book, but never a dog. Readers won’t forgive that.
What would the story of your life be entitled?Since every book title now must include the word ‘girl’, it would be called ‘The Girl Who Didn’t Give Up’.
What is your favorite book of all time?‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks, because it’s a wonderful epic of a story but also because it opened my eyes and made me understand for the first time what ‘The Great War’ was all about. It set me on the road that led to ‘Under a Dark Summer Sky’.
Which character from ANY book are you most like?Adelia Aguilar, the heroine of Arianna Franklin’s medieval forensic detective novels. I did a Zoology degree at Duke and love to discover the scientific explanation for things. I really enjoyed learning about the science of hurricanes for my book, and all the medical lore, like the use of the trephine to cut holes in people’s skulls. If I had lived in medieval times, I hope that I would have had Adelia’s gumption to study medicine, although it’s more likely that I would have ended up a scurvy-ridden shepherdess. See how history takes over?
What character from all of your book are you most like?Hilda, in terms of being overweight. I gained a lot after my first experience of breast cancer in 2009. No one tells you that cancer treatment can do that! None of my clothes fit. I felt so uncomfortable, hated to look at myself in the mirror. When I wrote her scenes in 2010, I poured all of my unhappiness into poor Hilda’s ruined self-image.
Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
What do you want to be remembered for 100 years from now?I don’t expect to be remembered in 100 years! But I would be very happy if my book made it onto some school reading lists. Historical fiction is a great teaching tool because it brings the past to life. I’d really like the next generation of students to be better informed than mine.
What is your favorite season?Spring. It’s such a joy, after the misery of the winter. Suddenly everything bursts into flower almost overnight. The air turns soft. The birds start to sing and the sky is cartoon-blue, better than anything Disney could do. All the new leaves are so green that it hurts your eyes. I think that a lot of the specialness comes from its contrast with the preceding season. I much prefer it to summer, when things can get fried by the sun and a bit brown around the edges. Spring is a promise.
What inspired your book cover(s)? Or what is your favorite book cover and why?The overseas railway that connected the keys to the rest of FL was destroyed by the Labor Day hurricane, and it was such a monument to man’s achievement that it makes a perfect symbol of hubris. No amount of money or human endeavor could prevent its destruction when Nature decided that it had to go.
Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.Everything about promoting the book in FL is surreal. Although I was born and raised there, I haven’t lived there for 35 years. I never expected to write a novel set there. Going back to visit book stores, doing interviews and signings is wonderful but weird, like visiting an alternate universe. Everything looks the same, but all the people are so much older! How did that happen? Of course, I still feel 18, the age I was when I left.
Are you working on something new?Yes, I’m researching other fascinating but little-known episodes from history, around which I can build a story. That’s what I find so satisfying about writing historical fiction: the scaffold of real events on which to hang my imaginings.