Thursday, 7 May 2015

Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye *** Paperback Publication, Author Post & BIG NEWS ***

In the small town of Heron Key, where the relationships are as tangled as the mangrove roots in the swamp, everyone is preparing for the 4th of July barbecue, unaware that their world is about to change for ever. Missy, maid to the Kincaid family, feels she has wasted her life pining for Henry, who went to fight on the battlefields of France. Now he has returned with a group of other desperate, destitute veterans, unsure of his future, ashamed of his past.
When a white woman is found beaten nearly to death, suspicion falls on Henry. As the tensions rise, the barometer starts to plummet. But nothing can prepare them for what is coming. For far out over the Atlantic, the greatest storm ever to strike North America is heading their way...

Back in December of last year I read and reviewed .... no, I raved about ... Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye which was published in hardback by Orion on 15 January 2015.

The paperback edition of Summertime is published today, 7 May 2015 by Orion.

I am so excited and thrilled that Summertime has been picked as a Richard & Judy Book Club
Summer read for 2015. This is a fabulous achievement for Vanessa Lafaye, and can only mean that more and more people will read this amazing book.

Congratulations Vanessa and Orion Books!

Summertime has also been nominated for the Newcomer of 2015 promotion – so please do vote via the Reading Agency website.

My full review of Summertime is here on Random Things, here's just a snippet of what I had to say;

"This is an incredibly powerful story, with deep and very detailed characters. The terrifying and powerful storm is described so well, with details that are both violent and heartbreaking.

A novel of small town America, of racial divide, of the strength of nature and ultimately a love story. Summertime is an exquisite piece of writing; rich, satisfying and beautiful."

I was not the only person to fall in love with Summertime. It went on to get rave reviews in the media and from other authors;

A storming debut novel [that] captures the racial and social tensions in southern America after the First World War. Part social history and part love story, this features the hurricane as a forceful, malevolent character in its own right, whipping through the pages. (THE BOOKSELLER)

'Powerful, beautifully written and simply unputdownable. If you can read this book and not be moved, you have a heart of stone.' (Cathy Kelly)

'I absolutely loved SUMMERTIME; it's rare to read something with such emotional intensity and such exciting pace. It is every bit as good as THE HELP, in my opinion.' (Elizabeth Noble)

1935. An Independence day BBQ simmers with racial tension and resentments. By morning, a terrible crime has been committed. Off the Florida coast, a hurricane is heading their way. So tense, I raced through it. (Fanny Blake WOMAN & HOME)

part love-story, part eye-opening insight into a tumultuous time in American history - the years after the First World War, when veterans tried to rebuild their lives and racial tensions ran high (GOOD HOUSEKEEPING)

A small community is rocked by an attack on a white woman and suspicion falls on war veteran Henry in a story set against the backdrop of a catastrophic hurricane. Vanessa Lafaye's Summertime is being compared to The Help and To Kill A Mockingbird. (Charlotte Heathcote SUNDAY EXPRESS)

I am delighted to welcome Vanessa Lafaye to Random Things today.  Vanessa has written a wonderful piece about inspiration.  I hope you enjoy it:

The Breath of Creativity

Vanessa Lafaye

Inspire verb
1. To fill someone with the urge to do something, especially something creative
2. To breathe in

It seems very appropriate that the word ‘inspire’ carries both the definitions above. Inspiration is not only the fuel that drives creative people: it is necessary to our continued existence, no less than breathing. Yet it is fickle, unpredictable, and unreliable. It abandons us when we need it most, and pays a visit at the least convenient times (e.g. on the toilet or during sex).

Without it, the gears of the imagination seize up, and the writer’s confidence turns to dust. It feels like every word must be excavated from the brain with a rusty spoon. The characters throw us quizzical, expectant looks, stuck mid-scene, waiting to be told what to do next. We flounder. Self-doubt rushes in to fill the vacuum. Cue panicked calls to agents and publishers for reassurance, and ill-advised chocolate/alcohol/shopping/baking binges. Writing is the worst job in the world!

When inspiration strikes, it does actually feel like a blow to the head, by a hammer made of angel feathers. Everything becomes clear in an instant: character motivations, plot turns, setting details. Energy and confidence flood back in and writing becomes easy, joyous, exhilarating. The words fly from brain to page and arrange themselves into meaningful patterns. The characters behave naturally, the setting glows. The only thing that matters is to keep doing it while the vision is still clear, while the ideas keep dancing together to music that only I can hear. It takes over every bodily need, including food. I’ve never experienced a Class A drug high, but I imagine that it feels like this. And I’m not at all surprised that artists of all kinds throughout history have sought inspiration there. Writing is the best job in the world! Until the next time…

So where does it come from, this essential yet elusive spark? I’ve been asked to write about what inspires me, so this is a personal answer, but of one thing I am sure: if it were sold as a potion, every creative type that I know would sell a kidney to get some of it.

I have a very visual imagination. I tend to write what I see in my head, so images in particular can be inspiring. This is how ‘Summertime’ came about. On a visit to Florida, I opened the morning paper to find an extremely striking, disturbing photo taken in 1935 after a ‘spectacle lynching’ in a small town in the state. A black man stands looking up at the corpse in the tree, whose legs dangle into the shot. The man’s face is blank of emotion. I started to wonder who he was, why he was there, what he was thinking. That man became my character Henry, even before I had a story. That lynching turned into a scene in the book when Henry goes on the run. As I write this, I have in front of me an historical image which gave me the idea for book 2.

Because I’m writing historical fiction, films set in the period are very inspiring. They help to immerse me in the speech, culture, and daily life of the past. It’s like watching a newsreel that my characters could have seen, and makes me feel part of their lives. I am also very inspired by the stories of the real people who lived through the events—their struggles, their sacrifices, their disappointments. I never forget the responsibility that comes from writing about stuff that actually happened to real people, not just to my fictional characters.

Sometimes a small detail can lead to much bigger inspiration. An early reader comment made me decide to develop the character Selma more than I had intended, and I began to research Haitian voodoo. This proved so fascinating that it turned into one of the most important themes in the book.

Everyone knows of the writer’s magpie tendency to pluck bits of real life for use in fiction. This can happen anywhere, any time. I met Poncho the macaw this way, on another visit to Florida. He was perched on a man’s shoulder (name forgotten) as he stopped to talk to interested people, astride his old bicycle. Poncho was magnificent. He waited patiently while his human talked all about macaw habits and biology. The man became the model for my character Zeke but Poncho entered the book unaltered. More recently, on a long plane flight, I was struggling to bring into focus the heroine for book 2 when I glanced at the woman across the aisle and saw her. The woman’s colouring was just what I needed to see, and I had to sneak several more surreptitious looks to imprint it on my mind.

Reading is, of course, another activity rich in inspirational sources. Reading ‘The Help’ inspired me but also made me decide to avoid heavy dialect in my book. I get inspiration from the clever ways that other authors structure their books. Although it may sound strange, I find reading book reviews very inspiring as well as educational and even motivational. Every Sunday while writing ‘Summertime’, I read the ‘Times’ book reviews. I learned a lot, about what reviewers like and don’t like. I picked up new items for my TBR list. Reading the reviews inspired me to keep going, in the hope that one day my book might be published, and someone, somewhere might review it. Never in my craziest, cake-fuelled delusions did I ever think that it would actually appear in the Sunday Times review pages, but it did. That was an anxious and incredibly surreal moment…and inspirational in its own way.

Vanessa Lafaye was born in Tallahassee and raised in Tampa, Florida, where there were hurricanes most years. 
She first came to the UK in 1987 looking for adventure, and found it. After spells of living in Paris and Oxford, she now lives in Marlborough, Wiltshire, with her husband and three furry children. 
Vanessa leads the local community choir, and music and writing are big parts of her life.

For more information about the author, visit her website
Visit her Facebook page         Follow her on Twitter @VanessaLafaye

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