Today we're excited to chat with Joanne O'Sullivan, author of Between Two Skies. Read on for more about Joanne and her novel, plus a giveaway!
1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I went to college in New Orleans, so I was concerned about what happened to the region when Katrina hit. I started reading narratives of the people who’d evacuated and who couldn’t go back, especially kids and teenagers. The storm hit just as the school year was about to start. I started to imagine dealing with that loss. While the disruption in Evangeline’s life was caused by a hurricane, I think what she experiences are feelings that could come from all kinds of loss, making her experience more universal.
2. Who is your favorite character in the book?
Evangeline, my main character, because she is independent, strong, funny and loyal. But her beloved grandmother Mamere, is a standout, too. One of my grandmothers died before I was born and the other I only met once, so she’s kind of the grandmother I never had.
3. Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel came first. But in thinking about the connection between Longfellow’s Evangeline and the one in my book, I thought there must be something in the original text of “Evangeline,” that would be a perfect title. There’s a scene in which Evangeline is in her boat at sunset and looks out at the sky above her, then sees it reflected in the water below her. She is described as being “between two skies.” That fits my Evangeline in so many ways: she’s between two places and between two possible futures that she must choose between.
4. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
Probably the penultimate scene because it achieves that mix of sorrow and joy that tugs at the heart and that’s what I was going for!
5. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
I think I understand the internal structure of a novel a lot better-where the highs and lows need to be. Achieving that is a different story: plotting will always be my struggle!
6. What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I love the colors and that it has a vintage feel!
7. Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
Probably the first kiss. I so wanted to get the power of that right!
8. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
The environment (climate change in particular) and refugees/immigration are two issues that are very important to me, so I guess it’s not a surprise they both play a role in Between Two Skies. I worked with immigrants and refugees for many years and my husband is an environmental activist so these issues will always be important to us. While Bayou Perdu is a fictional town, the area of Louisiana where the book is set is losing a football-field sized area of wetlands every day. The way of life there is in real danger of being lost.
Meet Joanne O'Sullivan!
Hurricane Katrina sets a teenage girl adrift. But a new life — and the promise of love — emerges in this rich, highly readable debut.
Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Louisiana, is home to sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; her wise, beloved Mamere; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo. But, dearest to her heart, she has the peace that only comes when she takes her skiff out to where there is nothing but sky and air and water and wings. It’s a small life, but it is Evangeline’s. And then the storm comes, and everything changes. Amid the chaos and pain and destruction comes Tru — a fellow refugee, a budding bluesman, a balm for Evangeline’s aching heart. Told in a strong, steady voice, with a keen sense of place and a vivid cast of characters, here is a novel that asks compelling questions about class and politics, exile and belonging, and the pain of being cast out of your home. But above all, this remarkable debut tells a gently woven love story, difficult to put down, impossible to forget.
Between Two Skies
By: Joanne O'Sullivan
Release Date: April 25, 2017
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