Today we are chatting with Louis Edwards, author of
Read on for more about Louis and his book, plus a giveaway!
Meet Louis Edwards!
The Guggenheim Fellowship and Whiting Award-winning Louis Edwards has published three acclaimed novels, including Ten Seconds, N and Oscar Wilde Discovers America. Amistad/HarperCollins will publish the author’s long-awaited comeback, Ramadan Ramsey, in August of 2021.
Born and raised in Lake Charles, LA, Edwards attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and Hunter College in New York City. After graduating from LSU with a B.A. in Journalism, he moved to New Orleans, where he has had a decades-long career as a producer of music festivals and other special events. He is currently the Chief Creative Officer and Chief Marketing Officer of Festival Productions, Inc.-New Orleans which produces the world-famous New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (aka Jazz Fest).
Over the past 35 years, Edwards has worked on countless events, including the JVC Jazz Festival-New York and the Essence Music Festival, as well as festivals in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C, Los Angeles, Houston, Newport, and elsewhere. He lives in New Orleans.
Meet Ramadan Ramsey!
The Guggenheim Fellowship and Whiting Award-winning author Louis Edwards makes his long-awaited comeback with this epic tale of a New Orleans boy whose very creation is so filled with tension that it bedevils his destiny before he is even born.
Spanning from the Deep South to the Middle East, Ramadan Ramsey bridges multiple countries and cultures, entwining two families who struggle to love and survive in the face of war, natural disasters, and their equally tumultuous, private mistakes and yearnings.
Ramadan Ramsey begins in 1999 with the moving (and funny) teenage love story of Alicia Ramsey, a native New Orleans African American young woman, and Mustafa Totah, a Syrian immigrant who works in her neighborhood at his uncle’s convenience store. Through a series of familial betrayals, Mustafa returns to Syria unaware that Alicia is carrying his child.
When the baby is born, Alicia names their son Ramadan and raises him with the help of her mother, Mama Joon. But tragedy strikes when the epochal hurricane of 2005 barrels into New Orleans, shattering both the Ramsey and Totah families. Years later, when Ramadan turns twelve, he sets off to find Mustafa. It is an odyssey filled with breathtaking and brilliant adventures that takes Ramadan from the familiar world of NOLA to Istanbul, and finally Aleppo, Syria, where he hopes to unite with the father he has never known.
Intimate yet epic, heartbreaking yet triumphant, Ramadan Ramsey explores the urgency of 21st century childhood and the richness and complexity of the modern family as a shared global experience. It is also a reminder of Louis Edwards’ immense talent and fearless storytelling and is a welcome return of this literary light.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
Once a long time ago, I saw a young couple, probably in their late teens, flirting. This happened here in New Orleans, where I live. She was Black, and he was Middle Eastern. They were standing outside a convenience store, not saying much. Each appeared somewhat tentative, as if they sensed there was something forbidden about their attraction. They were drenched with a sort of curiosity. I created a fiction about what might happen if they acted in real life, as I have a suspicion they did, upon what I saw twinkling in their eyes.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Well, that twinkle in those teenagers’ eyes became the title character the book, Ramadan Ramsey, who does steal the show. Even before he is born, we witness him already influencing his mother’s behavior. And then we see him as a baby with no real language, but with a distinct personality emerging. At the age of 5, Ramadan finds out about his father for the first time and this great desire—to know his dad—takes over his life. Finally, when he turns 12, he is faced with a crisis. He is just old enough to take a daring leap, and he begins his quest in earnest.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel. But the title, in a slightly different form, was there for most of the writing. For a long time the book was called Adventures of Ramadan Ramsey, which was in part just me trying to pay a certain debt I felt the book owed to the spirit of Mark Twain.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
There are a few contenders, but I think my appreciation of those scenes has more to do with who I am as a reader than as a writer. There is one particular scene near the end that I knew I’d have to write all along. To avoid giving anything away, let’s just say you’ll know you’re reading it when you see Ramadan standing alone beneath a palm tree. When it was time to write that scene, it came out in a flourish. It appeals to me so much as a reader that even editing it, which I did many times, proved an emotional experience.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I have two favorite things. One, the winding road, that simple graphic depiction of Ramadan’s physical and emotional journeys. And two, that little fleur-de-lis on his backpack, an emblem of his city, because of course he carries New Orleans with him wherever he goes—and he goes far.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
I don’t think I’ve ever written a true villain until now. Ramadan’s Aunt Clarissa. She’s a complex figure, as filled with emotional turmoil in her way as Ramadan is. Both their lives, we learn, pivot on the circumstances of their paternal origins. But whereas Ramadan embraces his situation with a heroic verve, Clarissa is left, understandably the story proposes, with the opposite inclination. Writing her was a frightening experience, but also thrilling.
YABC:Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
It really depends on the success of the draft or the revision, so the answer to this question can change from day to day, page to page. Writing a surprise plot point in the first draft of a scene, even one that changes the power of the whole story, may be no more satisfying than finding, during the fourth or fifth revision, the only word or the proper sentence structure that truly and finally allows you to express a character’s emotional state.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
Some fun, helpful ones come to mind. Patience. Optimism. A metabolism unusually proficient at processing both meals and metaphors.
By: Louis Edwards
Publish Date: August 10th, 2021
Three winners will receive a copy of Ramadan Ramsey (Louis Edwards) ~ (US Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*