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About the Book
An old college buddy, a missing woman, a dead body, and all clues leading to the great Atchafalaya Swamp has John LeGrand scratching his head. Woody Bergeron, John's old college roommate, stole his girlfriend and married her. Now, she's missing, so he hired John to find her. The Swamp Queen is another Cajun PI caper and this one takes place in the Atchafalaya Basin, 800,000 acres of alligator-infested wetland. Who kidnapped Teresa Bergeron and why? John must find out although it brings back some painful memories.
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Keep reading for an interview with the author:
Why did you decide to be a writer?
At a very early age. I come from a culture of storytellers. The Cajun language is spoken and rarely written French, so there were lots of storytellers. As a very young child, I would sit in the shadows and listen to my father and his friends tell stories by lantern light. When I started school and was introduced to books, I knew I was going to write some of those stories.
Did you have a hard time sharing your work with the public?
Actually, no. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Duplechien, saw something in my work that she liked and encouraged me to show it to others. When I entered college, I was fortunate to have Earnest Gaines as my mentor. He liked my work and introduced me to his agent. Consequently, I had six stories published in The Southern Review. I have always wanted to share my ideas and embraced both negative and positive comments as learning tools.
Where are you from? Does your area have a good writing community?
As I said earlier, I grew up in Chataignier, LA and practically everything I write has something to do with the Cajun culture. Currently, I teach writing at a small college in Western Kentucky. I belong to a fantastic writing group that meets once a month and we share our work with each other. Madisonville is a small town but the arts thrive here--writers, movie makers, playwrights, actors, painters, photographers, the whole artist gamut.
Do you have a "day job"?
I teach writing at a small college here, freshman writing, developmental writing, creative writing, occasional business writing, and literature. I enjoy being in the classroom with young writers, but I hate grading papers. I'm retiring in January 2018 and devoting more time to my own writing, however.
What genres do you write?
I like mysteries, the tough but sensitive detective. I have a series out, the Cajun PI Series, and I have a grand old time coming up with situations to put my detective in. I also write general fiction set in the Cajun culture. My collection of short stories, Lighted Windows, fits in that category. I also dabble in poetry and personal essays, but only a little.
Is there a genre that you've been wanting to experiment with?
My current work in progress is a psychological thriller. It's in the hands of a psychologist friend who is making sure I've got the psychological part correct. The tortured mind of a serial killer attracts me, especially the why. What motivates someone, an intelligent someone in my antagonist's case, to kill innocent people?
How long does it take you to write a novel?
That depends on how complex the novel is. The Swamp Queen took a year to finish. I started my psychological thriller three years ago. The first year was devoted entirely to research. I have one work that I've been working on for over twenty years. You would think I would have given up on it, but I find myself drawn to it occasionally.
What is the oddest thing you've ever researched for one of your books?
The life-cycle of a maggot. They're fascinating little creatures.
When did you first consider yourself an author?
When I sold a few stories to the Southern Review. I took my hundred-dollar check and danced around my neighborhood yelling, "I'm a writer. I'm a writer." It didn't take long for reality to set in, however. My next ten submissions were rejected.
What do you enjoy doing aside from writing?
Writing is a sedentary occupation, so I play tennis two or three times a week. I also walk/jog around the neighborhood.
What is your writing process?
I never consciously came up with a routine, but over the years I found that I did indeed have one. I wake up at four o'clock every morning, boot up the computer, and put in a couple of hours writing. If I don't have to go to work, I write more. Night time is for social media, thinking, reading, or an occasional movie.
Do you write about real life experiences, or does everything come from your imagination?
I write from real life experiences. The imagination comes in when I take those experiences and build a story around them. For example, I failed the first grade because I could not speak or write English. In Lighted Windows, my collection of short stories, one of the stories, "The Half-Acre," a young Cajun boy fails the first grade and the teacher tells his father that the boy has two choices: give up his culture and join the modern world or slave in the fields like him. The father offers the boy a half-acre plot and tells him he can either farm it or not. The boy comes up with a third option. Of course, none of this happened in real life.
What inspired your current work?
My wife and I lived on the Atchafalaya Swamp for a couple of years. I always wanted to set a story there. When I got the idea for The Swamp Queen, the character took me to Lafayette, LA, and I knew that part of the novel would be set in a swamp.
Do you have any advice for other authors?
Nothing that they probably haven't heard before. Earnest Gaines gave me two pieces of advice that have always stayed with me. The first was, Read, read, read. Write, write, write. The second was, Always have a destination in mind when you start a work. I try to stay true to that.
Do you have anything specific you'd like to say to your readers?
Yeah, I have a character who writes letters to a person who never reads them and never answers; yet, he can't stop writing the letters. Sometimes, it feels like that. I'm not really very interested in sales, although it's nice to make a buck here and there. What I really enjoy is when a reader tells me that he/she read my book got some pleasure from it. And if they didn't, I want to know that too.