JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Patti Lacy, author of What the Bayou Saw
In 1960s Louisiana, segregation and a chain link fence separated twelve-year old Sally Flowers from her best friend, Ella Ward. Yet a brutal rape and a blood oath bound them together.
Forty years later, when Shamika, Sally’s community college student, is raped, Sally must decide whether to dredge up childhood secrets long buried beneath bayou waters in order to help the young woman she’s grown to love.
Will she take the risk to help and to heal or continue her habit of lying and covering up?
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the idea and inspiration to write What the Bayou Saw?
Patti Lacy: Sheila Flanagan, assistant director of the Museum of Mobile, provided the inspiration for my second novel. During the 1960s, Sheila was a resident of the Mobile, Alabama’s Toulminville neighborhood. She befriended her next-door neighbor, a little girl who happened to be white.
When both sets of parents forbade the girls to play in each others’ yards, the girls kept their friendship alive by sticking toys through the spaces in a chain-link fence and engaging in parallel play.
This image of two hands, one brown, one white, reaching through links so like the bonds of slavery, captured my heart and wouldn’t let go until I put it to paper.
JP: What sets What the Bayou Saw apart from other novels in its genre?
PL: Three professional black women grabbed my hands and helped me shape the characters of Ella, Shamika, and Ruby. What fun we had kneading and molding those wild personalities! We did our best to examine the glittering monster of racism from all of its often hidden facets.
I thank Kregel Publications for taking a chance on a book some reviewers are “too chicken” to cover.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that lead to What the Bayou Saw getting out to the public?
PL: God has blessed me with a proactive agent, Cheri Kaufman, a couple of wonderful publicists in Kregel’s Cat Hoort and Wynn & Wynn’s Jeane Wynn, and Ty Moody, who’s rapidly becoming a blogging force to be reckoned with.
That being said, God has given me a chance to meet readers through book signings, library appearances, online chats, and radio and television venues. I try to take care of one reader at a time and let God take care of everything else.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take for you to start and finish What the Bayou Saw?
PL: I start with that core image that captures my brain and won’t let go. Then I try to write a two- or three-sentence hook for my story, which is expanded to a paragraph, then a three- or four-page synopsis.
Next come scenes and a daily page goal. It took one year, probably averaging ten-hour days of writing (five days a week) to write and rewrite and write and rewrite What the Bayou Saw.
JP: What’s next for Patti Lacy?
PL: My Name is Sheba has been written and awaits publication. Here’s the hook paragraph:
“Sheila Franklin loves a son she never knew and a husband who doesn’t know her. Then her past comes knocking-in the form of a young soldier and a Thai prostitute-and threatens to expose her deceptive ways.”
I’m conceptualizing a story called Reclaiming Lily. Here’s that hook. And YES, I hope to go to China with my “little sister,” Wang Sue. Here’s that hook:
“Li Ming abandons her baby on the banks of the Yangtze instead of tossing the child to the river gods, as fate-and her mother-demand. Broken-hearted, she returns to the studies she hopes will gain her passage through Harvard’s ivy-covered gates.
Inexplicably her test scores plummet. Feeling she has angered the river gods, she pedals to a nearby village to work at an orphanage. A chubby dimpled baby-her own girl-is brought in by a raggedy peddler and later adopted by an American pastor and his wife.
Li plunges herself into her schoolwork and is soon bound for America-but with very different motives than she has listed on the student visa.”
More information about Patti:
When Patti Lacy left the Louisiana swamps for college in 1972, she returned to one of her first homes, the boys’ athletic dorm at Baylor University. Patti’s two hundred big brothers entertained her with magic tricks and tales of wild escapades, planting the love of stories in her heart.
The influence of her schoolteacher parents led Patti to pursue an education degree at Baylor University and master’s work in literature. She taught in public schools and at Heartland Community College until she resigned in 2005 to write full-time.
Patti’s first novel of women’s Christian fiction, An Irishwoman’s Tale, explores the first memories of a feisty woman grappling with scars inflicted by living in two dysfunctional homes.
An Irishwoman’s Tale was a Foreword Magazine finalist for 2008 Book of the Year, General Fiction. What the Bayou Saw, a novel of deception and secrets that will take a chatty Southerner from Normal, Illinois, back to a Louisiana swamp, released in April of 2009.
Patti and her husband Alan, an ISU faculty member, live in Normal, AL. They have two grown children and a dog named Laura.
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