I’m delighted to interview Lisa Maxwell, whose debut SWEET UNREST is out today! If you’re seeking ghostly love stories, rich Southern settings, and a dash of history, look no further.
Lucy Aimes has always been practical. But try as she might, she can’t come up with a logical explanation for the recurring dreams that have always haunted her. Dark dreams. Dreams of a long-ago place filled with people she shouldn’t know…but does.
When her family moves to a New Orleans plantation, Lucy’s dreams become more intense, and her search for answers draws her reluctantly into the old city’s world of Voodoo and mysticism. There, Lucy finds Alex, a mysterious boy who behaves as if they’ve known each other forever. Lucy knows Alex is hiding something, and her rational side doesn’t want to be drawn to him. But she is.
As she tries to uncover Alex’s secrets, a killer strikes close to home, and Lucy finds herself ensnared in a century-old vendetta. With the lives of everyone she loves in danger, Lucy will have to unravel the mystery of her dreams before it all comes to a deadly finish.
I know — you want it right now. Here’s where you can find it!
DG: You masterfully balance the contemporary, the historical, and the supernatural to make Lucy’s world come to life. What was the spark that inspired the story?
LM: I’m not sure that there was just one spark, but it kind of started with an idea to write a book where a girl time travels in her dreams. The original idea was a lot different than what SWEET UNREST turned out to be, but that was definitely the starting point. I was also thinking about writing a book about zombies when I started planning the novel, but the more I researched about zombies, the more I learned about Voodoo (which is where we get zombies in the first place), and the more interested I got in New Orleans.
That delta region of Louisiana has such an incredibly complex history—it was really very different (and still is in a lot of ways) than any other part of the country during the 1800s, and I wanted that history and that uniqueness to be an important part of the book.
DG: What kind of research did this story require, and what challenges did you face as you wrote?
LM: I had to learn a lot about Voodoo and a lot about New Orleans—especially sugar plantations and the way that class and race worked historically in New Orleans. When I started writing the book, I’d never actually been to the city, so going there was an important part of my research. We took a rather ill-fated trip (never take a 2 year old to New Orleans) so I could get a better feel for the city and visit the plantation that I based Le Ciel Doux on. I’ve been back to New Orleans since then, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the city.
The biggest challenge facing me as I wrote this was the issue of race in the book. I purposely set out to write a book that was as much about race as it was about made up magic. Armantine does what she does in the book because she can’t imagine a world in which her relationship can work out the way she wants it to—all because of her race and the society she lives in. Voodoo is a Diaspora religion—it’s based in traditions from Africa, carried across the Atlantic by slaves, and transformed by the experiences of African descended peoples in different parts of the Americas and Caribbean. And the cast of characters in the book is hugely diverse. The entire time I was writing, editing, and trying to sell the book, I worried about whether I was being respectful and really representing these characters as complex, fully developed people. I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t misrepresent the importance of Voodoo for the people who practice it. I’ve taken a lot of liberties in the book with the magic involved, but I tried to make it clear through the characters that the dark magic (the stuff I made up) wasn’t Voodoo, but something else. That balance between inventing things for the story and being true to what is a very real history and real religion was one of the most difficult challenges i faced. I hope I did it justice.
DG: Without giving away any spoilers, what’s your favorite line or moment from the novel?
LM: I have a real soft spot for Mama Legba. Her scenes are some of my favorite in the book. When she reads Lucy’s cards, you get a real sense that Lucy has met her match.
DG: What can we look forward to from you next?
LM: Next up is the second book in the world of SWEET UNREST. When I planned this book, trilogies were a big deal, so I’d always planned for there to be more to the story. I’m so lucky and happy that Flux agreed to let me write it. THE GATHERING DEEP should be out in Fall of 2015. (DG’s note: YAY!) It picks up where SWEET UNREST leaves off, but it tells a new story from a secondary character’s point-of-view. I know I’ve seen a couple reviews that have hoped for a sequel or that have wondered about some loose threads at the end of book 1, so I’m hoping those readers will be happy with how the story is wrapped up in book 2.
Then, in Spring of 2016 I have my Peter Pan retelling out from Simon Pulse. It’s really dark, kind of twisted, and features a dark, broody pirate boy that puts Hook from Once Upon a Time to shame.
DG: Finally, since we the Fifteeners are fearless, what’s something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of?
LM: I’m usually terrified of walking into a room full of people that I don’t know and having to mingle. There is really nothing worse for me. But, strangely enough, I’m not at all nervous about public speaking.
Thank you, Lisa!
Lisa Maxwell is the author of Sweet Unrest (Flux, Fall 2014) and Heartless Things (Simon Pulse, Spring 2016). When she’s not writing books, she’s an English professor at a local college. She lives near DC with her very patient husband and two not-so patient boys. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and her website!
|Diana Gallagher is a gymnastics coach, writing professor, and country music aficionado. She holds an MFA from Stony Brook University and once had a story published on a candy cigarette box. Her contemporary YA novel, WHAT HAPPENS IN WATER, releases in Fall 2015 from Spencer Hill Contemporary. For deep musings on gymnastics and Game of Thrones puns, follow her on Twitter.|