In Under the Bayou Moon (Revell, July.), a schoolteacher leaves Alabama for Louisiana and finds love with a Cajun man.
How has your work as a travel editor for Southern Living influenced your fiction?
There is a lot of conversation in southern writing about a sense of place. When I started at Southern Living in my 20s, I was fortunate that one of the seasoned travel writers showed me that part of the job of a travel writer is to capture the details and spirit of a place and try to bring that to life. That idea affects everything I do as a fiction writer. In the book, Raphe Broussard embodies Bernadette, Louisiana, in the Atchafalaya Basin. It’s in his bloodstream. It’s incredibly rich to me as a writer to look at that space between people and place.
So you’ve visited this area of Louisiana?
I did a story on Acadia, La., and thought the Cajun culture there deserved a deep dive into its history and people. I took a couple of more trips to the area. I wanted my main character, Ellie Fields, to discover the area like I did, to have the gift of that place handed to her to experience and enjoy.
How did you move from writing articles to writing novels?
I started writing when the world was falling apart during the recession of 2009–2010. I couldn’t sleep, so I started writing to do something besides watching more Law & Order reruns. I was writing for the sheer joy of it. When I turned in that first novel, I thought it would need just a few comma changes here and there. That first book, bless my editor’s heart, was a huge learning curve for me.
How does your faith play into your novels?
I write Southern books from a Christian worldview. I don’t feel led to overtly teach Christian doctrine but instead show what a real Christian community is meant to be. I want to show real Christian people the way I know them to be: human and flawed but trying to follow Christ’s example.
Where do you get most of your writing done?
I write my novels in my Story Shack. It’s 10’ × 12’ with a display shelf running all the way around, filled with family pictures and things that inspire me. It’s just about soundproofed, has windows in the front, and is air-conditioned and heated and has Wi-Fi. The ceiling is painted haint blue, a color traditionally used in the South for porch roofs, which folklore says keeps haints—ghosts—away.