Saturday, April 04, 2009

Wild Card Weekend - The Big Easy





Jennifer Lewis joins us this weekend to talk about the sultriest of cities - New Orleans!


There’s really no better place to have a wild weekend, with or without cards, than New Orleans. The city has always fascinated me and called to my writers’ imagination. Everything is just a little spicier there, a little hotter, and whole lot steamier. I’d been longing to write a Desire set there, and when I came up with the idea for the third book in my Hardcastle Progeny series The Heir’s Scandalous Affair, I knew it had to be set in New Orleans.



Samantha Hardcastle has traveled to the city on her quest to find her late husband’s scattered children. The sultry atmosphere and the kindness of a handsome stranger lead her into that stranger’s bed. And the next day she finds out she’s accidentally slept with her long-lost stepson, Louis DuLac. Is New Orleans not the perfect place for this kind of madness to happen?

I first arrived New Orleans many years ago in the heady final days of Mardi Gras. I’d always lived in large cities filled with revelers, but I’d never walked along streets that literally reeked of beer. The whole bare breast/bead throwing/masked craziness of the place made my eyeballs pop. My first sight of crawdads had the same effect. They were so… big! I’m sure I made several people’s eyeballs pop as well, since I kept falling asleep everywhere—on the grassy banks of the Mississippi, in the trolley, on the white tablecloth in a smart restaurant… It later turned out I had advanced Lyme disease, but I bet they just assumed I was even drunker than everyone else!

Once Mardi Gras was over, a friend and I drove out of the city and around the nearby bayou. What an enchanted and amazing place. The past hovers everywhere like fog. I couldn’t get over the oft-repeated sight of a new, modern house built right beside the remains of the family’s ramshackle old house. They’d just left it there, like a ghost in the garden.

The lush tropical climate of Southern Louisiana produces a riot of greenery that threatens to swallow everything alive. Spanish moss and kudzu crawl over everything that isn’t moving. The bayou is a watery wilderness, getting more watery all the time. A fascinating book called Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast by Mark Tidwell explains how dams all along the Mississippi prevent the river from flooding and pouring rich silt out into the river delta. Farmers no longer have to worry about floods, but with the natural process that built the whole bayou region interrupted, the land is sinking into the ocean and disappearing. It’s shocking to look at satellite photos and see how many thousands of acres are lost every year.


The culture of the area springs from its unique mix of people. Cajun and Creole cooking, Jazz music, Zydeco and—of course—Mardi Gras don’t exist in the same form anywhere else. You can tell when you’re talking on the phone to someone in Manhattan because there will be a siren wailing somewhere in the background. My mother lived in New Orleans for several months last year while I was writing this book and several conversations were interrupted by a sudden thundering of noise: “Wait just a minute, there’s another parade going by!” When Hurricane Katrina happened it almost looked like this magical place might disappear off the map, but happily New Orleans has proved it’s not going anywhere, and the good times are still rolling. I thoroughly enjoyed celebrating this unique and special place in my book.




Have you been to New Orleans or have you always wanted to go? Do you have any favorite books set there? One person who leaves a comment will win a signed copy of The Heir’s Scandalous Affair.
www.jenlewis.com




22 comments:

  1. I've been to New Orleans a couple of times but only went out during the day. I had a really enjoyable time even if I didn't see it at night.

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  2. I like their food, but I have not been there.

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  3. I have not been there but would love to go one day. So much culture and food to take in.

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  4. My brother went to Tulane back in the early 80s and so I visited him one Spring break. It is a lovely city. The French Quarter is so different in the day time to the night time. And the food is goregous.

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  5. I was there in 1980. I liked Jackson Square. We walked around at night, heard some jazz and saw all the gawkers to get you in to see the 'Ladies"!
    We ate beignets!! Yummy! Had a mint julep..not to my taste. Ate good food!
    BUT, I do not want to go back! I felt uncomfortable there.

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  6. OOPS forgot books... Sandra Brown, Joann Ross, Metsy Hingle and Heather Graham have all set wonderful books in New Orleans.

    Loved Ashley Judd in her movie Body Double where a lot of it takes place in New Orleans!

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  7. I have never been to New Orleans but would love to go there some day to try their food and listen to their music.

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  8. Hi Ellen, New Orleans at night can be a little alarming :-) At least my heroine thinks so!

    Avi, I first tried Cajun food at K Pauls restaurant in Manhattan. When I went to the one of New Orleans I thought I'd died and gone to Heaven....

    Roybn L, I really want to go to the Jazz festival one year. I keep waiting until the kids get old enough to enjoy it.

    Michelle--what a cool place to go to school. I bet it's a bit of a party school ;-)

    Oh, beignets are so yummy, Laurie! I can see how you could feel edgy there--there's a lot going on and many interesting shady characters...

    There are so many great books set in New Orleans. And one of my all time faves takes place in the Bayou--Tami Hoag's Lucky's Lady--I still get breathless thinking about Lucky Doucet.

    Maureen, I hope you get the chance. And that you're braver than me when faced with a plate of crawdads ;-)

    Jen

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  9. Hi Jennifer. New Orleans has always been on my list of places to visit before I die. I loved Sandra Brown's "Fat Tuesday" set in and around the locale. Seething passion amongst the sultry heat of N/O - it was a very good read as I recall and a great plot.

    One of my all time favourite films - again sultry passion aplenty was "No Mercy" with Richard Gere and Kim Basinger. Phew the chemistry between those two in the film was something else. It's a film I get out every now and then just to watch the tension and passion between the two of them! That film always inspires my "muse". New Orleans and the deep south just calls to the passion in my soul - even now as I write this on a wet windy evening here in Wales! Caroline xx

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  10. Hi Caroline--I'm not sure I've seen No Mercy. I'll have to check it out. If it has Richard Gere in I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy it. And if it has New Orleans, it's a guarantee. It's a wet and windy afternoon here in NY too. I'm ready for a Mint Julip and some crawfish etouffe!

    Jen

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  11. I mean mint julep, of course. It's all the tulips of spring that made me mistype ;-)

    Jen

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  12. no but i do want so cool and i love seafood girl. crawfish is the bomb for m
    blaze had a seires set there from alison kent, to karen anders so i love those stories
    congrats ont eh books and 4/12 starts from rt
    kh

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  13. I've never been to New Orleans but would love to go. I have a friend who lives there and he loves it. I know there are several movies I love that are set in New Orleans but I don't remember reading any books set there. Have a great day. Don't have if I'm too late for the contest. If not, please count me in.

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  14. Hi KH! Thanks for the congrats. It was nice to get a good review, since the book is fairly offbeat. I hope you get to go to New Orleans soon!

    HouseMouse, the contest continues all weekend so you're certainly not too late. There are lots of fab books set in New Orleans. I guess I'm one of many writers who find the city inspiring.

    Jen

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  15. I've been to New Orleans twice: Once with a friend, during the year after graduting college, and the second time for the RWA conference. I had a great time on both occasions. Can't eat cajun cuisine, but love the music and atmosphere.

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  16. Hi Heather! RWA in New Orleans must have been fun. It's such an easy city to walk around. I hope they have it there again.

    Jen

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  17. Jen, in The Heir's Scandalous Affair I felt transported to New Orleans; felt it's magic. Thanks!

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  18. Thanks for stopping by, Marilyn! I'm glad I transported you. I love to be swept off to an enticing locale just by opening a book :-)

    Jen

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  19. Never been, but I've always wanted to - and your post has made it really come alive for me!

    A book set there: Nora Roberts' "Midnight Bayou". (I really like her longer books - remember enjoying this one!)

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  20. Hi Kate! I don't think I've read "Midnight Bayou." I'll have to check it out. I love that title!

    Jen (wishing she had beignets for breakfast...)

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  21. And the winner of the contest is "kh"!

    Please send an email to jen @ jenlewis dot com so I can mail the book to you.

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by!

    Jen

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  22. yeah thanks very much jennifer

    kh

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