Guest post by Rhonda Dennis, author of the Green Bayou Series
Before I had a plot and characters, I knew that I wanted my series to take place in South Louisiana. Sure I might be prejudiced because it’s where I’m from, but in actuality, it goes much deeper than that. I’ve traveled the United States and Mexico. I’ve shivered atop snow-capped mountains and sweltered in the arid desert. I’ve tanned (okay, burned) on sandy beaches and admired miles and miles of flat farm land. Though there is no doubt that these areas are indeed beautiful, they don’t offer the qualities that are unique to my home state.
How mysterious and intriguing are the swamps and bayous of Louisiana? The dark, alluvial waters hold countless secrets from days of yore. The waterways were/are the essence of who we are. We live along them, on them, and make our livings from them. Some cities thrive because of them, and some, such as Bayou Chene, are forever entombed in their murky depths. They hold an abundance of life and have seen their fair share of death. Our waters can be peaceful and serene one moment, and in no time, (especially when it’s dark and foggy) become the scariest, most intimidating place you’ll ever visit. I’ve known quite a few big, burly men who have admitted that they fear being in the swamps at night.
Green Bayou is fictional, but as far as the setting is concerned, it isn’t unlike many of the towns that are scattered throughout South Louisiana. It could easily be Patterson, Berwick, Morgan City, St. Martinville, Breaux Bridge, Chauvin, Chackbay, Thibodaux, etc. I think this is why many readers from this area relate to the series so well. As they read, they not only connect with the story, but they feel as though it’s being played out right in their backyard, so to speak. I make it a point to include our traditions, sayings, and ways of life to add to the authenticity and to provide readers who haven’t visited Louisiana a taste of what it’s like.
Louisiana’s rich history lends a wonderful backdrop to stories. Antebellum plantation houses remind us of a time before “The War of Northern Aggression”. Miles of cane fields continue to provide sweet, sugary goodness to the masses. Cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss tell of an industry that once thrived in the region (sawmills and logging). Massive and majestic oaks stand as trophies to celebrate hundreds of years of survival from catastrophic hurricanes. Houseboats gently bob up and down in the bayous to remind us of how many of our ancestors once lived (and how some still do!). Heartfelt jazz flows during happy times (like Mardi Gras) and the sad (like funerals). Delectable recipes for gumbos, etouffees, stews, and seafood boils have been passed down from generation to generation. The Cajun patois—I could go on for days about the things that make South Louisiana special.
Factor in all of the aforementioned, and it’s easy to see why the region makes the perfect setting for a novel. Though biased, I can’t imagine my series taking place anywhere else. If you haven’t read The Green Bayou Novels yet, check them out. Mais cher, you’ll be sure to pass a good time!
The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.
------ William Faulkner, Nobel Prize
Speech, Stockholm, 1950