What inspired you to write Ruined?
I’ve been living in
After Hurricane Katrina, when the city felt turned upside down, I went to see a tarot card reader in a French Quarter voodoo shop. He told me that the storm and the flood had fractured time, and displaced hundreds of ghosts. He said he kept seeing ghosts everywhere. I hadn’t really thought about the ghosts of the city, but after that conversation, pieces of the story started taking shape in my mind.
I drive through the Garden District — and past
What kind of research did you have to do for Ruined? How did you manage to describe the Mardi Gras floats so accurately? Have you ever been on such a float yourself?
I did a ton of research for the novel — reading books, talking to people, taking a cemetery tour — though obviously a lot is made up. For example, the Mardi Gras krewe called Septimus is imaginary, and any local can tell you that no krewe would be permitted to end their parades back in the Garden District!
Carnival season is a great time of year in
Ruined is coming out around the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Can you talk a little bit about the effects the Hurricane had on the city, and how they influenced Ruined?
The storm, and the flood that followed, had a profound and ongoing impact on the city. Our population is much smaller than it used to be. Many neighborhoods were washed away, and have yet to recover. Some of the older parts of the city, like the French Quarter and the Garden District, lie on high ground, close to the river levee, so they had no flood damage. Tourists visiting the city and just spending their time in those neighborhoods would have no idea of the extent of the devastation — eighty percent of the city was underwater. I was conscious, writing Ruined, that it was set largely in an unflooded neighborhood. But the psychic scars of the flood — and the city’s evacuation, ruin, and slow recovery — exist everywhere, as Rebecca, the protagonist, finds out.
You’ve also written books for adults. Can you tell us how your experience writing for teens differs from writing for adults?
I got some very good advice from my teenage niece when I was working on the book. She told me it needed a lot of mystery and a little romance. I hope I managed both.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get your start as an author?
When I was a child, I wrote stories all the time, but as an adult real life took over — in the form of work, and travel, and building a new life in various places. (I’ve lived in eight different cities, in three different countries.) Writing is a vocation, I think, but you don’t always discover it right away. When I was living in
What are some of your favorite books/favorite authors?
So many! For short stories: William Trevor, Alice Munro, Deborah Eisenberg. For novels: Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Ian McEwan, Lloyd Jones (a