Ask the Author: Joanne O’Sullivan
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’m mostly inspired by true stories or real-life events. I never run out of stories I want to tell. If I can write a fraction of them, I’ll be happy!
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
Between Two Skies is a coming-of-age story, set around the time of Hurricane Katrina.
Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Louisiana, is home to sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; her wise, beloved grandmother Mamere; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo. But, dearest to her heart, she has the peace that only comes when she takes her skiff out to where there is nothing but sky and air and water and wings. It’s a small life, but it is Evangeline’s. When Hurricane Katrina comes everything changes. Her family is uprooted and her friends scattered. Longing for what was, unsure about what might be, Evangeline meets fellow ‘refugee’ Tru. Torn between a past that’s no longer possible and an unknown future, Evangeline must decide what ‘home’ means to her.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
I went to college in New Orleans and fell in love with the area. When Hurricane Katrina happened, I had trouble finding out what happened to my friends who still lived there. As I looked, I discovered so many stories of people whose lives had been disrupted. I was especially drawn to those of teens who missed so many milestones because their lives were up-ended. Evangeline’s character started to emerge for me. When I compared her character to another famous Evangeline (from Wordsworth’s epic poem), I had the makings of a plot.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
In Between Two Skies, the romantic scenes were challenging to write, but they were also the most memorable for me. Also, final chapter (not the epilogue). As they say, ‘no tears from the writer, no tears from the reader,’ and I definitely cried just before the end!
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
I was a voracious reader when I was a kid. I was a rarely without a book in my hands. I loved mysteries or supernatural/magical stories, especially anything that took place in a cavernous old mansion with many secret doors and rooms. I still want to write a book like that and have in fact made several unsuccessful attempts at it!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
Don’t be afraid to start. Remove any pressure you might have placed on yourself for it to be perfect or even any good when you start out. If you’re writing poorly, you’ve crossed the first hurdle—you’re writing! If re-reading your draft makes you cringe, congratulate yourself for being able to recognize that you need to rework. Remind yourself that writing is re-writing. It takes as long as it takes. Finally, I’ll quote a wonderful nonfiction author, Ben Rawlence. “Being read is a privilege.” That provides a lot of perspective. We have to earn the reader’s attention.