New Orleans seems to be in style this summer as I have hosted several authors with connections to the Big Easy! Please join me in welcoming inspirational author Pamela Binnings Ewen.
Kim: Tell us about New Orleans – your favorite sight, sound and smell.
Pamela: I love this city and this is a fun question! Favorite sight is really hard, but I think it’s this: sitting on the second-floor balcony at Murial’s restaurant in the French Quarter, looking out over Jackson Square. This is the best free show in town. You can see everything from up there—the clowns, musicians, artists, fortune tellers, tourists and locals wandering around, some people dancing, doing card tricks, acrobats. There are Lucky Dog carts,and ice cream carts, and the Roman Candy cart. There are lots of children and dogs,and amazing mimes. There is always music there—groups that come down to the square and play for tips—blues bands, New Orleans jazz bands, a lone clarinet, shuffle and jive. You name it, and you’ll see it there. And flower bedecked, straw-hatted donkeys pulling carts filled with visitors. Looking out from the balcony over the park at Jackson Square, and the fountain where children chase flocks of pigeons, past the statue of Andrew Jackson, and through the magnolia trees, you’ll see Café du Monde and the levee, and sometimes you can see the tops of ships gliding down the Mississippi River. The steamboat Natchez docks near there, and you’ll hear the calliope’s whistling tunes calling people to board. It’s best to try this early in the evening, just as the sun’s going down, and they’ll only let you sit there if there’s not a private party going on. But if you’re lucky and catch a seat, you might see Amalise Catoir from Dancing on Glass and follow her on through the streets, down Pirate’s Alley, and through the Quarter, dancing, always dancing on glass…back through the year 1974 when the story’s set.
|Muriel's in Jackson Square|
Favorite sound and smell: In New Orleans, the blues rules. Neville Brothers, Walter Wolffman. Check out Tipitina’s, the House of Blues, and all the places down on Frenchman Street in the Faubourg Marigny, just past Esplanade behind the Quarter. My favorite smell: No contest – it’s the fragrance of sweet olive in the fall and spring. It’s everywhere. Huge trees, and the sweet, pungent scent sticks in your memory. Brings back memories of New Orleans ever after!
Kim: What did you learn from law school and practicing law that you could apply to writing and publishing?
Pamela: I was like a sponge in law school, just soaked everything in. Had been a single mom for a while, on my own, with a child of three. I wanted to be able to give him everything he needed, to provide for him, and I thought about that and asked myself what a woman with no visible means of support could do to reach that goal. So I decided to go to law school. So I worked my way through college, then law school. That experience went a long way toward teaching me survival in this old world. My child was my family, and that was everything to me. Law school teaches you a different way of thinking, too. You learn to analyze, to abstract, and how to unwind complex problems, and situations. I think that problem-solving mentality, and the constant questioning and answering shows up in most of my characters in my books. That’s also why I made Amalise a young lawyer, just starting out and at the bottom of the food chain, in the latest book. This will be a series of three books, but all of them revolve around the idea of people having to make hard choices in life, and learning to survive.
Kim: Your new book, DANCING ON GLASS, includes elements familiar to you – law, arts, and New Orleans. What inspired it? What would you like readers to gain from reading it?
Pamela: There is a truism, which is this: You write what you know. I’ve been a big reader all my life. And now I’m a writer, too. The Louisiana ‘Burke’ side of my family for some reason includes many writers – some really well known, like James Lee Burke, Andre Dubus, Elizabeth Nell Dubus, Alafair Burke. Isn’t that amazing? And my mother’s side of the family has many wonderful artists, painters and sculptors. So law and art are almost part of the air I breath, along with music. And generally you’ll find those elements in my stories.
Everything comes back to family for me, in the long run. That’s what’s important. And commitments.
Dancing on Glass is the story of a young woman lawyer who falls in love with a man who’s not what he seems. It’s a story of love and illusion, evil devouring trust, and strength in the face of a manipulative predatory relationship. And it’s a story of faith, and grace. Amalise is a woman who’s made a commitment too soon, and yet is determined to stick it out. She believes that she can fix any problem, and she can fix this one too. She could leave any time, but she stands by her man instead. Why?
|Practicing faith in the French Quarter|
Now, how many of us are like that—we women? Raise your hands, please! (I see a lot of you out there— used to solving problems, moving on with smiles on our faces when times are tough.) But women today often seem to be caught in what I call a double-bind. We are strong, but we’re also the softer sex. Sometimes our strength is used against us. You are strong. He is weak. He is empty, you fill him. My own experience with the type of relationship in which Amalise Catoir becomes involved, led me to explore the question of this double bind. Why doesn’t Amalise leave? She’s financially independent. And how does she manage a successful career, with the problems at home? I think Dancing on Glass presents a new take on these questions and my hope is that readers will come away having enjoyed the fast paced story, but also having learned something new.
Because knowledge is power.
|Rolling down the river of life ....|
Kim: What’s next for Pamela Binnings Ewen?
Pamela: I’m glad you asked, and thanks! I’m working on a sequel to Dancing on Glass, with Amalise and Jude and the law firm of Mangen & Morris. It’s a little more whimsical than Dancing on Glass. Set in New Orleans (again) in the year 1977, Amalise finds herself tipped toward the axis of fate—a young lawyer on a major international financial transaction in her firm, she becomes involved in a situation that requires her to make a choice between comfort and moving on, and risking all. The title launches the real issue: Chasing the Wind. It’s due for release in August of next year, 2012, and I’m finishing it up for the publisher right now! I hope you’ll all follow Amalise’s progress, and mine, on my web site, www.pamelaewen.com.
Mahalo, Pamela, for joining us at SOS Aloha! I am giving away a review copy of DANCING ON GLASS to one randomly selected commenter. To enter the giveaway,
1. Leave a comment about how you balance work, family, and faith.
2. This giveaway is open to all readers.
3. Comments are open through Saturday, August 6, 10 pm in Hawaii. I'll post the winners on Sunday, August 7.
Kim in Hawaii