R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson) wrote,
R.J. Anderson

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INTERVIEW: Saundra Mitchell, author of "Shadowed Summer" (Delacorte, Feb. 10)

Today's debut2009 author interview (and I have to tell you, this will be the last one for a while -- I'm totally swamped with revisions right now!) is with the delightful, multi-talented, and incredibly hard-working Saundra Mitchell, author of Shadowed Summer.

This was the very first book I read by a fellow Deb, and I have to say, it blew me away. I don't normally read ghost stories -- I'm a total wimp for anything horrific, plus the whole ghost thing grates on my theology. But I was really impressed by the way Saundra drew me into her story and skillfully suspended my disbelief right to the very end. Plus, her prose is just beautiful, and she has a deft knack for vivid characterization that I really envy like whoa admire.

But enough about me! On to the book!


Nothing ever happened in Ondine, Louisiana, not even the summer Elijah Landry disappeared. His mother knew he ascended to heaven, the police believed he ran away, and his girlfriend thought he was murdered.

Decades later, certain she saw his ghost in the town cemetery, fourteen-year-old Iris Rhame is determined to find out the truth behind "The Incident With the Landry Boy."

Enlisting the help of her best friend Collette, and forced to endure the company of Collette's latest crush, Ben, Iris spends a summer digging into the past and stirring old ghosts, in search of a boy she never knew.

What she doesn't realize is that in a town as small as Ondine, every secret is a family secret.


A screenwriter and author, Saundra Mitchell penned the screenplays for the Fresh Films and Girls in the Director's Chair short film series. Her short story "Ready to Wear" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her first feature film, Revenge Ends, debuted on the festival circuit in 2008. In her free time, she enjoys ghost hunting, papermaking, and spending time with her husband and her two children.

Tantalizing, no? Let's find out more about Saundra and her book under the cut...

Your book has such a rich atmosphere -- it's full of sensuous descriptions of that really make the reader feel that he or she is right there in Ondine, Louisiana with Iris. How did you find out all those amazing little details that make a place real to the reader, given that you've never been to Louisiana yourself?

Honestly, I'm just hoping the good people of Louisiana don't come after me with torches and pitchforks. I did research- especially when it came to architecture, language and the local flora. And I read the local papers online to get a feel for the community, and to find out what merited mention and what didn't.

But in the end, I just made things up. Ondine isn't a real town, and I filled it with not real places like The Red Stripe that I hope ring true to the reader, even if they're entirely imaginary.

But! You know! I think there's room for a divine hand in the universe at work, because Iris repeatedly threatens to spend the rest of the summer at the YMCA in Gonzales, LA, rather than do any more searching for Elijah Landry. I never checked at the time to find out whether there was a YMCA in Gonzales, but guess what? There is. And guess what its address is?

9039 S Saint Landry Avenue.

*cue Twilight Zone music*

Woo, that IS spooky! Okay, next question. You already know that I am a bit nutty about synesthesia, and you are yourself a synesthete. Can you give us an example of how your synesthesia helps or hinders you in your writing?

I get in trouble a lot for overwriting! Because to me, pain is a low grey drag across the small of my back- this is way too baroque for contemporary fiction. But it helps, too. Even though other people may not experience a voice that sounds green and sweet like new clover, I think it still evokes something that's more than "kinda nice tenor boy voice."

It definitely did for me! So what was the hardest part of writing SHADOWED SUMMER for you? Did you ever despair of being able to finish the book, and if so, what did you do to overcome that problem? (I have no personal investment in asking this question, or anything *cough*).

The hard part was getting Iris to cooperate. I had scheduled myself 1000 words a day every day until the book was finished, and I had to write those words in that given day, or else. So there were days when it was coming up on 4am, I still hadn't been to sleep, and Iris wanted to sit and sulk in her bedroom closet. She is the annoying little sister I never had, and I was often glad that I could avenge myself by turning the computer off on her.

Iris is such a strong character, I can totally believe it! Now, just for fun: If you were a ghost, where (or whom) would you haunt?

I think I would haunt Fells Point, Maryland. I want to be the shadow in an alley between rowhouses that young lovers and drunk sailors wonder if they really saw that night, walking home in the rain.

Tell us one unique thing about SHADOWED SUMMER that you would like readers to know. (Aside from the fact that it has breathtakingly gorgeous prose, believable and likeable characters, and a supernatural mystery plot that is both fascinating and chilling, that is!)

Wow, after that, I'd like readers to know I really, really hope it lives up to that kind of praise.

But between us, I just wanted to spend a couple of hours with you, in the heat, and the dark, during the last summer everything made sense. That's the place I went to when I wrote it; I hope that's the place you come to when you read it.

Well, I definitely did. Thanks for stopping by, Saundra!

You can learn more about Shadowed Summer by visiting the dedicated site, where you can read an excerpt from the first chapter, see more interviews with Saundra, and download a bunch of neat extras related to the book.

Shadowed Summer can also be ordered from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or support your local independent bookseller.

Visit Saundra on the web at www.saundramitchell.com.

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Tags: books, debut2009, interviews, writing
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