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May 17, 2018

A Conversation with Jan Eldredge, Author of EVANGELINE OF THE BAYOU

Posted by Catherine B
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Author Jan Eldredge is a big fan of all things eldritch (ghostly, supernatural, etc.), and this fact shines through in her debut middle-grade novel EVANGELINE OF THE BAYOU, a memorable tale of adventure about a sassy huntress uncovering ghostly secrets in the Louisiana bayou. Read more about Jan Eldredge’s supernatural interests, her experience working on EVANGELINE and her writing process in this great Q&A with her publicist, Keely Platte!

1) The glossary in the back of the book is so helpful! Where did you learn about all these creatures? Which creature from the book is your favorite?

I have a small, but growing, collection of books about mythical creatures around the world. If I couldn’t find what I was looking for there, I researched library books, online websites, and the occasional documentary. Something that really surprised me as I started learning more about mythical monsters was the number of different cultures that share very similar creatures. Their names and a few minor details might be different, but they’re basically the same beings. Taking characteristics of monsters found in other countries and adapting them to Evangeline’s world was a lot of fun.

My favorite creature from EVANGELINE OF THE BAYOU is definitely the grim. He’s so silent and spooky and mysterious. There’s just something about grims in the form of big black dogs that I find so interesting.

2) What scares you the most?

The idea of getting abducted by aliens and then being flown into space onboard their ship is terrifying to me. At least with monsters here on earth you have a chance of running away from them, but when you’re hurtling through the cosmos inside an alien craft, you’re kind of stuck there.

3) Can you describe what a gris gris bag is and what it's used for? Could I make one or does it have to be put together by a voodoo priest or someone with special powers?

Basically, a gris-gris bag (pronounced gree gree bag) is a small drawstring bag filled with an assortment of items such as herbs, roots, stones, crystals, coins, and maybe even bones. Different gris gris bags are created for different purposes, such as protection from evil or as a way to attract good luck.

I’m not an expert on the voodoo religion, but I imagine you’d be better off having a gris gris bag created by a seasoned conjurer. Though, as I understand it, you can make your own as long as you use the correct ingredients and follow the specific steps.

4) You say on your website that you have an "interest in cats, magic, and assorted eldritch things that go bump in the night" and that you also like "researching bizarre superstitions" - where does this love for magic and superstition come from?

I guess I’m fascinated with magic and superstition because it plays such a huge part in spooky stories. It’s often magic and superstition, rather than human-made weaponry, that’s used to defeat the monster.

5) Did anyone or anything in particular inspire you during the writing process?

I’ve always had a love for monsters and spooky stories, but it was when I found an old book of superstitions in a used book store, that I had one of those lightbulb moments. As soon as I started flipping through the pages, I knew I wanted to write a story incorporating some of those fascinating beliefs.

6) How long did you live in Louisiana? What prompted the move to Florida?

I was born and raised in Louisiana. I moved to Florida a few months after I graduated from college. It was the warm, sunny weather and the prospect of a making a new start that drew me here.

7) What is next for you?

I’m currently at work on the sequel to EVANGELINE OF THE BAYOU. I’m having a lot of fun creating new trials and adventures for Evangeline, as well as introducing some quirky new characters, along with a very evil villain.

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS ON WRITING

1) What was the hardest part about writing the book?

Writing Julian’s dialogue was one of the difficult parts about writing the book. Because he’s so much smarter than I am, I had to do a fair amount of research for all the facts and trivia he’s always spouting.

2) What’s your writing process like?

The early stages of story creation are messy and disorganized with notes and ideas written on index cards, in computer documents, and on my whiteboard. When I feel like I’ve come up with enough ideas to get started, I create a rough and flexible outline. From that, I prepare a to-do list, and I work on it one item at a time. Focusing on small pieces of the manuscript keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. 

3) Where do you write?

I write at home, at the library, and at local coffee shops. I’m very conscious about not choosing the same table or seat whenever I write in public places. I don’t want to get dependent on things having to be “just so” in order to be able to write. I even switch locations at home. Sometimes I work in my office, sometimes at the dining room table or even on the living room sofa or sitting up in bed.

4) How often do you write?

I try to work on the story every day, even if I’m not doing any actual drafting. Some days I might be researching or revising. Sometimes I’m brainstorming. But occasionally life happens, and I have to stop working. When that occurs, it usually takes me about a week of floundering around before I finally get back into the groove.

5) What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer since writing this book?

I’ve learned to embrace the revision process. There’s no escaping it. I’ve learned to accept that just because I spent a lot of time on a particular section of writing, that’s no reason to keep it if it’s not working. 

6) What advice do you have for new writers?

There’s no one right way to write a story. Try different processes, and use what works for you. Also, keep learning and keep improving.