Corpses turn up in New Orleans all the time. But when they've been drained of their blood by an African vampire, a wazimamoto — well, the Big Easy's already-sky-high homicide rate has acquired an ultra-sinister new twist. A devoted young doctor vows to vanquish the supernatural sucker in Jewell Parker Rhodes' new novel Yellow Moon, the third thriller in a series that began with 1995's Voodoo Dreams and continued with 2006's Voodoo Season. All three delve into the iconic figure of Marie Laveau, legendary Creole voodoo queen of the French Quarter. In the new book, she appears as Dr. Marie Laveau, a modern-day physician with otherworldly powers to complement her surgical skills.
"Every time I write a novel, I wonder whether readers will like my baby," the author ponders on her blog. "A writer can spend months, years working on a book — be absolutely in love with a project — but it has only a half-life until the connection is made with readers. Sometimes, I wish I could be a fly in the room as readers read my work." Rhodes, who will discuss the novel at Books Inc. (1344 Park St., Alameda) on October 14, finds herself drawn again and again to multigenerational stories of women. Partly it's because "my mother abandoned me when I was an infant and my father and grandmother raised me. My father was gone for long hours, working as a butcher. ... But Grandmother loved stories — told dozens of them." And through her stories, "we escaped, disappearing into worlds where we weren't poor, ill, and beset by racism and life's problems. ... She gave me my profession, but perhaps more importantly, she gave me a coping mechanism." Set in the 19th century, the trilogy's first book, Voodoo Dreams, features a former slave who brings her granddaughter to New Orleans, where sensual temptations mingle with cruelty at the hands of men. The fictional Marie at the heart of that book, and her successors in the subsequent books, draw upon the real-life Marie Laveau, about whom little is known but to whom many a magical feat was attributed before her death in 1881.
Rhodes, who is the Artistic Director for Global Engagement and the Piper Endowed Chairholder of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University, has won multiple awards for teaching. One of her favorite subjects for lessons is character development. "Love all your characters," even the icky ones, she advises. "There is no 'story' if readers don't care about your characters. Before a reader will care, you need to feel passionately loyal to each and every one of your characters. Even a character who abuses and hurts others needs to be loved enough to be understood." 7:30 p.m. BooksInc.com
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