I attended the World Horror Convention/Bram Stoker Awards Weekend 2013 this past week in New Orleans, Louisiana, aka the Crescent City, aka the Big Easy, and I wrote the convention recaps on my book review blog in three parts, which you can find by clicking on the following links:
The above posts focus on the panel recaps and the convention itself, but having dreamed of visiting New Orleans for many years (the city has a reputation for being hugely inspirational for writers from Tennessee Williams to Anne Rice), I was glad to have been able to make this come to fruition at long last. New Orleans is a place that I felt an intimate connection to even before I visited, because it has inspired me in a way that few other cities have managed to. Since reading Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice as a youngster, I found myself hypnotized by the descriptions of the places, the flavour that Rice drenched over the book. It’s something hard to shake. And the images from the film adaptation provided me with even more fuel. New Orleans is made of the stuff of dreams.
As a writer, I relished the opportunity to do “on the ground” research and even though the research I have been doing for years into the history of Louisiana, the architecture, the food–everything–was fairly comprehensive, and although both Google Street View and YouTube can be an indispensable tools, nothing compares to the experience of physically being in a place. One of the most significant places I needed to research for my current WIP, which is another rewrite of Novel #3, features bayous and swamps. Although I’d done as much research as I could and worked hard on the descriptions, there’s things that we notice when we’re physically present somewhere that we normally wouldn’t. For instance, one can get a good handle on sight and sound imagery from photos, videos, etc, but not smell imagery, which is the most vivid. And I got a good whiff of some of the most intense and unusual scents of a swamp, which was hugely educational.
The French Quarter, of course, isn’t without its charm, and I took in a few ghost tours, as well as a Cemetery/Voodoo tour, which were all great experiences. Although the voodoo spoken of on the tour I went on was very much an “on the surface” type of approach that was more of a Spark Notes version, I learned that there are some fairly significant differences between Louisiana and New Orleans Voodoo versus Haitian and West African Vodou, which is more the tradition that my research has pointed me to.
One thing that everyone reacts to is also the heat, which was definitely very intense for this little Canadian. Don’t get me wrong–Eastern Canada definitely has heat waves and it gets muggy, humid, and just generally gross here, as well, but the heat found in the Southern US is of an altogether different breed.
This was a very significant trip for me in many ways, and definitely fuelled me to keep going on my WIP. As well, I picked up quite a few books on Louisiana folklore, which I’m hugely interested in, including Gumbo Ya-Ya, Louisiana Folk Tales, and Louisiana Indian Tales to name a few.