Marly Youmans (at right in the photo) is a friend, a prolific and gifted writer of poetry and fiction, a blogger, and a neighbor of sorts: she lives and writes in Cooperstown, New York, just a hop of one valley over from where I grew up. I met Marly through qarrtsiluni, where she's been a frequent contributor and also an issue editor. Later this year I'll be publishing her book-length, post-apocalyptic epic poem Thaliad at Phoenicia Publishing. But right now, we're having a conversation about her new novel, "A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage," (Mercer University Press, 2012, The Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction) available for pre-order at real bookstores and online. Here's part 1, below the book cover:
A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage tells of a young boy's travels through the black heart of Depression America and his search for light both metaphorical and real. Writing with a controlled lyrical passion, Marly Youmans has crafted the finest, and the truest period novel I’ve read in years.
In A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage Marly Youmans gives us a beautifully written and exceptionally satisfying novel.Youmans has achieved that rarest of all accomplishments: she has created a flawed hero about which we care. A Death at the White Camellia Orphanageis one of the best books I have read.
--Raymond L. Atkins
BETH: Do you do a lot of research to achieve this, or is it based on personal experience?
MARLY: However, I don't usually pillage settings I know because I like to make things up. So I sometimes research elements of a landscape--eucalyptus flowers, for instance, blossoms that I haven't seen in decades. I admit to borrowing the feel of life by an upstate lake like Cooperstown for Pip's northern travels, and a childhood in which we moved every three years definitely informs the book's landscapes. Certain elements that seemed very strange to me when I lived outside the South as a child--clouds of cottonweed seeds, for example--crept in as elements of strangeness around Pip.
The interview concludes tomorrow...