Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Guest Post: Patty Friedmann - Taken Away


Hello everybody! I've got a great guest post today as part of the blog tour for Patty Friedmann's YA novel, Taken Away. Patty's guest post is particularly interesting to me now as we did have a bit of a tropical storm while I was on holiday last week - to any Floridians I'm sure it was nothing but it did start to get a bit intense (for me, at least) and it made me wonder how I'd manage living in a community where hurricanes are so commonplace.

I'm really intrigued by the sound of Taken Away and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy so I can check out Sumbie's story. Anyway, I'll hand you over to Patty, without further ado:


Here I am in New Orleans, having woken up all night looking at the clock to see if the lighted digits are still red. That would mean I still have electricity. Yes, it's storm season, and I know it very well. I didn't evacuate for Katrina. That makes me highly qualified for two things. One, for being casual about Tropical Storm Lee. And two, for writing the YA novel TAKEN AWAY.

TAKEN AWAY is the story of Sumbie Elmwood, whose hippie-dippie parents would never leave for a hurricane. They also have a very good reason for not evacuating for Katrina. Her little sister Amalia is having open-heart surgery a few days before the storm is supposed to strike. Sumbie thinks this is a bad idea. No one ever listens to Sumbie.

The novel spirals into both a mystery and a romance of sorts when Amalia disappears in the hospital in the aftermath of Katrina, and Sumbie is suspected by her parents as having something to do with it. Two boys from her high school find her in the diaspora of New Orleans across the southern scape--and they become contenders for her affection while they help her look for her sister. But this is a more personal book for me than simple genre fiction.

Six years after Katrina, I still have post-traumatic stress disorder. I'd venture to say that most people who lived in New Orleans on August 29, 2005, have a lot of leftover emotional baggage in some degree. It's not as if this city is an open-air mental asylum. We're just a little twitchy. I don't keep food in my freezer. I get upset when the electricity goes out. I won't go into how I interact with other people, but I will say that I live alone.

And that's why TAKEN AWAY is so personal. Sumbie is trapped with her parents at her snobbish aunt's house in Houston. It's an artificial living situation--just like 99 percent of living situations that New Orleanians found themselves in after the storm. All kinds of little struggles emerged, many very funny to the reader. How could her father, who's a laid-back artist, have grown up with her aunt, who's a money-grubbing oil divorcee? Sumbie learns a lot about boys, yes, but she also learns a lot about where she fits into her own family.

I can't escape hurricane season. But I did what a writer does with any demon. I worked it through in fiction. My particular way of working through in fiction is with a comic edge. No matter what happens, New Orleans is a funny city. I want to share that with my readers. It makes me feel a lot better.


About Patty:

Patty Friedmann’s two latest books are a YA novel called Taken Away [TSP 2010] and a literary e-novel titled Too Jewish [booksBnimble 2010]. She also is the author of six darkly comic literary novels set in New Orleans: The Exact Image of Mother [Viking Penguin 1991]; Eleanor Rushing [1998], Odds [2000], Secondhand Smoke [2002], Side Effects [2006], and A Little Bit Ruined [2007] [all hardback and paperback from Counterpoint except paper edition of Secondhand Smoke from Berkley Penguin]; as well as the humor book Too Smart to Be Rich [New Chapter Press 1988].

Her novels have been chosen as Discover Great New Writers, Original Voices, and Book Sense 76 selections, and her humor book was syndicated by the New York Times. She has published reviews, essays, and short stories in Publishers Weekly, Newsweek, Oxford American, Speakeasy, Horn Gallery, Short Story, LA LIT, Brightleaf, New Orleans Review, and The Times-Picayune and in anthologies The Great New American Writers Cookbook, Above Ground, Christmas Stories from Louisiana, My New Orleans, New Orleans Noir, and Life in the Wake. Her stage pieces have been part of Native Tongues.

In a special 2009 edition, Oxford American listed Secondhand Smoke with 29 titles that included Gone with the Wind, Deliverance, and A Lesson Before Dying as the greatest Underrated Southern Books. With slight interruptions for education and natural disasters, she always has lived in New Orleans.

You can visit her website at www.pattyfriedmann.com.

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