Interview in the SHREVEPORT TIMES
Local poet releases award-winning novel
Judy Christie 2:46 p.m. CDT August 17, 2016
(Photo: Courtesy photo)
Ashley Mace Havird has been known to area word-lovers for years as an award-winning poet.
But on September 1, she’ll lead readers into a new genre with the release of her debut novel, “Lightningstruck,” which is gaining national praise.
The novel, about an 11-year-old girl and a horse who survives a lightning strike, is a combination coming-of-age and Civil Rights story and was named winner of the 2015 Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction by Mercer University Press.
The novel, judges said, “is a compelling, wonderfully textured--rich sense of place and people--story of 11-year-old Etta’s 12th year in rural South Carolina.”
For Havird, the honor and release of her novel was a long process. “I spent several years fumbling, going back and forth between memoir and novel,” she said.
Her stature as a published poet became part of her novel-writing journey. “I was working hard on poetry, at the expense of the novel, for at least 10 years,” she said. “And frankly, I am a plodder. I write slowly and revise extensively…and during the process of this first novel, I made a number of wrong turns, had to go back and start again.”
She wanted to write a long piece set in the landscape of her childhood with characters based on people she knew. “The tension that permeated those times, the years of the Civil Rights era, my upbringing on a tobacco farm—tobacco--among imperfect people that I loved—well, I wanted to recreate this world somehow, and with honesty,” she said.
Havird settled on the novel format with an 11-year-old central character.
“Then, slowly the book came into being: a story involving a girl and a mysterious horse and a treasure hunt set on a tobacco farm and in the context of the social upheavals of the times.… And, as we all know, the treasure you seek is not always the treasure you find,” she said.
“Racism is a major theme, issues having to do with prejudice and tolerance, equality and fairness, culture and diversity,” she said. “The overarching theme has to do with Etta’s finding her place in history.”
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Havird’s desire is that readers of all ages will respond to Etta’s story and her relationship with the horse. “But also I hope the book will inspire dialogue about social issues that clearly have not yet, 50 years later, been resolved. There is still so much tension when it comes to race and other differences, tension resulting in violence.”
Writing poetry versus a novel
Havird found writing the two genres to be far different.
“So far as the writing goes, I find that I use my brain differently when composing poems,” she said. “As a lyric poet, I try to capture a moment, a scene, that perhaps contains a story or hints of a story, in much the same way that a documentary photograph implies a story. Writing a novel is more like painting a mural, one that extends for several blocks or longer.”
Book signings and talks scheduled
Havird will sign books at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Shreveport, 5 to 7 p.m. September 9. She will give books talks and sign at the Broadmoor branch of Shreve Memorial Library, 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 3; and 5:30 p.m. December 1 at Meadows Museum at Centenary College. The novel will be available in soft cover and digital formats.
For more information, see www.ashleymacehavird.com.
She is working on a “completely different” novel set in the future rather than the past. “Surely I have learned enough about the process to speed it up a bit,” she said. “And I hope to complete another book of poems, which seems to be centering itself around animals.”
A review of “Lightningstruck” by Robert Pincus, former Los Angeles Times and San Diego Tribune critic, can be found here.
Columnist Judy Christie has written nine novels, including “Wreath, A Girl” and “Wreath, In Summer.” For more information on Christie and a free short guide to writing your own story, see www.judychristie.com.