I’m on the cusp of finishing the second novel from New Bayou Books. It’s an adventure called All Saints Day of the Dead, and there’s a lot of religious imagery in the book. Also, in a few weeks we’re going to publish an open letter to Louisiana authors in which we challenge writers to join what we hope will be a full throated revolution in new South-Louisiana literature. So this week I thought I’d perhaps begin to condition our burgeoning audience to our mild and, hopefully entertaining brand of blasphemy while at the same time, introducing you to some of the ideas you’ll read about in the open letter.
Here’s the holy trinity of the New Bayou Books platform. Just three simple points. These ideas are the bedrock of the company. I believe in them just as surely as your grandma believes in the father, the son, and the holy ghost. Here goes.
- I want to see more South-Louisiana literature in the marketplace. It still just kind of baffles me that there’s such a dearth of new fiction coming out of Acadiana. I mean, how can that be? A region that produces some of the most amazing food in the world. A region known for world class music, whether you’re talking about the Revelers, or the Lost Bayou Ramblers, or Sonny Landreth or Marc Broussard . . . Cedric Watson. The list goes on and on and on. But it’s not just food and music. Art, humor, crafts, culture of all kinds. South Louisiana is a fertile ground for all manner of human creation. So, why is it that the only new works of fiction I can find on Amazon are cheezy bayou-romance novels?
For me, the simple fact is, I want to read contemporary books set in South-Louisiana because I love the region and all its complexity. But as it stands now, the kinds of books that I want to read—the ones that present interesting stories in the context of the culture without making a parody of the culture—well, they just don’t exist. At least as far as I can tell. If there are modern works of fiction out there set in South Louisiana that I’m somehow missing, please let me know, because I’ve looked, and I can’t find them.
- I believe the world wants to read modern South-Louisiana based fiction. Like every theory I have, this one is based on a small but reliable base of information and a whole lot of intuition. Like I said in platform principle number one, if there’s new books coming out of South-Louisiana, I certainly can’t find them. And I’ve looked. My thinking is, if I want to read some new South-Louisiana fiction, there are probably other folks out there who want the same thing. After all, Louisiana is an intriguing place.
I have been moving around the world for the last twenty years, and everytime I meet someone new and they find out where I’m from, they pepper me with questions about Louisiana. Hell, to be honest, I learned to make gumbo when I lived in Germany! And the reason for it is simple: because people kept asking me to cook for them and I was too embarrassed to admit that I was the worst kind of half-assed Cajun. That’s maybe a strange way to illustrate the point, but I can assure you, the underlying principle is sound. The fact is, people all over the world are intrigued by South Louisiana. And it’s not just the food and the music they want to experience. Every aspect of the culture has a potential role to play in the modern age of commerce. Which leads to the last point.
- Together, we can build a strong market for modern, commercial Louisiana literature. A few weeks ago we started an Instagram account for New Bayou Books, and since then I’ve been having a great time observing and re-learning the flavor of the people, groups, and businesses around Lafayette. And I’ve been impressed with the creativity and the zeal of the folks I see there. I see it every day, whether it’s a business putting something new and inspired on their menu, or a craftsman building something by hand, or some new startup like me making connections and engaging with the community. It’s cliche to talk about the joie de vivre of South Louisiana residents . . . except that it happens to be true, and I’ve noticed how that same quality translates to the way people approach their businesses too.
That same sense of creativity and celebration can and should apply to the literature. And the thing is, a book can travel around the world and back in an afternoon. Only so many folks can enjoy a coffee at Rêve or go check out Cedric Watson this week at the Blue Moon Saloon. But all those people around the world I mentioned? The ones who love South-Louisiana and wish they were there right now? They’d buy that new novel set in Lafayette in a heartbeat, if we gave them a chance to.
So that’s it in a nutshell. That’s why I started New Bayou Books. Because I want to see new stories from South Louisiana, and I’m convinced people around the world will buy the books. Later this year I will put out two of my own titles. Sadly, these two modest little works of fiction will represent a big percentage of Louisiana-focused fiction that comes out this year. They will represent the best I can do . . . but they will certainly not represent the best the region has to offer. I think the best fiction Acadiana has to offer is still hiding out on a hard drive somewhere. Let’s just hope it gets out into the world sooner or later . . .