A Quickie with Vanessa Lafaye

Tell me about your latest book and why we should read it?

‘At First Light’ is both an epic love story and an unsolved murder, based on true events from Key West, Florida in 1919.  It starts in 1993 with the murder of a elderly Ku Klux Klan official in public.  The perpetrator is a 96 year-old Cuban woman, who won’t speak except to admit her guilt.  To find out why she did it, we have to go back to 1919, when exiled mixed-race Alicia Cortez arrives from Havana to start a new life, supposedly running a tea room.  Nothing is as she expected, including damaged war hero John Morales.  Watching them both is young Dwayne Campbell (from ‘Summertime’), star-struck by both but under the spell of his Klan officer father.  When Alicia and John’s romance comes to the Klan’s attention, it sets of a cycle of violence which changes all their lives.  It’s a companion story to ‘Summertime’, but you can read the books in any order.

If someone was to write your life story what would the title be?  

Never Give Up

What’s the strangest fan question or request you’ve received?

Not from a fan, but from a TV studio in the US.  As part of my book tour there, I had to make a key lime pie and a cocktail on live breakfast TV, all in 6 minutes, while talking about the book.  I was ‘assisted’ by a presenter who had no idea how to cook!  Somehow it came together, but I’m not sure that the message about the book came across.

If you could co-write with anyone in the world (alive or dead) who would it be?

Carl Hiassen.  We’d have some wonderful discussions, and be laughing all the time.

Tell me something nobody else knows about you (yet!).

I was a junior high school cheerleading champion, which explains a lot of my behaviour today.

Finally please recommend 3 books that you have recently read and tell me why you’ve chosen these.

‘One Little Mistake’ Emma Curtis – not my usual genre, but this thriller is so well-crafted and beautifully written.  A writer to watch.

‘The Hiding Places’ Katherine Webb – incredibly evocative historical fiction set around a terrible crime in a Wiltshire mill village, with an unexpected twist.

‘The Lupo Stick’ Valerie Blumenthal – very touching family saga with a sensuous Italian setting, a totally immersive read

Who is Vanessa Lafaye?  Vanessa Lafaye was born in Tallahassee and raised in Tampa, Florida, where there were hurricanes most years. She first came to the UK in 1987 looking for adventure, and found it. After spells of living in Paris and Oxford, she now lives in Marlborough, Wiltshire, with her husband and three furry children. Vanessa leads the local community choir, and music and writing are big parts of her life.

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