As a native of New Orleans and a writer of YA Southern Gothic Fiction (is that really a genre?!), I’m so excited to be kicking off #RT2014 here on Paranormal Junkee. My debut novel, The Casquette Girls, takes place in the Vieux Carré, better known as the French Quarter, or as the locals say, the Quarter, so I am extremely excited for my neighborhood to be hosting the convention!
The number one piece of feedback I get on the novel is how people want to visit New Orleans after they finish reading the book. I’ve even had a few people read The Casquette Girls, literally walking around and stopping to read each chapter on location. That’s what gave me the idea for this post… part writing exercise for me and part useful information for you. I’ve interviewed two of my characters about some of their favorite spots in the city. Some of the locales/stories are featured in the novel, and some will be featured in the sequel, my current work-in-progress.
PJ readers, meet Adele & Ren 🙂
Alys: “Thanks for meeting me here at Croissant d’or. It’s festival season, so I can only imagine the line at Café du Monde.”
Ren: “You’ll never get a complaint from me about coming here. Best damn croissants in the city. Knocks on wood “But don’t you go complainin’ about those tourists.”
Alys: “Of course, you’re a tour guide.”
Ren: “The almond are the best.”
Adele: “No way! Raspberry. I love Croissant d’or. It reminds me of being in Europe.”
Alys: “It’s a strange blend. Most of the pastries are French, but since it’s in the old Angelo Brocato’s Ice Cream Shop, it has a distinctly Italian vibe.”
Adele: “Yeah, I always feel like I am inside a macaron when I am here. I love the old tiled entrance ways. The one that says: “Ladies entrance” Laughter. What’s up with that?”
Ren: I don’t think it was anything salacious. Just a separate entrance so the ladyfolk could go and sit while their male escorts went to wait in line to buy gelato. Although, I guess you never really know with Italians. Ren winks at Adele, who turns a slight shade of pink.
Alys: So, Adele, you’ve been on Ren’s ghost tour, right? What’s your favorite part?
Adele: Um… She takes a minute. Seeming a little nervous, like maybe this is a topic of conversation she’d rather avoid. Um… Oh! Julie!
Ren: “Agh! The Legend of the Octoroon Mistress. Very good choice, Mademoiselle.”
Ren: “In the 1850s, when Julie first occupied 732 Royal Street, octoroon described a person who was ⅛ black and ⅞ white. But please, ma cher.” He points to Adele. “You tell the story.”
Adele: “It’s kind of ridiculous for me to tell the story when you’re here, but alright. Legend has it that Julie was an exceedingly beautiful and exotic-lookin’ girl with olive skin and long straight black hair, who lived on Royal Street, just behind the Cathedral. She fell in love with a Frenchman, but of course at the time, inter-racial relationships, (even ⅛) were a huge no-no. Although, out of the public eye, it was very common in the Vieux Carré for Frenchmen to take on multicultural mistresses.
“Because of Julie’s social status, the relationship was forever imbalanced. Despite her being one of the beauties of the Quarter and being madly in love with the Frenchman, she would never be more than just a mistress, kept tucked away to the third floor of the Royal Street townhouse. The seasons turned, and Julie hung on desperately to the idea that they would one day marry. Growing tired of her endless talk of marriage, the Frenchmen came up with a test for Julie to prove her love. That night his friends were coming over to play dice and drink wine. Usually on these nights, Julie was to stay on the top floor, out of sight, while he entertained his guests in the first floor parlor. But on this night, the Frenchman told Julie that if she truly loved him, she would strip off her dress, all of her clothing, in fact, and wait for him on the roof. Only then would he know that she truly loved him.
“The Frenchman thought the prank was so ridiculous, no person would ever entertain such a request, more less fulfill it. But Julie could hardly contain her excitement when her lover left the room to drink and gamble. She stripped her gown and went through the attic window to the roof, exposing all of herself to the damp December air. The Frenchman drank too heavily and passed out in front of the fire in the parlor before the last guest had even left. When the first rays of sunrise came through the crack in the curtains, the Frenchman awoke cold; the embers in the fire had died. He climbed the stairs to his bed chamber seeking the warmth of his mistress. Without even removing his boots, he flopped on the mattress and pulled Julie into a tight embrace. After just a few seconds, his heart rushed into his throat as he realized it was just a pillow that his arms were wrapped around.
“No!” he yelled, tripping out of bed. “She wouldn’t!”
“The Frenchman sprang to the attic window and out onto the roof. But it was too late. A purple-lipped Julie lay curled in the corner, wrapped in nothing but her long hair. Some say she froze to death on that blistering night. Some say she died from a broken heart. A few months later it is said that the Frenchmen sunk into a deep depression because he really did love her deeply, and he also died of a broken heart. Others say that Julie finally got her revenge.”
Ren and I both clapped our hands with enthusiasm.
Alys: “Wow. You are quite the storyteller. I have chills… ”
Adele: “Merci beaucoup, but I can’t take credit. I’ve heard Ren tell the story like 8,000 times since Julie’s ghost lives so close to the café.
Alys: “The old Bottom of the Cup Tea Room, right?”
Ren: “Yup, right next to the Rodrigue Studio: home of the infamous Blue Dog. For decades the psychics at Bottom of the Cup had encounters with Julie: her giggles, her fingernails clicking on their tarot-spread tables. The brush of her skirt. A silhouette in a window. Her reflection in the goldfish pond in the back courtyard. The tea room has since moved just around the corner on Chartres Street, but the apparition of Julie, the jilted lover remains. Oh, and by the way, if you’ve never been there, Bottom of the Cup Tea Room, is not to be missed. A couple of my friends have been reading there since the dawn of time. If you want your cards/tea leaves/palm/or anything else God gave you read, that’s the place to go.”
Alys: “Oh, Agreed! Actually, I was there just yesterday. Otis read my cards. It’s very intimate. Far more romantic than getting your fortune told on the street corner.”
Ren: “Oldest established psychic institution in the country. Maybe the world?”
Adele: “It’s legit.”
Ren: “Oh, you’re a believer, now, ma cher? Pray tell—?”
Adele: “Don’t ask.”
Ren: “Hmmm… curiouser and curiouser.”
Alys: “And Ren, what’s your favorite part of the tour?”
Ren: “Oh, so many stories, that would be like picking my favorite child. Personally, I love the story of the Casquette Girls.”
Adele’s back stiffens.
Ren: “And the story of the Carter brothers is always a people pleaser.”
Adele:Looks down at her raspberry croissant. “Can we save the bloody stories for AFTER breakfast?”
Alys: “To be continued…”
* * *
I’ve never interviewed my characters before, and it was a blast. If you have any questions about New Orleans, feel free to hit me up! Care to frequent any of the previously mentioned locations while you are in town for the RT Convention 2014? Here’s all the info:
Croissant d’or Patisserie: 617 Ursulines Avenue 6:30 am – 3:00 pm
Café du Monde: 800 Decatur Street 24 hours
Bottom of the Cup Tea Room: 327 Chartres Street 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Rodrigue Studio: 730 Royal Street 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Angelo Brocato’s Italian Ice Cream & Desserts: 214 N Carrollton Avenue 10:00 am – 10:30 pm
Alys Arden grew up in the Vieux Carré, cut her teeth on the streets of New York, and has worked all around the world since. She still plans to run away with the circus one day. Her debut novel,The Casquette Girls is available on Amazon. For more of her adventures Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
The Casquette Girls by Alys ArdenPublished by fortheARTofit Publishing on 2013-10-01
Also by this author: The Casquette Girls,
After the Storm of the Century rips apart New Orleans, Adele Le Moyne and her father are among the first to return to the city following the mandatory evacuation. Adele wants nothing more than for life to return to normal, but with the silent city resembling a mold-infested war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal will have to be redefined. The Storm has passed, but as the flood waters recede, the body count continues to rise - Mother Nature couldn't drain the joie de vivre from New Orleans, but someone or something is draining life from its residents. Amidst the mayhem, strange events - too unnatural even for New Orleans - lead Adele to an attic where she accidentally opens a Pandora's box - one that has been sealed for three hundred years. The chaos she unleashes threatens not only her life but everyone she knows. Caught suddenly in a hurricane of eighteenth-century myths and monsters, Adele must quickly untangle a web of magic and follow the threads back to the source. But who can you trust in a city where everyone has a secret, and where keeping them can be a matter of life and death - unless, that is, you're immortal.