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Monday, Feb. 16, 2015

STORM OF FEELINGS

Blanchard native authors love tale during Hurricane Betsy

Let me tell you a story about two people in Louisiana in 1965 who fell in love when everyone around them told them they shouldn’t. And how it changed everything.”

That’s how local author C. H. Lawler introduces readers to his debut novel, “The Saints of Lost Things.”

Lawler, a Blanchard native who now works as a physician in Baton Rouge, set his new book in his home state with deadly Hurricane Betsy as a backdrop, mirroring the danger that the star-crossed lovers in this story face.

“The idea for ‘The Saints of Lost Things’ began as a passing thought, what if Romeo and Juliet were to have occurred in Louisiana, say, in the sixties?” Lawler said.

“The storyline is fictitious, but the characters are vaguely based on people I’ve known in the past. I was 3 when Hurricane Betsy hit. We were living in Bay St. Louis, Miss., where my daddy was working on the Stennis Space Center. We moved back to Shreveport before the storm hit.” 

Interestingly, it was a change at Lawler’s medical practice that prompted his foray into writing. 

“Around three years ago, we changed over to an electronic medical record. So, to practice my typing, I wrote the beginning of the story, where Betsy shoots the water moccasin on the front porch,” Lawler said. “I let it sit for a year or so, and then the rest of the plot formed up, and then it was just a matter of trimming out the story.”

Lawler enjoyed the “typing exercise” so much that he continued on, developing a writing routine and then starting on research for this story now gestating in his mind. “I write first thing in the morning for about half an hour, and then longer when I’m on call and waiting on babies to be born. I don’t watch much television,” Lawler said. “I have to say I never got writer’s block, not one time. I tried to follow [William] Faulkner’s advice to ‘quit when you’re hot,’ in other words, stop when you have a little bit left in you to write.”

“The Saints of Lost Things” is set in a specific moment in Louisiana history, and Lawler wanted to capture that moment as best he could. “The research was done mostly, though not all, through the Internet,” Lawler said.

However, Lawler also employed one more unique research tool. “For a glimpse into Oxford in the 1960s, and this may sound odd, I found the oldest Ole Miss fan I could at halftime of the LSU-Ole Miss football game this year and asked him, ‘Excuse me, what can you tell me about Oxford back then?’ He introduced me to his seat mates in Tiger Stadium, and we chatted the whole halftime. They were very gracious.”

For Lawler, writing the novel was not the end of the process; he wanted to get it into the hands of readers.

“Once I finished the manuscript, I gave it to my mother-in-law to read, and she loved it. I kept passing it by other friends and family, and finally found an editor in Katie Schellack, who used to teach creative writing at the University of North Carolina. She pointed out several points and really made the story bloom,” Lawler said. “Then I decided to selfpublish through CreateSpace, and Amazon company. It wasn’t bad at all.”

Lawler is happy and encouraged that readers are embracing his story. “The reaction so far has exceeded my expectations.

We’ve had a book-signing in Baton Rouge, with plans for another, and a nice review by the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate,” Lawler said. “The reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and the Barnes & Nobles website have been very good. I’d love to have a book-signing in Shreveport.”

Lawler appreciates the freedom that comes with creative writing. “My experiences with writing have been for my practice, very ‘buttoned down,’ so it’s been nice to stretch my legs and use run on sentences, fragments, and so on, for effect,” Lawler said.“I try to focus on the five senses. I’m an avid reader, and that’s the best advice I can give anyone: read, read, read. Take notice of the beauty of a turn of a phrase, a word used in a strange and meaningful way, things like that.”

Readers can expect much more to come from Lawler.

“I’ve already started another book, and it’ll be set in Shreveport in the 1930s. I think there will always be another book,” he said.

ON STANDS NOW!

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