In today's debut spotlight it's my pleasure to introduce you to American author Hester Young whose debut novel The Gates of Evangeline is published here in the UK this Thursday.
Hester Young holds a Master’s degree in English with a Creative Writing concentration from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Before turning to writing full time, she worked as a teacher in Arizona and New Hampshire. She lives with her husband and two children in New Jersey.
All families have their secrets, their tragedies, their stories. When I began writing The Gates of Evangeline, I turned to a family story that had always haunted me with its sad and eerie beauty.
In 1956, my grandmother began to have a recurring nightmare about her four-year-old son Bobby, a child whose cognitive functions had been impaired since birth by hydrocephalus. In the dream, she’d spot Bobby through a window, falling from the floor above. When she hurried outside to him, she found only a smashed melon in his place.
One day, troubled for weeks by this dream, my grandmother left Bobby with her parents. A window was left open; somehow, Bobby fell out. At the hospital, she learned that Bobby had not survived. His head was “crushed like a melon” from the fall, the doctor said.
After Bobby's death, my grandmother never had the nightmare again. One night, however, she woke up and saw Bobby standing at the foot of her bed. Because of his mental handicap, he had never spoken in life, but at that moment she heard his voice for the first time. “It’s all right, Mommy,” he told her. “I’m okay.” She was filled with a sense of peace and went back to sleep.
My grandmother was a formidable woman, not at all the type to tell ghost stories, which made her account all the more powerful to me. With her in mind, I created the character of Charlie Cates, a grieving mother who has dark premonitions about children. Although Charlie’s adventures in the swamplands of the American South are very much her own, I like to think my grandmother’s independent, fighting spirit lives on through her.
You can read an excerpt of The Gates of Evangeline here.
When grieving mother and New York journalist Charlie Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children after her only son passes away, she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet she soon realizes these are not the hallucinations of a bereaved mother. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees―if she can make sense of them.
The disturbing images lead her from her home in suburban New York City to small-town Louisiana, where she takes a commission to write a true-crime book based on the case of Gabriel Deveau, the young heir to a wealthy and infamous Southern family, whose kidnapping thirty years ago has never been solved. There she meets the Deveau family, none of whom are telling the full truth about the night Gabriel disappeared. And as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust―and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could have imagined.