Sunday, August 30, 2015

Aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina: Aftermath Lounge


 AFTERMATH LOUNGE is a compelling tribute to the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Resurrecting the place and its people alongside their heartaches and triumphs, Margaret McMullan creates a riveting mosaic that feeds our wish to understand what it means to be alive in this day and age.


The devastation and heartbreak caused by Hurricane Katrina are in the past, but the people affected by the tragic events are still living with the aftermath. The Zimmer's house was gutted by the storm. They were forced to move in with their daughter and her son, Teddy, in Chicago. The hurricane changed their lives, but being forced to live together changed them even more.

The Zimmers are only one of the families whose stories are told in this collection of short stories. However, their's is the thread that holds the collection together. It's a story of bravery, and growing, and giving in. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting this family.

The collection of stories captures the triumphs and tragedies that resulted from this terrible event. The author does an excellent job of making the people come alive. Although I'm not familiar with the Gulf Coast. I felt that I came to know the area and the people.

I usually prefer novels to short stories, but the combination of short stories with a continuing set of characters made the book very satisfying. I think the vignettes showing how lives were affected at various positions on the socio-economic spectrum was a very effective way to bring the story of what happened to people after Katrina to life.

I highly recommend this book. If you're a survivor of the hurricane, it's a must read. If you love well done glimpses of people's lives, you'll enjoy this book.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book.

Author Q & A:

  1.Aftermath Lounge honors the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Can you tell us about your experience during those days when the storm hit?

Shortly after the storm hit, my husband and I drove down from Evansville, Indiana to Pass Christian, Mississippi. We saw aerial footage of the town and we could see that the roof on my parents’ house was mostly intact – that’s all we could see. We brought water and a lot of supplies to donate. There was a gas shortage then, and limited cell phone coverage. The closer we came to the town, the more it became like a war zone. The National Guard was there to keep people away, but we got through, thanks to a relative.

The night before we left, my mother told us to forget about everything else -- all she really wanted was the painting of her mother, which had been smuggled out of Vienna during WWII. We had house keys but there were no doors. When we got there, the house was gutted – the storm surge had essentially ripped through the house.

We put on rubber gloves and spent the day sifting through the debris, dragging out any salvageable pieces of furniture. The water had shoved through the closed shutters, plowed up under the foundation and tore open the back walls, bashing around the furniture, sinks, toilets, stoves, washers, driers.

We never did find the painting.

Elizabeth Bishop wrote a wonderful villanelle called “One Art.” She wrote about losing small items like keys and an hour badly spent, then she progresses to the greater losses -- her mother’s watch, a house, cities, rivers, a continent, and finally, a loved one. “The art of losing isn’t hard to master,” she starts. “So many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster.” I thought of that poem a lot.

2.Your family played a key role, helping Pass Christian rebuild. What were a few moments that influenced you during that time?

We saw so many people from all walks of life and they were suddenly homeless. My father organized financial donations. There were no fire trucks left after the storm, so he made sure Pass Christian got a fire truck. We were always big supporters of the library too. The Pass Christian Policemen had stayed during the storm to make sure everyone was safe. They had tried to stay safe in the library, but then when the water rose, they had to shoot out the windows to swim away to safety. I used that information in the title story of Aftermath Lounge. These men were real heroes.   

3.Did you know from the moment the storm hit that someday you would write a novel about it? Or did a later experience give you the idea? If so, what was it?

At first I just witnessed. I think that’s what writers do mostly. We witness. Then the material lets us know what it wants to become. I just took notes. Later stories started taking shape and they were all in different voices. It was the only way I could work at this material.

4.Part of your inspiration for the novel came from your family's beautiful mansion. How did your own experiences in that house shape each of the stories you wrote?

Well, it’s hardly a mansion, but I was surprised to discover just how much a house could mean. Everyone always says it’s just stuff, but there were so many collective memories there. When we stood and looked at everything so undone, it felt like our times spent there were gone too.

Katrina had such a huge impact on the coast, on my family, and on me. I am always telling my students to write what they most care about, to write what keeps them up at night. I had to write about Katrina. I had written about the Civil War, Reconstruction and WWII, so I saw Katrina as an historical event. I treated the hurricane more as setting. It’s in the background. The human drama is in the forefront. I’m always interested in what people do or don't do in the face of real catastrophe. I didn’t want to write from one point of view either. I wanted to give voice to a variety of people because Katrina affected everyone.

5.What was your writing process like for this novel? Did you know from the start it would be a novel in stories? Or did that become apparent only after you began writing?

There were so many news stories coming out at the time. I write nonfiction, but I couldn’t get my thoughts together. I couldn’t make sense of anything. Out of habit, I took a lot of notes. I could only deal with writing about all that was happening a little bit at a time. And my own personal story just wasn’t that interesting.

I personally witnessed and experienced the best in human nature. People and communities came together and helped one another in the most meaningful way. They endured with a great deal of kindness and grace. So I chipped away at the material. I wanted to tell a community’s story. 

About the Author:

Margaret McMullan is the author of seven award-winning novels including In My Mother's House, Aftermath Lounge, Sources of Light, When I Crossed No-Bob, and How I Found the Strong. She also edited the popular anthology Every Father's Daughter. Margaret writes for both adults and young adults, and she is especially interested in how historical events affect ordinary people. Her work has appeared in the The Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Glamour, The Millions, Southern Accents, TriQuarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Greensboro Review, Mississippi Magazine, Other Voices, Boulevard, Ploughshares, Teachers & Writers Magazine, and The Sun among others. 

Media Contact: Stephanie Ridge,


Thursday, August 27, 2015

MeetTracy Lawson and her Dystopian Novels


In Book 1 of the Resistance Trilogy, Tommy and Careen, college students, meet when a drug to help protect the population from terrorism is passed out. The drug is not what it seems and Tommy and Careen band together to fight the web of lies that is causing the population to become unable to do anything but what the government decrees.

In Book 2, Resist, Tommy and Careen are on the run. They've joined the resistance. Their goal is to rescue a group of dissenters that includes Tommy's parents. As they pursue this goal, they meet other people who think as they do and some who are deceptive. Their relationship is tested when they find they can't agree about everything, but they continue to work through their issues and help the other freedom fighters.

This is a fast paced dystopian thriller. The action begins in the first chapter and continues at a relentless pace throughout the book. Although Tommy and Careen are the main characters, other characters, including those behind the evil, have chapters written in their point of view. This provides a vehicle for giving information about what is happening in the enemy camp, things Tommy and Careen can't know.

I enjoyed the book. The characters are likable and the plot has numerous twists. If you enjoy dystopian novels, you may find this trilogy appealing.

I reviewed this book for PR by the Book. 

Author Q&A:

What was the inspiration behind The Resistance Series?

I was mentoring a friend of my daughter’s when the initial idea for Counteract came about. Chase is a pretty sharp guy and an excellent writer—and when he was in high school I had a lot of fun working with him and editing some of his short stories. We had finished working on a story about baseball, a broken nose, and a broken heart, and were ready to start something new, when he suggested we write scenes in response to the prompt: “What if everyone were on LSD and all thoughts were communal?” It was certainly thought provoking! Chase created the characters Tommy and Eduardo, I created Careen, and right away, we knew we were onto something. Obviously, the story morphed and changed a lot before it became the finished version of Counteract—but that was how it all began.

Did you always plan to write another book in the series?

I let my husband read the first draft of Counteract when I was about a third of the way through the original outline. He was enthusiastic and supportive and suggested developing a story line that could be carried forward if I chose to make Counteract the first in a series.

I liked the idea of doing more than one book about Tommy and Careen, and as I wrote the rest of the first draft, I pinpointed elements of the story I’d need to develop and expand to pave the way for a series.

 How do the characters of Tommy and Careen develop in Resist?
Tommy and Careen are law-abiding citizens until they accidentally discover that the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense lied about the terrorist attack and why it mandated the use of the Counteractive System of Defense drug. They go from being accepting and compliant to impulsively joining a rebel group that’s working to overthrow the oppressive government agency, without having a chance to think about what they’re doing and why.
They’ve only known each other for a week, and their relationship has progressed far too quickly—they became a team, then a couple, without really getting to know each other, and soon they realize they don’t have much in common.
Tommy’s all for the physical aspects of revolution, and is eager to learn about guns and explosives. Careen finds kindred spirits among the older leaders of the group, who are committed to sway the public’s allegiance away from the OCSD by waging a war of information. Her pacifistic approach clashes with his need to prove himself on the field of battle, and further complicates their partnership.

 Where we can find your book and more information about you?
My books are available on in paperback and Kindle, and on Barnes & Noble’s online store. If you live near Columbus, Ohio, you can buy signed copies of my books at three independent stores: The Book Loft of German Village, Mary B’s, and Urban Emporium.

You can get the behind-the-scenes scoop on all things Resistance Series, see book trailers, and check out my blog at You can also find me on Twitter @TracySLawson and on Instagram as TracyLawsonAuthor.

About the Author:

Tracy Lawson is an Award-winning author of two nonfiction books, and The Resistance Series is her first in the world of young adult novels. Tracy lives in Dallas with her husband, daughter and three spoiled cats.

Media Contact: Alessandra Wike, alesandra@prbythe book. com