An interview with Dark and Shallow Lies author Ginny Myers Sain.
One of our summer reads, Dark and Shallow Lies had its release date pushed from August 31 to September 7. Author Ginny Myers Sain calls this a “cool coincidence,” because September 7 is the New Moon. Astrology and numerology play a big part in Sain’s debut novel set in the self-proclaimed “Psychic Capital of the World.”
Sain’s setting of La Cachette, Louisiana, is so deep in the bayou that it’s literally at the end of the earth. People from the mainland of New Orleans travel here by boat to have their fortunes told, their palms read or to just pick up a souvenir from the Mystic Rose shop.
Seventeen-year-old Grey returns to La Cachette for the summer to help her grandmother in the shop and try to find out what happened to her best friend Elora, who disappeared six months earlier. Grey can’t believe that nobody in a town of psychics knows what happened, but La Cachette’s 106 living souls have their secrets to protect.
Grey is also one of the “Summer Children,” an exclusive group of 10 born to eight different families one summer. Each of the Summer Children has a special gift, whether it be the ability to be in two places at once, experience others’ emotions as their own or hear messages from beyond the physical world.
We talked to Sain by phone from her home in Oklahoma to find out more about her inspiration for the setting of La Cachette, how she developed her characters’ psychic gifts and how’s she’s preparing for the coming of the darker half of the year.
Erin Z. Bass: Where did your inspiration for La Cachette, the Psychic Capital of the World, come from? You’ve said part of it comes from Cassadaga, Florida, but what about the other part?
Ginny Myers Sain: La Cachette is based on two real places. I stumbled across Cassadaga with my son on a road trip and thought ‘How do you keep secret in a town full of psychics?’ For the geographic location, I needed someplace harder to get in and out of than Cassadaga, which is right on Interstate 4. Pilot Town was wiped out after Katrina. It was a tiny community way down at the bottom of the Mississippi, as far south as you can get. It was accessible only by boat, an island with the bayou on one side and the river on the other. A place where riverboat pilots lived. Pilots that captained boats out in the gulf were not equipped to pilot them up the river so they would stop at Pilot Town to pick up a river captain. There was an elevated boardwalk right at the edge of the river and no way in or out but by boat.
I had seen what was left of it at the time from the river. It once had a school and was a thriving community back in its heyday. Plaquemines Parish is also mentioned several times in the book, and Kinter is based on Venice, Louisiana.
EZB: You wrote in a recent guest post that even though you grew up in Oklahoma, “it’s the landscape of the swamps and bayous that is truly the landscape of my heart.” How often do you visit Louisiana and did you spend time on location writing the book?
GMS: Yes, I fell just head over heels. I get down to Louisiana at least a couple of times a year. I have family in New Orleans, so we went in June. On that trip, I was able to go back down to Venice and take some pictures and drive around. I hadn’t been down there since the book was written.
EZB: So, you wrote mainly from your memories and imagination?
GMS: Writers are blessed with that special kind of memory. We call it ‘sense memory’ in the theater, the way it smells, how the air feels …
EZB: You have a theater background, and I felt like I could picture La Cachette and the boardwalk while I was reading. Did you sketch out the location or create a map or anything like that?
GMS: When I write a scene, I tend to visually see it in my head, so I’m literally watching it unfold the way it would unfold on stage. I’m conscious of being a director—what would I want this character to do in this moment? I can see it visually as I’m writing. I’m also aware of lighting and sound and set and costume.
Pilot Town is about 30 miles downriver from where Venice is. A guide pointed it out to me on a fishing trip, so I sketched out a rough map when I started writing.
EZB: You mention in your website bio that some of your writing inspiration comes from Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, Lois Duncan, and Stephen King. What did you love about them?
GMS: I always loved dark, creepy stories from the time I was a little kid. I remember going and looking for books in the library and at covers for anything that had a ghost on it. I read those kinds of stories early on. I had a ridiculously happy, pretty much perfect childhood so that darkness didn’t come from anything actual in my life.
EZB: Your book’s characters reminded me of Charlaine Harris’s “True Blood” series. How did you choose each of their “gifts?”
GMS: I’ve been told that but have not seen or read it. “True Blood” has been on my Netflix queue for years. That whole world, the psychic ability stuff, was not anything I knew about at all. I’m fascinated by the whole idea of that, but I’m kind of a skeptic. I did a lot of research into it.
I knew I wanted there to be 10 of them [the Summer Children] because of the significant tie-in with numerology. Hart is the one that came to me first. I envisioned this scene with him and didn’t know who he was at the time. The other ones came as I did research into different psychic abilities. I loved the idea of a psychic artist.
EZB: You’ve had people throw you themed parties, create mood boards, tarot cards and a map for this book. How much fun has preparing for the release been?
GMS: It has been the most surreal experience of my life: amazing, bizarre and wonderful. A whirlwind sort of thing. The book sold last October, so 10 months In publishing terms is unheard of. A lot of times it takes two-three years. It’s been a super-fast, intense experience.
EZB: September 7 is the New Moon. Is it a coincidence that your release date got moved to that day?
GMS: It’s a cool coincidence. We had pandemic-related supply issues with paper.
EZB: What are you looking forward to most as the days get longer and darker?
GMS: We love Halloween in this house. We are all obsessed. My 18-year-old son does a huge elaborate haunted house in the garage every year. He has a theme every year. It’s a big deal around here. That’s our next big project. I usually try to get down to New Orleans sometime in October too.
EZB: Is there anything else you want readers to know?
GMS: I’m alligator obsessed. Not because of the book, but I have been since my freshmen year of college when I saw my first one. We don’t have any in Oklahoma. I have alligators all over my house, and we go down to the Everglades every year.
Celebrate the release of Dark and Shallow Lies with both virtual and live events here.