Saturday, June 25, 2016

Louisiana's Farrah Rochon returns to Maplesville in latest romance, 'Any Time You Need Me'

            Farrah Rochon’s latest “Moment in Maplesville” novel, “Any Time you Need Me,” has just been released. Rochon is a USA Today bestselling author with several series under her belt. “I'll Catch You,” the second book in her New York Sabers series for Harlequin Kimani, was a 2012 RITA Award finalist from Romance Writers of America. “Yours Forever,” the third book in the “Bayou Dreams” series, was a 2015 RITA finalist. Farrah has been nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and in 2015 received the Emma Award for Author of the Year.
We caught up with the Louisiana native and posed some questions.
Q: Tell us about Maplesville and the people who live there.
A: Maplesville is a fictional town set around the Bogalusa area. It’s your typical bayou town with a small, tight-knit community that loves to cheer for their Maplesville Mustangs football team on Friday nights. Like most small towns, they also come together to help fellow residents when in need. And, because I write romance novels, it’s often filled with fun, sexy shenanigans. 
            Q: Is Maplesville based upon your hometown in St. Charles Parish?
A: Actually, it’s the neighboring fictional town of Gauthier that most closely mirrors my small hometown. Gauthier is featured in my “Bayou Dreams” series for Harlequin’s Kimani Romance imprint, and is in somewhat of a competition with Maplesville throughout most of the series. Maplesville experiences a growth spurt when a new outlet mall comes to town, threatening the mom and pop shops in the smaller Gauthier. It reminds me of what happened when the town of Boutte got its own Walmart. The locally owned family businesses in my small hometown suffered because of it. 
Q: Do you incorporate Louisiana into many of your books? 
A: My two small-town romance series, “Bayou Dreams” and “Moments In Maplesville” are both set in Louisiana, so it’s imperative that I incorporate the sights, sounds and flavors of the state in those stories. And I love it. Readers will always find at least one or two scenes that revolve around tasty Louisiana cooking. I also love to take my characters out of the small town and drop them in the heart of New Orleans. It’s such a romantic city, with ample settings for scenes that are uniquely Louisiana. It’s a fabulous way to showcase this wonderful state to readers around the country and the world. 
Q: How did you get started in writing? 
A: As cliché as it sounds, I’ve been writing all my life. I have floppy disks —the old five-inch ones that actually flop — with books I wrote back in the fifth grade. However, I didn’t get serious about writing until college, when a professor at Xavier University read an essay I wrote about my fear of public speaking. I can still remember her penciled-in remarks about how my vivid words sent chills down her spine. It wasn’t until after I finished graduate school that I recognized that romance was the genre that most called to me. I started writing with the hopes of making it my career two weeks after earning my degree. 
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do when not writing?
A: Reading is, of course, at the top of my list. I don’t know a writer who doesn’t love to read. I also love to travel, both domestically and internationally. This past April I visited Thailand for the first time and completely fell in love with it. When I’m not traveling to another country you can usually find me at Disney World. My family and I travel there multiple times each year. I’m also a huge theater nerd. I travel to New York at least twice a year to see shows. Like the rest of the country, I’m currently obsessed with “Hamilton: An American Musical.”

New finds
            Michelle Hirstius wrote me recently to let me know about her series of children’s book titled “Juju the GOOD Voodoo.” Juju is a voodoo doll that comes alive with a “good deed” spell so she can spread goodness and show children how to do good deeds. The books are available at 35 boutiques and Voodoo BBQ & Grill restaurants from Florida to Louisiana. Hirstius is a New Orleans native with a background in sales, marketing, acting and management. She both writes and illustrates the books.
            Private Eye Jackson Holt makes a living investigating underground supernatural creatures of New Orleans in Moira Rogers’ “Crux,” the first book in the “Southern Arcana” series.
Claudette Carrida Jeffrey has recently published “The Color of Life,” which is the second book in the four-book “Claire Soublet Series.” The book follows Soublet's great-aunt Sera as a dressmaker in the French Quarter of the early 1900s, a woman of color hiding behind blue eyes and blond hair.
Playing around on Ancestry.com, I realized I’m related to the famous Dureaus of New Orleans, the painter George Dureau and opera singer, teacher and author Lorraine Dureau who wrote under the name Lorena Dureau. The latter wrote the historical novels “The Last Casquette Girl,” “Iron Lace” and “Beloved Outcast.”

Southern bookstores
            It’s a beauty parlor, bookstore and host of one of the most popular — and fun — writer events in the country. Beauty & the Book in Jefferson, Texas, offers local and regional books in addition to beauty books, children’s books and other titles. Its owner, Kathy Patrick, is author of “The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life" and she hosts the Pulpwood Queen Book Club Convention, otherwise known as Girlfriend Weekend, every Martin Luther King weekend. The theme for 2017’s event (Jan. 14-17) in Nacogdoches, Texas, is “Once Upon a Time.” For more information on the store and the event, or to become a Pulpwood Queen member, visit http://beautyandthebook.com/.

Jim Pharis
Book events
The Bayou Writers Group meets at 10 a.m. the first Saturday of each month at the Carnegie Memorial Library in Lake Charles. For information, visit http://bayouwritersgroup.com/.
The Festival of Words Cultural Arts Collective hosts an evening of music by Jim Pharis and an open mic of music and other creative works beginning at 7 p.m.  Wednesday, June 29, at Chicory’s Coffee & Café in Grand Coteau. Participants may bring their own songs, poems or stories for the open mic. This free, community event is suitable for all ages. For more information, call (337) 280-5517 or email festivalwords@gmail.com.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.