Perfectly described as thoughtful and evocative, Toby LeBlanc’s novel Dark Roux is a tale of generational beliefs and the constant conflict that drives a family to the edge of ruin. The war between deeply ingrained ways of life and the need for growth is magnificently displayed throughout the swampy setting. To learn more about the story behind the story, read A Good Book To End The Day’s interview with the author below.
Describe your journey to becoming an author in eight words or less.
Humbling hard work, starting over again and again
Tell us about Dark Roux and the inspiration behind the novel.
Dark Roux is centered on the Mouton family as they are unraveling. Told from each character’s perspective in turn, they recount their experience through the passing of the patriarch. Without him there to hold the family together and make sense of their Cajun culture, they must find their own way to define themselves and become a family again.
I started thinking about this novel after listening to a bit on NPR about a Jewish man in New York writing from inside his culture and wanting to show a more nuanced depiction than what is often seen in literature and movies. Cajun culture is often caricatured in the media. I wanted to write something honest about real Cajun people struggling with what that identity means. I also wanted to challenge some of our (Cajun folks) own ideas of what our identity means to us in hopes of creating conversations about how our identity can evolve.
What do you hope readers take away from your novel?
What I want the most when you read this is to consider your own cultural identity and how it is part of how you exist in the world. Where is it important? Where is it not important to you? I also hope you are transported to Louisiana and spend time with people you have seen and heard of, but may not know much about. While we are the people on the coast that can give you good food and a good time, I hope you get to see the ways we are just like you, as well as the ways we are completely different.
How did you celebrate when you finished your book?
It didn’t ever feel like I was finished with my book. I constantly tweaked and rewrote, even during final edits. Instead, I celebrated by having a release party with some good friends at my house. My 10 year old daughter decided I had not put enough thought into the theme and came up with party colors, book displays, and even signature drinks (she came up with the mocktails, my wife came up with the cocktails). My only regret is I did not make enough jambalaya.
Do you have any other projects in the works at this time?
There are several works on the horizon right now. I’m happy to say that my short story collection Soaked will be published by Cornerstone Press from University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point in the spring of 2024. The stories are set in Louisiana again, but this time fifty years in the future after sea level rise. Each story looks at a different aspect of Louisiana culture (food, music, language, government, etc.) to explore what stays the same and what changes as the southern part of the state becomes inundated. I also have a first draft of a novel set during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In it a Black woman and her white neighbor find themselves relying on each other while surviving the storm and its aftermath. To make it through, she must overcome internalized racism and he must overcome his own overt racism. Lastly, I’ve started a piece set, again, in the future after climate change. It revolves around a woman who wins a lottery to colonize Antarctica. In it I’d like to explore what colonization means when there is no one to oppress, but also what things we must let go of to move forward.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
My publisher asked me this question as well. It’s a difficult question for me because I still feel like I’m aspiring. I read other authors and stand in awe of their work and feel like I still have so far to go. But maybe that would be the advice I’d give. Read incessantly and do the work. Eventually our mentors make their way into our words. Eventually it doesn’t feel like agony to find the words you need to say. At least I’m hoping so.
What does literary success look like to you?
Honestly, I feel like I have already experienced success. What I wanted when I wrote my novel is for someone to read it and say “I see myself” and/or “That totally meant something to me.” Since Dark Roux’s release I’ve had many of these conversations, often with the most unexpected people. The feeling of elation when this happens is all I ever wanted when I sat down to write. Well… that and the feeling of cultural comfort when having those conversations while feeding that person jambalaya.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
Please reach out! As you can see from the above answer I love getting to connect and chat and learn about you! You can find me at: www.tobyleblancauthor.com.
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