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If I Could Turn Back Time

Few authors know where to expect inspiration, but that’s only part of the excitement of our profession. So is venturing into unknown territory. Despite being a fan of George Orwell’s The Time Machine, Jack Finney’s Time and Again and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, I never considered writing time travel because the market was lopsided with poorly written, badly plotted stories about some woman getting hit on the head and waking up to discover she’s Cleopatra. Such books had, to quote Dorothy Parker, all “the depth and glitter of a worn dime.” My reluctance changed some years ago when I lived in the French Quarter, and did something as innocuous as going onto my gallery one warm winter evening to enjoy a glass of wine. I wasn’t there long when fog began...

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Brave New World

Louisiana’s Cane River Colony was a daring dream made real by an ex-slave named Marie Thérèse Coincoin. The facts about her astonishing achievement have been wildly compromised over the centuries, but what I’ve set down here is true enough. Marie was born in 1742 to African slave parents in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and bore four children, fathers unknown. She was eventually leased to a Frenchman, Claude Pierre Metoyer, a union producing ten more issue. In 1778, Metoyer bought and freed Marie and gave her a cabin and 68 acres of rich land where the industrious Marie grew indigo and tobacco and sold medicines and bearskins. She eventually earned enough to buy land on Isle Brevelle, a sliver of land thirty miles long and a few miles wide between the Cane and Old...

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Sugar Daddy

One of the biggest surprises I unearthed while researching my book Creole Son was the black branch of artist Edgar Degas’s Creole family tree. The revelation had nothing to do with racial intermingling, commonplace enough in nineteenth-century Louisiana, but everything to do with someone almost as famous as the Impressionist himself. In a state where miscegenation was was illegal, Degas’s great uncle Vincent Rillieux and his love, a femme de coleur libre, or  free woman of color, named Constance Vivant, had no choice but to live together outside of marriage. Their union was long, happy and produced six children. Their third, Norbert, would achieve international acclaim with an invention as innovative as the cotton gin. Born in New Orleans, Norbert Rillieux was...

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