Indie booksellers across the country have chosen Kate DiCamillo’s Louisiana’s Way Home (Candlewick Press) as the top choice for the Fall 2018 Kids’ Indie Next List.
DiCamillo’s eighth novel, a story of friendship, family, and self-discovery, returns to the world of Raymie Nightingale to follow Louisiana Elefante, a young girl struggling to understand the intentions of her enigmatic grandmother, who claims the day of the reckoning has arrivedbefore whisking her away to Georgia.
“What a treat to have the chance to get to know a secondary character from a book I didn’t want to see end! In her follow-up of sorts to Raymie Nightingale, Kate DiCamillo tells the story of Louisiana, Raymie’s friend who has spent her life on the run. Leaving the world she has known in Florida, Louisiana ends up in a small town in Georgia, where she meets a cast of richly drawn characters intent on either making her life difficult or offering her connection in an uncertain time,” said Diane Capriola of Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia. “In her inimitable way, DiCamillo shares another tender and thoughtful story of hope and resilience in a young girl trying to find her place in the world. I loved Louisiana’s Way Home!”
Here, Bookselling This Week discusses character and craft with DiCamillo.
Bookselling This Week: Louisiana’s character was first introduced in Raymie Nightingale. Did you know back then that she would go on to have her own story? Why did you return to the world of Raymie Nightingale?
Kate DiCamillo: I did not know that Louisiana would go on to have her own story. I had absolutely no idea, no plans for it to happen. Every time I finish a novel, I think something along the lines of: wow, I can’t believe I lived through that. I’m never going to try it again.
So. Why did I return to the world of Raymie Nightingale? Because Louisiana insisted. Truly. That voice of hers just kept showing up in my notebooks. And after a while, she wore me down.
BTW: Where did the idea for Louisiana’s Way Home come from?
KD: The idea came from the sentence that kept appearing in my notebooks, the same sentence that opens the novel: “I am going to write it all down, so that what happened to me will be known . . .” I had no idea what was going to happen. I just hitched my wagon to that voice.
KD: Yes, the voice. I don’t know where it came from. I just know that it was insistent. That it demanded I tell the story in first person. I didn’t craft it as much as listen to it and follow it.
BTW: A theme that continues throughout the narrative is how stories — or lies — are sometimes told with the best of intentions, even though it might hurt when the truth comes out. Did you have this framework of honesty and dishonesty in mind when writing?
KD: You overestimate me! I never know what I’m doing when I’m writing a book. I can see (now that you point it out) that that framework of honesty/dishonesty is there. But I wasn’t conscious of it when I was working. I think, in general, I am preoccupied with stories that we tell to ourselves and that others tell to us.
BTW: In a letter published on Time.com, you suggested that certain circumstances in your own childhood led you to become a writer. Louisiana herself is very insistent on writing down what happens to her, reminding the reader that she is writing so her story is known. Is her insistence on writing reflective of your own craft at all?
KD: Well, as I said above, Louisiana is the one who choose to tell her story. As to whether her insistence on writing what happened to her is reflective of why I write . . . well, yes. I think so. It’s certainly a large part of what I do. And every time I tell a story, I learn the story of myself, and my childhood, better.
BTW: Do you plan to return to the world of the Three Rancheros one more time, perhaps to give Beverly Tapinski her own story?
KD: I am sorely tempted. Beverly Tapinski is demanding in a different way than Louisiana. She’s not as forthcoming—but still waters run deep and she haunts me, too.