#Heroika Skirmishers – Beth Patterson and Her Character

Name: Beth W. Patterson

Give us a brief synopsis of your story. The continuing story of Thérèse Naquin (aka “Pichou,” or Creole for “wildcat”) is one of the eleven-year-old girl in the heart of rural Cajun Louisiana. Pichou mourns the loss of her mentor Mister Broussard but finds a contemporary in a boy her age who moves into the late man’s vacant house. The two quickly become fast friends, eagerly swapping lore and talents. Their happy camaraderie is soon disturbed by the tiny town’s newest threat, a legendary serial killer. Devoid of guns or blades, they must rely strictly on their wits, their quick young bodies, and a heart-stopping bluff that could cost them their lives.

Why did you choose that time period/group of people to write about? The magic and lore of southwest Louisiana was something I’d already experienced in my youth. It was one of the few settings that I felt I could truly make authentic. I began to feel my deepest appreciation for my native Cajun country around my teens, roughly the time when I began to dive deeper into reading fantasy and collecting folktales. A friend of mine and I would often skip school and go visit a lot of elderly iconic Cajun musicians, often recording them playing tunes and telling stories. I named my story after a song by the late, great DL Menard.

What research did you do for the story? I revisited the place that was the inspiration for the setting. I hadn’t spent much time in St. Landry Parish and Evangeline Parishes since maybe 1991. I got sunburned, bug bites, mud splashed up to the roof of my car, and a speeding ticket. In other words, I had a ball. A lot of scenes were set in real places I’d visited in my youth, such as the bar/feed store. I thought it would be a good idea to preserve that little Polaroid snapshot in my memories of a zeitgeist that has definitely changed since then.

What is your writing space like? It’s complete chaos at the moment. I have my own little office, but it’s crammed with musical instruments, piles of notes, journals, and music charts that I still either have to file or throw away. I’ve moved three times in the past three years (with a grand total of ten times over the past twelve years). But now I think finally I might be able to thrive in this new house. I still need to unpack most of my research books (my husband and I are currently using stacks of boxes for our makeshift live-streaming living room studio during the quarantine). But I have a shelf within my line of sight that contains some special items that help me step into a certain frame of mind: photos, candles, a rubber ducky given to me by my late friend Robert Asprin, a painting by my sister in law, a little pair of foo dogs, a tiny brass unicorn, a 3-D printed octopus that shoots the bird multiple times, and a handmade sparkly rainbow skull-spider that a friend sent me (as a thank you present for helping to keep him from going too stir crazy with my quarantine videos). All of these give me courage.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? I’m trying to be a better plotter, because I think that having a well thought out story arc does make for stronger structure. But some of my passages that people seem to find most memorable are my most spontaneous ideas. I was trying to have an actual formula for a story last night, with some necessary questions: What does my main character want? What obstacles are standing in the way? What are the main character flaws? How does the conflict resolve? Is the antagonist a good guy or a bad guy? And then two thousand words just came pouring out before I had a chance to set the framework, so who was I to stop that rare deluge? As we say in music, “I’ll fix it in the mix.”

Is being a writer ‘what you do’ or ‘what you are’? It’s more what I am, because I haven’t yet invested enough time and discipline for it to be what I do. Playing music has been my bread and butter for almost thirty years, so I’ve had to give that priority. For me being a writer is a state of mind. I’m constantly processing incoming information through a storyteller’s lens. Sometimes I’ll start daydreaming, and my husband will notice a look on my face and ask me, “Are you creating a scene again?”

What did you want to be when you grew up? My brother teases me about how when I was little I assembled a little axe out of popsicle sticks and went around whacking on tree trunks (apparently I wanted to be a “woodchopper”). I did attempt writing some stories before kindergarten, for I had taught myself to read and write, even before I knew which way some of my handwritten letters were supposed to face. When I was in the third grade, I saw an episode of Cosmos on TV that was about DNA, and went through a phase of wanting to be a biochemist. By the time I reached the sixth grade, I wanted to be a rock star. While I’m mostly glad that I stuck with being a self-employed musician, I’m glad that not all of my wishes came true, because I definitely couldn’t have handled fame.

Character Section

Name: Thérèse Naquin (aka “Pichou,” Creole patois for “wildcat”)

Tell us a bit about yourself. I’m eleven years old, the whole town thinks I’m fou-fou (crazy), but I’m gonna go to the big university in Lafayette someday and become a herpetologist. Either that or discover monsters and prove that they’re real, like a cryptozoologist. I’ve got one good friend, a boy my age I call Firing Pin. He’s smart like a fox and draws real good. And that’s all I need, me.

Tell us a bit about the society in which you live. We’re pretty far away from the big city. A lot of the old people are superstitious. Everyone is Catholic, but sometimes a little folk medicine never hurt anyone. Everyone on TV talks about Cajun cooking as something really special, but fancy restaurants never get it right. The best food you’ll ever eat is at someone’s maw-maw’s house.

Are you brave? I don’t know, me. There’s some scary stuff out in the world, but when you’re the only one who can stop it, what are you gonna do? I helped this town, but I was scared the whole time! Maybe someday I won’t be afraid anymore.

How do others see you? My Nonc (Uncle) Ulysse and Tante (Aunt) Rosalie think I’m too wild. They didn’t really like me too much when they were raising me. But I saved our town from a dragon, so I think they can forgive me a little bit.

Do you love anyone? Do you hate anyone? I loved the old man down the road from me, Mister Broussard. He taught me to play the fiddle, told me stories, and always had time for me. But he died, and then Firing Pin moved into his old house and became my friend. I don’t know if I love FP or not, but he’s fun to do things with, like when we make Burmese tiger traps or go looking for monsters. I don’t think I hate anyone. My aunt and uncle used to say mean things to me all the time, but I don’t hate them.

What do you REALLY think of your author? She’s okay. She kinda reminds me of myself. But she needs to go outside more. She hasn’t forgotten that monsters are real (although she thinks that monsters are just bad people), but she’s stopped believing in the good guys. I’m gonna try real hard to make sure that I don’t grow up to be too much like her.

What is your favourite thing? Animals, especially reptiles and amphibians.

Well, I killed a dragon that was destroying my town, and later I helped bring down a serial killer. That’s gotta count for something.

 

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AUTHOR BIO (short)

Beth W. Patterson was a full-time musician for over two decades before diving into the world of writing, a process she describes as “fleeing the circus to join the zoo”. She is the author of the books Mongrels and Misfits, and The Wild Harmonic, and a contributing writer to over thirty anthologies.

Patterson has performed in nineteen countries, expanding her perspective as she goes. Her playing appears on over a hundred and seventy albums, soundtracks, videos, commercials, and voice-overs (including seven solo albums of her own).

She lives in New Orleans, Louisiana with her husband Josh Paxton, jazz pianist extraordinaire.

 

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