|Attica Locke, photo by Mel Melcon, Los Angeles Times|
Attica Locke is the author of the new novel Bluebird, Bluebird. Her other books include the novels Pleasantville and Black Water Rising, and she has been a writer and producer for the TV series Empire. She is a native of Houston, and she now lives in Los Angeles.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Bluebird, Bluebird, and for your character Darren Mathews?
A: I grew up in East Texas and all of my family roots can be traced to towns along Highway 59, and I wanted to start a book series that is steeped in that world. Imagining small town secrets was half the fun.
Darren came to me as a character when I realized I would need a character who could confront mysteries up and down Highway 59. Texas Rangers have wide jurisdiction and so it seemed like a fit.
Also, writing about a black law enforcement officer who is ambivalent about the badge seemed interesting to me and a perfect character for our time.
Q: How important is setting to you in your work, and could this book have been set in another place besides East Texas?
A: Absolutely not. Setting is everything to me in all of my books.
Q: What do you think the story you tell says about race relations in the United States today?
A: I think it explores the ways in which black folks are often ambivalent about the places we call home. How do we love a country that so often shows disdain for our very existence? And what are the ways to make that better? Can we look to the law to help us? Or is the law the thing we need to help from?
I also hope the book hints that the ways that hatred is rarely as simple as it looks on the surface. Beneath it can be (and often is) feelings of envy, obsession, and even sometimes unconscious love.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Book two and a pilot script for a TV version of Darren Matthews. Plus other stuff.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: The title is taken from a John Lee Hooker song: "Bluebird, bluebird, take this letter down south for me."
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Attica Locke.