September 14, 2013 8:27:20 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Emma Grace wants to become a ghost hunter, and the storied cemetery in her hometown seems the natural place to begin. Her adventure unfolds in the pages of Adele Elliott's debut novel, "Friendship Cemetery." The book is set for online release Friday, in paperback and e-book, by the UK-based Crooked Cat Publishing.
While the story does have a ghost, it's far from a ghost story, said Elliott, who evacuated her native New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina with her husband, Chris. They found shelter in Columbus, and stayed.
The novel's title is inspired by the historic cemetery of the same name, located in Columbus where the story is set. At the core of "Friendship Cemetery" are Emma Grace and Princess Kamara (nicknamed Pea), a dwarf who frequents the graveyard, making folk art "sculptures" from random items she finds there. Both girls have led sheltered lives in this small Southern town. Both have lost their fathers and have been the objects of their mothers' disappointment.
Emma Grace is described as unsophisticated and naive, but witty. Pea is perceptive and comical in her actions and responses to new experiences. "It may deceptively look like a horror story, but it's actually very funny," said Elliott.
Along their way, the girls meet Tyrone, a young black boy who introduces them to Althee, a healer. Weave secrets, a family curse and an elaborate plot to spend the night in the cemetery into the mix. The end result, Elliott noted, has meaning beneath the surface.
"The main theme of 'Friendship Cemetery' is that truth is limited by perception and experience. ... It's also about acceptance. Pea's defects are obvious, a physical deformity," reads the book's synopsis. "Others are more subtle -- flaws such as superficiality, blind judgment and false superiority are less apparent, but still corrosive."
Columbus is as much a character in the novel as the people, said the author. Area readers will recognize mentions of local places and happenings.
Aside from a reference to Mary Broussard of J. Broussard's Restaurant, located in downtown Columbus, all characters are completely fictional, Elliott stressed.
"Don't try to figure out who the characters are; they're not real people," she said.
While Elliott has had short stories and non-fiction published, and is a regular columnist for The Dispatch, penning a novel was a new undertaking.
The story concept sprang from an idea she had a few years ago: an imagined conversation between two young girls in the cemetery. "But I didn't know how to make a conversation into a novel," she explained. But once she began getting words on paper, a process which took about seven months to complete, the plot line expanded and evolved, sometimes surprising the writer herself.
"I would just ask that everyone read it in sequence," Elliott requested. "I know someone who goes to the last page of a book first, to see if she thinks she wants to read it, but that's going to take some of the fun away."
"Friendship Cemetery" will be available Sept. 20 at amazon.com. The paperback price is approximately $7. Order the e-book for 99 cents the first week of release from crookedcatbooks.com. Follow "Friendship Cemetery" on Facebook. For more information, email Elliott at [email protected]
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.