This month, every member of ParnassusNext (our subscription box for YA fiction) will receive a signed first edition of Estelle Laure’s This Raging Light. We’re not alone in thinking this spectacular debut novel is the best YA release of December, either. Among its early fans is David Arnold, author of a previous ParnassusNext selection, Mosquitoland, who calls This Raging Light, “a thick quilt in a cold room . . . I want to wrap myself in it.”
While David’s busy making a blanket out of paper, we might recommend you take a moment to sign up for ParnassusNext or to sign the YA-lover in your life up for a gift subscription. (If you subscribe by Monday, December 14, you or your recipient will receive this month’s box by December 24.)
And while you wait for your new autographed book to show up at your doorstep, please enjoy this interview between Stephanie Appell, our manager of books for young readers, and Estelle Laure, the author.
I love Lucille as a character so, so much. I love that she begins telling us her story by telling us that trust is a knife you give someone to stab you with, and by the end of her story she’s telling us about the hands she knows will catch her if she falls. Tell us a little bit about Lucille. Where did her character come from? What was it like to write her?
Writing Lucille was a little like having all my nerves exposed at once. I had to do it, but it always hurt. I know very well the feeling of discovering that parents aren’t all-powerful and perfect. I know what it’s like to fend for myself as I was on my own from the time I was sixteen. I also know what it’s like to want someone who is unavailable, to have questions about myself, because what kind of a person has those feelings?
Now I can analyze myself and where Lucille came from, but in truth Lucille was like a whirlpool in reverse. She just took me with her.
Romance! This Raging Light has maybe my favorite romance of the year. All parties involved are wonderfully complicated and imperfect and human. What were some of the challenges you experienced in writing This Raging Light’s romance?
I wanted Lucille to be likable and relatable. I didn’t want her to be saintly, as none of us actually are. I wanted to look at shame and difficult truths. I wanted this romance to address that feeling of insanity that comes over all of us at least once in a lifetime when we really fall for someone, as well as the fact that when these things happen there are real consequences and casualties.
So for me, writing this and taking all perspectives into consideration, I needed to find a way to keep Lucille likable, knowing people would have harsh judgments about her and her aggressive stance with Digby. That wasn’t always easy, but I did my best. I also didn’t want any of it to be cheesy, so I had to keep restraining myself in their scenes together. It was hard! If we all spoke the truths in our hearts, we would sound like greeting cards. It’s depressing how hard it is not to be cliché.
What are your hopes for This Raging Light, as we’re approaching its release out into the world of readers?
I hope people who read it understand what I’m trying to say about love and imperfection and community. If it inspired someone to do something kind for someone else, or if it kept someone from harsh judgment, that would be even better. I also hope it’s read with love so I can continue to write more books, of course.
What’s your favorite thing about independent bookstores?
A good indie employee is unparalleled. When I was in my teens, I developed a relationship with the woman who owned the indie bookstore in my hometown. She would have a few books for me to choose from when I came in. They had cats in there and a big rug upstairs. In the middle of the afternoon, I could pet a cat and lounge around for hours. My mother had trade with the store so I could buy whatever I wanted. That could never have happened anywhere but a small place. And also, I love that indie bookstores smell like smarts and time.
Want to hear more from Estelle Laure? Subscribe to ParnassusNext, and you’ll receive bonus content from this interview in an exclusive email!