English professor publishes hurricane Katrina-inspired fiction
A hungry gray puppy throws his tiny body through the doggie door when he hears of the deadly hurricane striking New Orleans. All he cares about is Auntie’s safety.
In search of his owner, Auntie, in the middle of hurricane Katrina, Beignet gets carried away by the current and knocked unconscious. Folk tales once told by his Grandpa Au Lait flow through his memories.
The moving fiction “Beignet and Grandpa Au Lait” will come out Friday, Oct. 26, as the third novel by adjunct English professor, Claudia McGarry, after the successful release of her thriller novels, “My Scorpio Soul” and “My Aries Secret.”
“It was a very heart-warming story full of great details about New Orleans, lots of color,” said English teacher Cynthia Walker, a fellow writer.
Born and raised in New Orleans, McGarry shares a strong emotional connection with the city. She started the book a few years ago when she first heard about hurricane Katrina attacking her hometown.
The writer said it took her a few months to finish the book but she did not publish it then. She was busy working on her other two novels.
“I have cousins who live in Louisiana and for hurricane Katrina, they had to move away,” McGarry said. “I was worried recently during hurricane Isaac. I was worried about them, so I took this down and I said, ‘maybe I’ll publish this now.’”
Grandpa Au Lait and his grandson Beignet narrate the fiction. Grandpa Au Lait, a terrier-poodle mix, was hiding underneath a table at café du Monde when Auntie found him. She fed him with a beignet and took care of him ever since.
Later, Grandpa Au Lait had his grandson Beignet, to whom he often told folk tales of New Orleans from the old days. They both loved Dixieland jazz and Auntie’s New Orleans dishes.
One day when Auntie was not home, hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Beignet began worrying about his owner. He rushed out, searching for Auntie, and was swept down the driveway and found himself lost.
Getting help from an Irish wolfhound, animals at a park and others, Beignet has a real adventure and finally finds his way home.
“The flavor of the city [New Orleans] really comes through,” Walker said. “It’s also about the time of hurricane Katrina so you get a good sense of what it was like. It’s all kind of playful because it’s from a dog’s point of view.”
McGarry said all of the stories from her novel are true events, based on her own stories.
“I think that my childhood in New Orleans was really unique,” she said. “It was very southern, different than California. I think that there’s nothing like southern hospitality.”
Although dog adventures are not a new topic in fiction novels, McGarry said she avoided referring to dog movies and books and only read facts about the hurricane.
Writing “Beignet and Grandpa Au Lait,” McGarry said she based her character Auntie on her real-life aunt who loved to cook.
The dog’s look is based on McGarry’s real life dog, Harvey, whose picture is on the cover of the novel.
The author said some bookstores even demanded Harvey’s appearance at her signing events, which will take place throughout Nov. and Dec. at Tecolote bookshop in Montecito, Carpinteria, Los Angeles, Manhattan beach and other places.
McGarry’s daughter rescued Harvey from a high-kill shelter in Los Angeles. She named him after her idol Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.
Beside fictions, McGarry used to write screenplays. Right now, the Arian writer is working on her third novel, “My Gemini Ghost.” She dedicates this one to her late best friend, Monique.
“I think she’s great. She tells a good story,” said English professor Chella Courington, a friend of McGarrys. “She gets the readers involved in what she’s telling. She’s a very engaging writer. You’d love to hear her read, you’d love to be with her, you’d love to talk to her because she’s such a person of quality.”
McGarry will have local book signing events through November and December:
3 p.m., Nov. 3rd, at The Book Worm in Camarillo
5 p.m., Nov. 11th at Pages in Manhattan Beach
11:30 a.m., Nov. 14th at SBCC Bookstore
Nov. 24th at the Curious Cup in Carpinteria (Time TBA)
Brooks Institute’s Gallery, Cota Street, first Thursday event, December 8th, 4-7 p.m.
4 p.m., December 1st, Tecolote Book Shop in Montecito
4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 6, Brooks Gallery on Cota Street
12 p.m. Dec. 9, Chavalier’s in Larchmont