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November Book Club :At First Light

(66 Posts)
Greenfinch Fri 03-Nov-17 10:20:34

Many thanks for my copy which has just arrived.I am very much looking forward to starting it.

LadyGracie Tue 19-Dec-17 13:00:30

I would never have chosen to read this book but, I thoroughly enjoyed if, although I found it very upsetting at times.
I’ll look out for Vanessa Lafayes books in the future, this book was so we’ll written. I now need to know more about the KKK

VanessaLafaye Wed 20-Dec-17 12:16:21

I find writing emotionally draining generally, which comes from inhabiting different characters at a different time. I feel more outraged than drained at depicting the dark episodes, which is probably what gives me the impetus to keep going. Anger can be a powerful motivator.


A book that compels you to read, read, read until you reach the end and as book I was sorry to come to a finale. A fascinating look at an era in American history that is often avoided by most authors.
Question for Vanessa
Did you find it emotionally draining to study this period of your native country's dark history?

VanessaLafaye Wed 20-Dec-17 12:19:23

I’ve visited Key West many times as a tourist, but I made a special trip to find the grave of Manuel Cabeza. I spoke with the local librarian about the episode, who didn’t think it was of any interest! It may be of more interest to people from far away, like the UK.


This was a really good read and because the story really started near the end draws you into finding out what happened to Alicia to make her commit murder. I haven't read the author's other book yet but I will be rectifying that soon. Although Vanessa answered many of the questions I had in my head at the end of the book I would like to ask her if during her research did she visit Key West or speak to anyone who might have been told stories by their families about that time in Key West's history ?

VanessaLafaye Wed 20-Dec-17 12:27:39

Yes, I definitely do! But it’s at a very early stage, so keeping it under wraps for now.


I don't have any questions about the book for the author, as she gives a lot of information about the background for her story at the end. However, I will ask if she has another book in the pipeline? I've downloaded Summertime onto my kindle to read.

VanessaLafaye Wed 20-Dec-17 12:29:16

It’s not something which I had considered, but it is an interesting idea. There are lots of novels set around the Cuban Revolution, but there could be room for one more.


I would be interested to know if the brief mention of Alicia's daughter could be developed into a novel - it's a time and place in history about which I know very little.

VanessaLafaye Wed 20-Dec-17 12:33:03

I usually spend about 3 months researching before I start to write. I need to feel like I know everything about how the people of the period lived – what they ate, what they wore, what they did with their sewage! I read a lot of social history, making notes of aspects that I want to use. Then I compile those notes to use while I write, so I don’t have to keep referring to a stack of books. While writing, I always have the need for more research, so I just pause when needed until I have what’s missing.


I enjoyed reading Summertime and knew Vanessa researches widely and I was not disappointed with At First Light. Her list of further reading is extensive but she is a writer who does not allow her research to intrude but simply inform the story. I should like to know how much time Vanessa spends researching and whether she then puts this aside whilst writing. It must be very tempting to include everything you unearth and careful selection is clearly called for.
The characters are skillfully drawn so there is little chance of confusion even in the early chapters. I do hope to hear that there is another book in progress.

VanessaLafaye Wed 20-Dec-17 12:35:31

Another reader asked this question. I hadn’t thought of it, but the Cuban Revolution is certainly rich with possibilities. And I might be able to justify another trip to Havana!


I loved this book although it was not one I would have chosen for myself. It was so well written that I was in tears by the end. It was not a whodunnit but a whydunnit and the end of each chapter left the reader wanting to know more. I certainly want to find out more about the Klan. All the characters were interesting and I was wondering if Vanessa was going to create a story around the character of Daniella who also sounds very interesting from the oblique reference to her.

VanessaLafaye Wed 20-Dec-17 12:39:03

I feel that I have written all I need to about the Klan in this book, but I am giving lectures about them in schools and historical societies. The idea of ‘white Christian terrorism’ needs to be discussed more. I see it as a foil for Islamophobia.


TBH it gave me nightmares as the subject matter was so harrowing. Nevertheless it was a worthwhile read and well written. Does the author intend to write more about the KKK or does she feel she has said all she wants to say?

GeminiJen Thu 21-Dec-17 11:49:33

Many thanks to Vanessa for these insights into how she goes about the process of writing. Thanks too to Gransnet for allowing us this glimpse. Looking forward to the next book!

Pittcity Thu 01-Mar-18 09:32:33

So sad to hear of the death of Vanessa Lafaye

Greenfinch Thu 01-Mar-18 09:43:19

Thanks pittcity for this information.I had no idea she was ill and have only just read her response to me written in December

GeminiJen Thu 01-Mar-18 12:40:00

Thanks from me too, Pittcity. I had no idea. Very sad.

Mapleleaf Thu 01-Mar-18 13:24:34

Thank you Pittcity. Such sad news.

annemac101 Sun 11-Mar-18 22:28:28

I came back to read this post to see if my question had been answered. That's very sad news to here that she's gone,so sad.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 12-Mar-18 15:38:08

So very sad - she became a dear friend and we were due to go away with a couple of other friends this weekend. A lovely, warm and generous woman who will be missed greatly