Link to the Taos News
Rick Romancito Dec 21, 2015
Courtesy Zoe Zimmerman
Taos author Estelle Laure
There are times when reading “This Raging Light” by Taos author Estelle Laure that it’s easy to forget you’re reading a book from the Young Adult section of your favorite book shop.
Told with a mature writer’s skill for defining character traits and unspooling that quirky teen-speak rooted in offhanded intuition and unknowing literacy, she makes this story of a young woman finding love at the worst time in her life feel authentic and heartbreakingly real.
Although billed as her debut novel, Laure says she’s been writing young adult stories for about eight years. “I always had the characters Digby and Lucille. I just had them under different circumstances.”
She said this particular book arose from the kind of jangly situation her protagonist endures in “This Raging Light.” “I think that I was in a place where everything was kind of falling apart and coming back together,” she said over coffee at Elevation in El Prado, “and I was moving back here, and a lot of things were changing in my life. It was just a way for me to process everything … there’s something wild and unbridled about Taos … this is where home is.”
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The book jacket for ‘This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
Courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Her publisher’s blurb says this about the book: “When Taos resident and debut author Estelle Laure was 6, her parents uprooted her family. From then on, it was a VW bus and a different school each year. By 16, she graduated high school, moved into a tiny apartment in Taos with friends, got a job, and bought a car for $500.” She said that the book possesses a good deal of herself when she was growing up, especially in the way a kind of posse grew up around her, people she connected with and has stayed close with right up to the present. “We’re all still friends,” she said. “All my ideas of community come from Taos.”
In the book, which sees its release Tuesday (Dec. 22), “17-year-old Lucille must care for her little sister and pay the bills after her parents skip town — all while falling in love for the first time. Despite its serious subject matter, Laure used her own experiences to craft a hopeful novel about a teen going through a tough time, showing that stability is not necessary to overcome adversity. When it came time for Laure to raise her own children, she returned to Taos and to the neighbors who helped her by providing food and support when she was a teen.”
One of the people who helped support her was her first boss, Fred Muller of Taos’ El Meze Restaurant. Those familiar with the chef will take note of the way Laure describes the appearance of women he was known to hire. “Yes, I know Fred’s,” Lucille says in the book. “Everybody does. Reviewed in every major magazine, so people come from all over. Fred is supposed to be some kind of crazy food god with a posse of busty babes at his side. Part performance art, part Mexican restaurant, all wild. Or so legend has it. Scary.”
Laure said she worked for Muller for years. “I think he’s brilliant and eccentric, madly enigmatic and surprisingly loyal, and he has a distinct and unusual set of priorities and a fantastic personality. This is, of course, my fictionalized perspective on Fred – I would never claim to have all the information about what goes on with him – but as I was writing and knew Lucille had to get a job, I could think of no better hands for her to fall into. Fred read the book before it was submitted and gave me enthusiastic permission to use his name, so I did. His placement in the book [is] an homage, as for a time he was present for me in a way very few people have been in my life. I still consider him family.”
She said the characters in her book evolved first, coming in bits of unconnected prose, some of which never went anywhere or wound up pushed aside. But, eventually, this story began to emerge. “The first scene I wrote turned out to be almost the end of the book,” she said. “But, I knew they were going to be in it. I knew there was going to be a best friend (named Eden). I knew there was going to be a sister. So, it just kind of happened like that.”
Laure is age 41, but she believes there has always been a 16-year-old inside her, yearning to break free.
She’s also enormously grateful for landing what she says is the perfect job. She’s an editor with Folio Literary Management, and her boss, Emily Van Beek, is also her agent. And, although Folio is located in New York, Laure gets to work here in Taos. Thanks to technology, she said as long as she gets her work in on time, she can work in Dubai for all her boss knows.
Laure’s book is now poised to hit the big time. She is preparing to travel to a variety of book festivals and take interviews with journalists and bloggers galore. Entertainment Weekly featured “This Raging Light” in its Fall Book Preview, and rights have been sold in 15 countries so far. Pay attention to her work. This one’s a keeper.
A companion novel, “These Mighty Forces,” publishes in the fall of 2016. The story, she says, takes place in the same universe, but through the eyes of different characters. Her fans, we’re sure, can hardly wait.
“This Raging Light” is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It retails for $17.99 and is recommended for readers age 14 and up. Visit hmhco.com.