Friday, November 2, 2018

Book Bites: Patricia Austin Becker, author of Cane River Bohemia

As always, I'm excited to bring you something just a little bit different, and today I'm featuring a biography! Patricia Austin Becker's Cane River Bohemia examines and fleshes out the life of Cammie Henry, a freethinking woman who, in the 1920s, turned a former Louisiana plantation into an artist colony and surrounded herself with writers, painters, naturalists and other intellectuals. Just released, Cane River Bohemia is a fascinating look into the forgotten life of a woman who cultivated her own paradise and changed the lives around her. 

Are there any writers you’re jealous of?

I’m not sure “jealous” is the word I’d use but I am rather envious of people who have the luxury of time and solitude to write. That’s one true gift that Cammie Henry offered to the writers that came to stay at Melrose, and I am definitely envious of Lyle Saxon and how he was able to walk away from his full-time job at the Picayune, move into the cabin at Melrose, spend his days writing and his evenings sitting in the company of Miss Cammie and whomever else might be in residence that day. The environment there was so rich for creativity.

If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing with all of your free time? 

I can’t imagine not writing, but probably I would be digging through some archives someplace or else knocking things off my bucket list like driving Route 66 from East to West or attending Oktoberfest in Munich.

Were they any parts of your book that were edited out, but which you miss terribly?

Hahaha! The first line of Cane River Bohemia was initially, “Cammie Henry spent her entire life on damned rivers.” Both Bayou Lafourche, where she grew up, and Cane River where she spent her adult life, were dammed. I thought it was hilarious; my editor, thankfully, had better judgment!

Do you have a set routine as a writer? 

I discovered that I write best in the morning and when it is raining. The best writing days for me on Cane River Bohemia was when we had three consecutive snow days, the schools were closed, and I couldn’t go anywhere. It was glorious. I plugged in my headphones, cued up my favorite playlist, and went to work.

What single book has been the most influential to you as a writer?

I’m not sure I can name a single book, but Southern writers speak to my soul: Eudora Welty, Rick Bragg, Harper Lee. Not Southern, but I love his seeming simplicity and the rhythm of his writing: E.B. White.


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