George Bishop, Jr.
George Bishop Jr., author of Letter to My Daughter and The Night of the Comet grew up in Baton Rouge and Jackson, La. He earned an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he won the Award of Excellence for a collection of stories. He has lived and taught in Slovakia, Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, India and Japan. He now lives in New Orleans.
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The Night of the Comet
From the acclaimed author of Letter to My Daughter comes an engrossing coming-of-age tale that deftly conveys the hopes and heartaches of adolescence and the unfulfilled dreams that divide a family, played out against the backdrop of a small southern town in 1973.
For his 14th birthday, Alan Broussard Jr., receives a telescope from his father, a science teacher at the local high school who is eagerly awaiting what he promises will be the astronomical event of the century: the coming of Comet Kohoutek. For Alan Broussard Sr. — frustrated in his job, remote from his family — the comet is a connection to his past and a bridge to his son, with whom he is eager to share his love for the stars.
But the only heavenly body Junior has any interest in is his captivating new neighbor and classmate, Gabriella Martello, whose bedroom sits within eyeshot of his telescope's lens. Meanwhile, his mother, Lydia, sees the comet — and her husband's obsession with it — as one more thing that keeps her from the bigger, brighter life she once imagined for herself far from the swampy environs of Terrebonne, La. With Kohoutek drawing ever closer, the family begins to crumble under the weight of expectations, until a startling turn of events will leave both father and son much less certain about the laws that govern their universe.
Illuminating and unforgettable, The Night of the Comet is a novel about the perils of growing up, the longing for connection, and the idea that love and redemption can be found among the stars.
Q & A
What is the most important lesson readers can learn from your book The Night of the Comet?
I was asked this question on a radio talk show once when my first novel came out. I managed to come up with an answer, but then I felt like a fraud afterwards. I don't really write novels to teach lessons. In fact, I suspect novels whose morals are too obvious. If readers want to read my novel for a lesson, they're welcome to, of course, but I'd much rather that they enjoy the story first.
What motivated you to tell this story?
The seeds of the story were a peculiar set of images that got stuck in my head a couple of decades ago: a broken telescope leaning in a corner of a room, and man in an overcoat leaping off a roof. Sometime later, while living in Indonesia in 1996, I made a note in my journal that I thought Comet Kohoutek could make a good backdrop for a story. I didn’t put those ideas together until a few years ago, though, when Random House accepted my first novel. I wanted to bring some ideas for a second novel to my editor, and so I began researching Kohoutek. I found so much fascinating material on the comet that the real challenge, when it came time to sit down and write the novel, was winnowing down all of the science and history to shape it into a readable story.
What was the most enjoyable part of the process of writing this book?
The research. That's proved to be the most enjoyable part of writing for me. The actual drafting of the novel is mostly agonizing.
What excites you about the festival?
Seeing some great local authors. Running into people I know, and having a chance to meet new writers. I grew up in Baton Rouge, too, so it's always nice to come back. The location's great, too. Our capitol building always impresses me.
What should people look forward to by coming to your presentation at the festival?
An entertaining reading. Some lively Q&A. You might learn something about comets, too, but only incidentally.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
My book's not about astronomy. So if you don't like astronomy, don't be put off by the title. And if you do like astronomy, come on in.
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