To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth—deep down, I always did.
I was just a girl.
I was born Ava Wilhelmina Lavender on a remarkably clear Seattle night on the first of March in 1944. My birth was later remembered for the effect it had on the birds on the street where I lived, the auspiciously named Pinnacle Lane. During the day, as my young mother began experiencing labor pains, the crows collected mounds of tiny cherry pits in their beaks and tossed them at the house windows. Sparrows perched on women’s heads and stole loose strands of hair to weave into their nests. At night, nocturnal birds gathered in the lawns to eat noisily, the screams of their prey sounding much like my own mother. Just before slipping into a deep twilight sleep, relief granted by a nurse and a cold syringe, my mother opened her eyes wide and saw giant feathers fall from the ceiling, their silky edges brushing her face.
As soon as I was born, the nurses whisked me away from the delivery room to explore a matter that was later described on an anonymous medical report only as a slight physical abnormality. It wasn’t long before the devout gathered in the light from the hospital windows, carrying candles and singing hymns in praise and fear. All because when I was born, I opened my eyes then unfolded the pair of speckled wings that wrapped around me like a feathery cocoon.
Or so the story goes.
-Excerpt from The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Late Night Library: Summarize your book in 10 words or fewer.
Leslye Walton: Love makes us such fools.
LNL: If this book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?
LW: I would say The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is the result of an illicit tryst between Chocolat by Joanne Harris and Probable Future by Alice Hoffman.
LNL: What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?
LW: Combine molten chocolate, powdered sugar, and heavy whipped cream. Mix well and leave absentmindedly to bake for much longer than necessary. Drown with caramel, cut bananas, and vanilla coconut milk. Meant to be eaten in the middle of the night, preferably in the bathtub.
LNL: Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time.
LW: I am a huge admirer of Erin Morgenstern. Night Circus is possibly one of the most breathtakingly visual novels I’ve ever read.
LNL: Answer a question you wish people would ask you about writing.
LW: I wish I was given more opportunities to talk about the importance of language. I love words; perhaps this is what stems Henry’s own preoccupation with them. I think a book should consist of words and phrases that are as beautiful on the page as they are spoken aloud. To me, a book is an art form that is both visual and verbal.
Get a copy of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender at IndieBound.
Leslye Walton was born in the Pacific Northwest. She has an MA in writing from Portland State University and lives in Seattle. When she’s not writing, she teaches middle school students how to read and write and most importantly, how to be kind to each other, even when they really don’t feel like it. She is currently working on her next novel.