Local author named an International Latino Book Awards finalist

Tarpon Springs author a finalist in Int'l Latino Book Awards

Former USF professor and Tarpon Springs-based author David Edmonds has been named a finalist in the fiction category of the International Latino Book Awards. The winners will be announced June 27 at an award ceremony in San Francisco.

His debut novel, Lily of Peru, was released by Peace Corps Writers in January.

“Surprise and joy pretty much sum up my first reaction [to finding out about the award,]” he said. “Surprise because neither I nor my protagonist is Latino. Lily made the cut because of its setting in a Latino culture. Joy because the International Latino Book Awards is a big deal in the Latino writers community.”

Lily of Peru, which Edmonds calls a love thriller, is the story of a USF professor struggling to get the woman he loves out of Peru during the dark days of the Shining Path insurrection.

The book is partially based on his own experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer during the 1960s, a USF professor and a federal government employee.

“The first pages were written when I was in the Peace Corps, in a cold mountain village in south Chile,” he said. “It was a feeble attempt to rationalize the girl who got away, a Peruvian-American exchange student. From her, I learned many fascinating things about Peru — like haunted Inca ruins and political turmoil. Unfortunately, she had a brick-throwing boyfriend in Lima who wanted to join a revolutionary movement and overthrow the government.”

For decades, he dreamed of this girl, as well as the idea for the book, which depicts a protagonist who saves his love interest “from an unhappy marriage to a Che Guevara wannabe.”

It wasn’t until the early 1990s, though, when “a bizarre terrorist organization” called the Shining Path nearly toppled the Peruvian government. The group was stopped when its leader was captured.

An underground publication claimed the terrorist leader was betrayed by an American professor with links to the Shining Path "by virtue of his illicit affair with a woman in the movement," Edmonds said. “That was my ‘A-ha!’ moment. Suppose the woman in the movement was the girl who got away? Suppose she was innocent, or dragged into the relationship by her husband, and all she wanted was to go back to that young Peace Corps volunteer she loved? Stranger things have happened.”

Lily of Peru is Edmonds’ first novel. But he’s the author, co-author, editor or ghostwriter for eight other books, mainly about Louisiana history. His first book, Yankee Autumn in Acadiana, about a Civil War campaign, won the Literary Award of the Louisiana Library Association for the best book set in Louisiana. It inspired two small-theatre productions. Portions of his second book, The Vigilante Committees of the Attakapas, were adapted into the movie, Belizaire the Cajun, starring Armand Assante.

He found that writing fiction was a much different process, though.

“The first draft was dreadful,” he said. “I was a successful non-fiction writer and mistakenly believed it was a simple matter to switch from nonfiction to fiction. How wrong I was.”

So he began taking creative writing courses and devouring how-to books. He revisited Lily of Peru, which “languished on an ancient computer disk and was pretty much forgotten,” about six years ago.

For more information about Edmonds and Lily of Peru, visit his website.


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