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OU Journalism Professor Receives 2020 Oklahoma Book Award for Fiction

OU Journalism Professor Receives 2020 Oklahoma Book Award for Fiction

Mary Anna Evans Portrait
Catacombs book cover

Mary Anna Evans, assistant professor in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communications, is this year’s recipient of the Oklahoma Book Award for Fiction in honor of her latest book, Catacombs. Set in Oklahoma City, the mystery story focuses on Faye Longchamp, an archaeologist who discovers a subterranean chamber that once housed Chinese immigrants a century before.

The 2020 Oklahoma Book Awards competition, sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for the Book in the Department of Libraries and the Friends of the Oklahoma Center for the Book, honors books about the state and books written, illustrated and designed by Oklahomans during the previous year. This year’s competition attracted more than 134 entries and 32 finalists were selected.

Catacombs, the 12th book in Evans’ Faye Longchamp archaeological mystery series, was inspired by Evans’ recent move to Oklahoma.

“I always start my books by researching the history of my book’s setting,” Evans said. “And, as a relatively new Oklahoman, I wanted to write about my adopted state.”

Through her research, Evans learned that a community of Chinese immigrants lived underneath downtown Oklahoma City in the early 20th century. Once she confirmed this hard-to-believe story was true, she knew it was going to be the historical backstory for her writing.

“I had a great deal of fun researching the underground Chinese community, not to mention the history and geography of Oklahoma City, which I think you can tell when you read Catacombs,” she said.

While Evans writes nearly every day, she shared it takes her about a year to complete a mystery, which includes writing, editing and reviewing feedback from her editor.   

“I’ve never believed in waiting for inspiration, which is not the same thing as saying I don’t believe in inspiration,” she said. “I may not feel inspired when I settle myself in my writing chair, but soon the words start flowing and I’m deep in my story. For me, the habit of going to that chair has become my way to tap into the part of my subconscious where my stories live.”

The 13th Faye Longchamp mystery, Wrecked, is in production and will be released Oct. 20.

In addition to her Faye Longchamp mystery series, Evans has also written four other books – a thriller, a book of short stories, a book on how to write novels and a co-written book on mathematical literacy – and she hopes to write many more.

When she is not writing, Evans spends her time teaching fiction and nonfiction writing at the university.

“I enjoy my students so much,” she said. “They’re so talented and eager to work on their skills, and they’re just fun to be around.”


By Mackenzie Scheer  

Article Published: Wednesday, May 20, 2020