Terry O'Neal (Special to the American Press)

Lake Charles is going to hit the big screen again, with author Terry O’Neal set to visit the city next week to scout locations for the filming of “Along the Dirt Road,” the cinematic adaptation of her novel “Sweet Lavender.”

O’Neal’s mother, Barbara Tillman-Williams, is a Lake Charles native. “Along the Dirt Road” is set in Cecilia. Plans call for the movie to be shot there, in Lake Charles and Lafayette.

O’Neal resides in California, but sets most of her works in the South. “Sweet Lavender,” released a decade ago, is set in the 1960s and tells the story of a family damaged by infidelity.

In the novel, a man fathers a child with a woman other than his wife. The woman then dies in childbirth, and the man takes the baby into his family. The story is told from the perspective of the man’s daughter.

O’Neal said the book was inspired by the works of Langston Hughes, a favorite writer of hers, and by her passion for father-daughter stories.

“A combination of all those elements is what started the foundation for the story. Then it kind of built itself,” she said.

“Once your get started in the writing process, when your characters develop and you get into writing your story, your characters tell you what they are going to do.”

O’Neal worked on the book for more than four years, finishing it in a rented cabin in Breaux Bridge during a trip to Louisiana. She said she always saw the story on the big screen. O’Neal will scout locations in the Lake Charles area next weekend.

“There are so many sites we need to utilize,” she said. “We will be in Cecilia and Lafayette, as well as surrounding areas. We need locations like stores, cafes, homes, corner store, older gas stations, older churches to shoot.”

A casting call is expected to be held in Lake Charles in January, and O’Neal said producers will need a lot of extras. “I know there is a lot of talent in Lake Charles; we want them to come out,” she said. “We want to hear from any businesses that are interested.”

People can also help fund the project. Those who donate $25 will get a signed copy of the novel and a credit in the film.


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