So there I am, hanging out with Jesmyn Ward, Beth Ann Fennelly, Eleanor Henderson, George Saunders, Kevin Young, and Laurel Snyder.
Okay, not really, but the Atlanta Journal Constitution put me on the same list as those folks for their best Southern Books of 2017 list. Happy New Year, indeed!
I'd tattoo this quote on my shoulder if I didn't have to include Margaret Mitchell's name.
"The Civil War novel — think Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” or Michael Shaara’s “The Killer Angels” or Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain” — holds a storied place in American literature and the American psyche. “The Hidden Light of Northern Fires” aspires to — and reaches — that summit."
"Like “civil war” and “sweet sorrow,” “historical novel” is an oxymoron. “Historical” describes matters old and factual, but “novel” means new and fictional.
No wonder the genre can be so slippery — for readers and writers alike. Too much of the past makes for a rote, lifeless read. But too much new and the story becomes fantasy.
Atlanta author Daren Wang succeeds at revealing startling new insights in an otherwise well-chronicled era with his debut, “The Hidden Light of Northern Fires.”The solemn and provocative historical novel attempts to answer a question that has vexed the author since childhood: Why did his hometown of Town Line, New York, vote in 1861 to secede from the United States?
Look at the list! Sheesh! Celeste Ng, Jesmyn Ward, Claire Messud, and Orhan Pamuk! That's not just a list of people who have to spell their names multiple times whenever they call to make reservations--that's author royalty. High cotton, as they say.
The story is out today that I'm doing a multi-part series for the BitterSoutherner.com about my quest to find the best bourbon cocktail in the best bar in all the south. I'm asking writers and friends to guide me to their local nominee for the honor.
The project is inspired, in part, by Jim Atkinson's The View From Nowhere, which I read and loved back in the 80s. As much as anything, this is a chance to have friends come out and see me on tour.
Also, I'm still not quite sure about the whole "Southern" thing, but who am I to quibble.
Come out and see me. It's going to be a lot of fun.
When you sit alone staring at a mish-mash of paragraphs, trying to figure out how to make some scene work, convinced the whole damned book is going to unravel if you can't manage it, you wonder if it will ever see the light of day. Then you get it workable, and some patient agent takes it under her wing, but she tells you how hard it is to sell a first novel. And you wonder if it will ever see the light of day. Then a publisher takes a risk on you, but there's a million other titles out there, and you are a very little fish in a big pond. And you wonder if it will ever see the light of day.
You know who makes all the difference? Booksellers. They read books. They fall in love with books. They put those books in the hands of readers, and the readers take those books and walk out the door, and then they sit in a park by a pond, eat their lunch and rea...
It might be a record. It's certainly a contender.
I have fifty two events scheduled on my book tour. Book festivals. Book stores. Fancy hotel lectures. Book clubs. Conferences. Fifty two. And still counting.
I have it on good authority that Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain tour had 67 events. That count comes in retrospect, though. That book kept selling and selling and selling, so the requests kept coming, and he went out again and again after the initial tour.
I've got 52 scheduled already, and the book is still two months from release. (I'm coming for you, Charles!)
It takes a lot of work to put a book event together, and I'm grateful that so many venues are willing to host me.
It takes so many things for a book to get people to notice a book. Press coverage, timing, word-of-mouth, reviews--so many of these things are beyond an author's control. One thing an author can do? Get out and meet folks who want to hear about the book.
Hence, the video. I'm not throwing away my shot.
Taking this picture of the original poster of the Lincoln Funeral Train schedule at the Holland Land Office Museum four years ago, was a wonderful moment for me.
I had done plenty of research by then, and knew that the the inaugural and funeral train routes were nearly identical, and I had every reason to believe that they went through Town Line. But this was concrete. There are two pivotal scenes in the book based on those trains coming to Town Line.
I found the picture again the other day as I was looking for material for this website, and was struck by the name on the bottom. Chittenden. That's just ridiculous.
My kind and patient editor at St. Martins Press? Laurie Chittenden. And there's her name on a 150 year old schedule.
She tells me her family did, in fact, have people in the area at the time, so more than likely a distant relative.
In the world of Flannery O'Connor scholars, there's a legendary figure, a correspondent of Flannery's known simply as "A." She is central to the collection of O'Connor letters titled The Habit of Being. And although we never get to see A's letters, we do get to see Flannery's responses, and they are quite valuable because they bring clarity and understanding to O'Connor's sometimes-challenging work.
When "A" died and her identity as Betty Hester was revealed, there was much discussion of what an important thinker she was. Sally Fitzgerald, the editor of The Habit of Being, was a friend of mine, and one day I asked her about Betty.
"The reason she was so important is because she was always wrong," Sally said. "Flannery felt like she had to explain everything to her, so her letters to Betty were very clear."
I tell this story only as an introduction of why despite this article's generous headline, it's not exactly...