Winter is a key element in “Memento Mori”. How often do the seasons find their way into your work?
It’s difficult to write fiction about the Appalachian people without featuring the seasons. People change with them, just as the kudzu covers the bones of the mountains. How a character behaves in winter is very different from how they behave in spring. I see the seasons as being more of a character element than a setting.
The Appalachians experience all four seasons. Is there a season you favor personally? What season appears most in your writing?
I love the winter. Spring, summer and fall are busy, noisy and bright—the seasons tourists come to see. The winter is a dwelling time when the mountains are silent and there’s not much to do. That’s when the wind blows. I like listening to the wind rattle and moan outside.
I’m not sure I favor one season over the others in writing. I like juxtaposing a season that is contrary to the events of the story—death in the spring, birth in winter and the like. Winter is a character in “Memento Mori”. The first sentence of that story is something the hill people say and I always thought it sounded like they were badmouthing someone.
You raise goats, rescue cocker spaniels, and blog on a regular basis. How do these things fit into writing fiction?
Well, the blog directly relates to my fiction writing—the other two things—not so much. I raise milk goats because Heidi was my favorite book when I was five and I never grew out of loving goats. I rescue Cocker Spaniels because my background values good works. I’ve also been a literacy volunteer and a guardian ad litem for abused children. I’ve been working toward improving the human/animal bond for 10 years. Of course, I am an experiential writer so there is some bleed-through.
My blogging has always been about my writing—except when it’s about my photography. The blog is a word/idea farm and a kind of self-workshop. My fiction often comes out of ideas or appears in its first draft there. I also work on discipline and craft on the blog—so, yes—it is self-indulgent. It’s all about me. I try to do four story cycles a year—self-challenges where I do a flash or installment of a serial per day or week for a month.
I never expected it to become this popular. People come for the serpent handling and stay for the stories.
Tell us about “Porn and Donuts” from your blog.
“Porn and Donuts” is the current work in progress serialized on Serial Story Saturday, which is the current story cycle. It’s an homage to Carl Hiaasen’s form using East Tennessee news items as source material. Tennessee news is every bit as screwy as south Florida’s, so it translates well. P & D is an irreverent romp through East Tennessee’s illegal pill trade culture—a sort of screwball love story. The title refers to the robbery of an adult novelty store specializing in Christian marital aids and the getaway in a Krispy Kreme truck. I’m not sure it’s publishable, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun to write.
Sometimes I need to blow steam off like that. Write just for the crazy silly joy of it.
You’ve enjoyed a string of publications lately. How has this experience been?
It’s been rewarding. I started submitting work in November of 2007. I’d had quite a few pieces solicited so seeing my work in publication was not new, but if I’d known what an amazing growth experience the submission process would be—I would have started sooner. My work is tighter and leaner as a result. The blog solidified my voice—which has always been strong—but submitting made me a craftsman, something I wasn’t sure I’d ever be.