In my review of Washed in the Water earlier this month, I suggested this debut collection of short stories made Nancy Hartney an important new voice of the South. That was very much on my mind when I got a chance to talk to Hartney about her roots, how her upbringing influenced her writing, and how she feels about the region she grew up in. Here is our interview, slightly edited and condensed:
9/13/13 – SUSPENDING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF
In 1817, Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined the expression “willing suspension of disbelief.” Suspension of disbelief is a wonderful thing. It allows us to enjoy and accept premises in our reading that we might never believe otherwise. As originally conceived, it was the author’s job to inject enough impression of truth into an unrealistic tale that a reader could suspend judgment of the improbability of the story. But over time the responsibility has shifted from how well an author creates a fictional world to how willing a reader is to lose herself in it. In short, the onus falls on readers to believe.
9/10/13 – INTERVIEW WITH AMY FRANKLIN-WILLIS, AUTHOR OF THE LOST SAINTS OF TENNESSEE
When Amy Franklin-Willis’s debut novel, The Lost Saints of Tennessee, was released, The New York Times Book Review noted “the main characters are agreeably imperfect, their stories sensitively told.” The Christian Science Monitor said, “…she excels at making readers care about her characters, especially the ones who have made the biggest mistakes.”
I couldn’t agree more that characters are the soul of The Lost Saints of Tennessee, although the sense of place is powerful, too.
9/7/13 – BOOK REVIEW: WASHED IN THE WATER BY NANCY HARTNEY
Nancy Hartney doesn’t just create a sense of place in her stories; she actually takes you there, lifting you out of your reading chair and virtually transporting you to the South as it was fifty years ago. In Washed in the Water, her debut collection of short stories, Hartney writes with such authority and realism about the white underbelly of the region during that era that she immediately establishes herself as an important new voice of the South, with a style and tone reminiscent of Carson McCullers, Erskine Caldwell, or Flannery O’Connor. You certainly don’t need to read the book jacket to know where Hartney comes from.
9/4/13 – DISCUSSABILITY: THE KEY TO A GOOD BOOK CLUB BOOK
Book clubs are often maligned as places where people do just about everything except discuss books. But when I asked members of my own book club for reading recommendations, they confirmed what I had always suspected: book clubs not only discuss books, but “discussability” trumps literary merit.
9/1/13 Austin Camacho interviewed by Sonia Linebaugh. What does the writer experience as the words flow onto the page? That’s what I wanted to find out when I interviewed Austin Camacho, author of five detective novels and four thrillers.
Q. Austin, what are your moments of ecstasy in writing?
A. There’s a kind of ecstatic moment when I find just the right line of dialog to express what a character needs to say, or write a bit of description that tugs at my heart when I read it the next day. In Damaged Goods [page 81], Hannibal asks the slave girl where her collar is: “For a frozen moment,
9/1/13 – THE BOOKS I MISSED READING LAST YEAR
I’ve been so submerged in the process of writing a new novel that I’ve missed pretty much every one of my monthly book club meetings over the past year—and, alas, many of the books that went with them. When I finally came up for air, I found myself gasping for fresh reading material, and I figured the ladies of my longstanding book club could rescue me.
9/1/13 – THE REMAINING – A REVIEW
I don’t wear combat boots anymore, but in my heart, I’m still a soldier. Perhaps that’s why I’m forever drawn to stories about ordinary people who, through heroic efforts, overcome impossible odds.
That’s exactly the kind of story I found in D. J. Molles’ series, The Remaining. I haven’t been this enthralled, this transported by a series of books since…EVER. I dare anyone, especially anyone who ever served in uniform, to read these books and not be affected by them.
9/1/13 – VISITS TO TARA
Millions of books were published last year. (Yes, really!) There’s a literary smorgasbord out there filled with more tasty stories than anyone could possibly devour in a single lifetime. Why, then, do we still make time to reread certain titles?
9/1/13 – FINDING HONOR IN THE LOST SAINTS OF TENNESSEE
Aptly named, The Lost Saints of Tennessee by Amy Franklin-Willis is a story about loss—both the losses that are unavoidable and the ones we inflict on ourselves. But despite their losses, and there are many, the characters in this novel have a ragged nobility that comes from trying to do the right thing, even when the consequences turn out all wrong. That may not be enough to qualify for sainthood, but it was enough to keep me involved with these characters from start to finish. I enjoyed this book as much as any I’ve read in a long time.
9/1/13 –INTERVIEW WITH ROB ROSS, AUTHOR OF JUGGLER’S BLADE
Rob Ross’s fantasy novel, Juggler’s Blade, was published during summer. I’ll review it on the 20th of the month on this site. Meantime I met the author for coffee in downtown Washington to ask him about his writing roots and about his reading taste. I find one of the best ways to discover good books to read is to ask authors of books I like what they recommend.
9/1/13 — TALKING ABOUT BOOKS WITH THE WASHINGTON POST‘S RON CHARLES
Next time you feel overwhelmed by the number of books on your to-read list, think of Ron Charles, the fiction editor at the Washington Post. Charles and his colleagues at the newspaper get 150 books a day to choose from, with a lot careers depending on their decisions. I chatted with Ron recently about his job and how he approaches it. Here is the transcript of our phone conversation, edited and condensed.