Monday, June 25, 2018

Casting a Line with David Joy

INGRID THOFT

It's not unusual these days for publishers to schedule joint events for their writers.  For readers, two for one is a good deal!  But for the writers, it's always a roll of the dice: Will you hit it off?  Will you have good chemistry?  I've been extraordinarily fortunate to be paired with wonderful writers who have become good friends.

One of those writers is Edgar Award nominee David Joy, the critically-acclaimed author of Where All Light Tends To Go, The Weight of This World, and the The Line That Held Us, which will be released on August 14th.  David was born, raised and still lives in Appalachia, the setting of all of his books, and today we're discussing his second novel, The Weight of This World, which is now out in paperback.  His books do not offer escape from the real world, but rather, a poetic appreciation of the struggles that challenge people on a daily basis, be it poverty, addiction, or heartbreak.  I always feel smarter after I read David's work and usually have to go look things up!  He was kind enough to answer my questions (and offer a book to a lucky reader,) and as always, I walked away from our conversation both enriched and educated.

INGRID THOFT:  One of the main threads in The Weight of This World is the main character’s experience fighting in Afghanistan and his catastrophic re-entry into life back home in North Carolina.  What prompted you to feature that and were there challenges writing about war and its effects?

DAVID JOY:  I think a large part of that came from some things I was dealing with personally. That book is dedicated to a dear friend of mine who was a combat Marine and who served multiple deployments in Iraq, but anyhow, one day after he’d come home he walked into his house, shot his brother, shot his father, and killed himself. I don’t know what led him to do that, and I don’t know how his military service may have played into that, but I remember how he was portrayed on the news and just remember feeling like they stripped him of his humanity. So I think a lot of what I was doing in this book, maybe even subconsciously, was trying to make sense of all that.
Writer David Joy
 
This novel is very much an examination of trauma and violence. The three main characters’ decision-making processes are driven almost solely by trauma, each uniquely his/her own. For Thad Broom it was things he witnessed at war that led him to do the things that he does. With the violence, I think I became really interested in trying to imagine what can push seemingly normal people to do horrible things.

IPT:  I'm always fascinated by the notion of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

DJ:  I was also really interested in how we, as a society, engage with violence, how for instance, we’re disgusted when someone murders another person but when it comes time for punishment, so many of us answer with blood thirst, with this sort of primal, murderous want for vengeance and justice. So with that book, I think there are moments when readers will turn away from the violence, and moments when they may potentially embrace it. I’m very interested in where that line is drawn. I think it’s important for us to think about.

As far as writing about a veteran and about the impact of war, I spent a lot of time reading books by veterans, watching documentaries, listening to interviews. I think the hard part for me was trying not to let Thad’s story become the sort of stereotypical story of the shattered veteran. I tried to make his time in the service seem like one of the places where he felt valued. I tried to make the damage he came home with something that hadn’t affected everyone he served with in the same way. That was difficult in a lot of ways because none of those other people are in the story aside from anecdotally, small glimpse in flashbacks. This is very much Thad’s story, and his story is one of severe trauma, but it was important to me to at least provide that other side even if it was only in the background, only sort of in passing, in the periphery. Hopefully, I got it halfway right.
The view from David's backyard


IPT:  The mountains of North Carolina are essentially another character in your books.  They've been referred to as “Appalachian Noir,” largely because the sense of place is so paramount to the stories.  In fact, the "Huffington Post" called Weight "Darkly stunning Appalachian noir."  Do you think that category is a fair description of your work?

DJ:  When you come from an area like this, people and place is sort of this inseparable thing. You can’t really separate or discern one from the other. For me, characters just sort of claw their way out of this landscape. So there’s that. But I think this idea of noir is something I hadn’t really thought about early on. I wasn’t coming out of a crime fiction tradition. That’s not the stuff I read. I didn’t grow up reading Elmore Leonard or Jim Thompson. I was coming out of writers like Larry Brown and William Gay and Harry Crews and Ron Rash and Daniel Woodrell.

But looking back, when I think about the traditional sense of noir, the French idea, the idea of the black novel or the black film, just this sort of inescapable mood that takes over a work of art, I think all of those writers that I loved could easily fit into that definition. You think about a novel like Daniel Woodrell’s The Death Of Sweet Mister, the last line of that, one of the most beautiful last lines I’ve ever read, is also just one of the most noir sentences ever constructed. So when I think about it like this, I think my work fits into that idea of noir, at least in the traditional sense. With a novel like The Weight Of This World, that novel has a pall cast over it from the opening sentence to the last broken breath. That’s something I’m very conscious of, and I think it’s indicative of the types of stories I’ve always loved most.


IPT:  I’ve had a number of interesting conversations about the huge bestseller Hillbilly Elegy thanks to the pieces you’ve written about the book and its erroneous characterization of Appalachia.  You clearly think the book has done a disservice to the region and its inhabitants.  Can you tell our readers a bit about that, a perspective that seems to be lacking in the mainstream press?


Appalachia is huge
DJ:  I think the two greatest failures of Hillbilly Elegy are that, one, J.D. Vance offers a pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps solution to systematic poverty, and, two, he uses an individual experience to try and offer a perspective about a region that stretches from the hill country of Mississippi to New York, an area covering 205,000 square miles across 420 counties in 13 states. 

Going back centuries, the history of this place is one of outside interests coming into the region and exploiting the land and its people of its resources and leaving when there was nothing left but ashes. First it was lumber, then it was coal, now its tourism, unrestricted land development, and gentrification. Everyone’s familiar with the Flint, Michigan water crisis, but how many people in America know that there are countless towns in coal country where folks haven’t been able to drink the water for decades? What’s so despicable about Hillbilly Elegy is that Vance’s answer isn’t to point the finger at those who did the robbing, but rather to tell the folks who’ve had their pockets picked to stop complaining and get back to work. He and I fundamentally disagree when it comes to who’s to blame and how we fix it.

So the other issue with the book is painting the entire region under a singular paradigm. I don’t have any issue with the stories Vance tells about his upbringing, the people he describes. That’s his truth. Those people exist. But to define a region as vast as Appalachia under any one truth is an absurdity. We’re talking about a place that’s more than 40,000 square miles larger than the state of California. Think about that. Let that sink in. So what happens is that everyone who reads this walks away with a singular image of what Appalachia is, and it’s false. Time and time and time again, we’re painted as uneducated, poverty-stricken, shoeless, toothless, white trash looking for a handout. Never mind the fact that we’re not all white, the fact that we have large black and latinx populations. Never mind the fact that large industrial cities like Pittsburgh are Appalachian. Never mind the number of incredible universities and community colleges spread throughout the region. Never mind the culture, the strong sense of family, the strength of Appalachian women. Never mind all of it. We’re one thing and one thing alone to outsiders. That stereotype has been made disgustingly clear.

I think the saddest part for me isn’t that Vance’s book is just another horrible misrepresentation, we’re used to that by now, but rather, it’s the fact that his book is the only thing anyone outside this region has read about this place in decades. There’s so so so much beautiful, beautiful art coming out of these mountains, and no one is paying any attention to it.

David, what is this creature?!

IPT:  I’m so excited to be included in the fishing anthology that you’ve pulled together.  Thank you for broadening the category of fishing to include lobstering!  What inspired you to take on this project?

DJ:  The name of the book is Gather At The River, and it will come out some time early next spring from Hub City Press. I think one of the most incredible things about it is the talent I was able to pull together. I’m lucky to have some incredibly talented friends, people like you and Ace Atkins and C.J. Box and Natalie Baszile and Ron Rash. We’ve got 25 authors and a third of them are New York Times Bestsellers. The rest are all award-winning, best-selling writers with multiple books on the shelf. That’s pretty astounding. All the royalties are going to a nonprofit called CAST For Kids, which has a lot of different projects going, but ultimately, is just an organization that tries to get more kids into fishing. The publisher is also a nonprofit, promoting art and literature in the upstate of South Carolina, so technically, all the money is going to charity. 

As far as how I came up with the idea, I’ve just always been obsessed with fishing. Anybody who knows me knows that. I can’t sit by water and not fish it. I think that’s really the one thing I’m best at. It’s what I’m most passionate about. But anyways, I was sitting around one day, and I was thinking about how I wish I could do something for charity. I don’t have any money, so donations were pretty much out of the question. Then I just got to thinking about what my talents are and what I can do with that, and so I came up with the idea of editing an anthology of fishing essays, calling on the help of my friends. After that it all just sort of lined itself up. I got the authors together, and I sold the idea to Hub City. It turned out amazing. I’ve read about every outdoor-related book in print, and I can honestly say it’s one of the best fishing related books ever put together. 

IPT:  Okay, a couple of questions I always like to ask:  First, what has surprised you most about being a published author?

DJ:  I think just the simple fact that people read the work and that they connect with it. It’s strange to go into a bookstore and see your books on the shelves. It’s strange to go into an airport and see a novel you wrote sitting next to the thirty-dollar bag of Fritos. I remember the first time I went to France for a festival in Vincennes, and a woman ran up to me on the street having recognized me and she wanted to tell me how much she loved my first novel. For someone who’d never left North Carolina before the book stuff started, who’d never been on an airplane before he flew to New York City to sign a contract, that’s pretty incredible. There was someone the other day who commented on an Instagram post of mine about reading one of my novels for a book club in China. That type of thing just boggles my mind.


IPT:  Second favorite question:  Is there a wannabe book lurking in the back of your brain, something you would write if you didn’t have to consider agents, editors, and fans?  A romance?  Non-fiction?  Cookbook?

DJ:  The first book I ever wrote was a memoir called Growing Gills. It came out with a really small press and is out of print now, but early on, all I was writing was creative nonfiction, and more specifically, nature writing. I think I wanted to be like John Gierach, maybe Rick Bass or something like that.

Eventually, I just sort of gravitated toward fiction and that’s mostly what I write nowadays, but I think one day, it’s likely I’ll pull together a collection of essays. I’m still writing a lot of essays. I had that essay earlier this year with "New York Times Magazine," and I’ve got another coming out later in the year with "Garden & Gun." So I still do a good bit of that. But as far as something that might be surprising, I’d like to write a children’s book one day. I do a lot of painting in between novels. I use it as a way to sort of pull my brain out of whatever darkness I’ve created in the fiction, a sort of meditation. But anyways, those paintings are always really bright, child-like, almost Seussian pictures of fish and birds and raccoons, whatever. I’d like to try and put a story together with some paintings one day.


IPT:  I didn't know that!  I look forward to seeing some of those paintings!  


David will be joining us today to answer your questions, and one lucky reader who comments will get a copy of The Weight of This World.




The Weight of This World
Critically acclaimed author David Joy, whose debut, Where All Light Tends to Go, was hailed as “a savagely moving novel that will likely become an important addition to the great body of Southern literature” - the "Huffington Post," returns to the mountains of North Carolina with a powerful story about the inescapable weight of the past.

A combat veteran returned from war, Thad Broom can’t leave the hardened world of Afghanistan behind, nor can he forgive himself for what he saw there. His mother, April, is haunted by her own demons, a secret trauma she has carried for years. Between them is Aiden McCall, loyal to both but unable to hold them together. Connected by bonds of circumstance and duty, friendship and love, these three lives are blown apart when Aiden and Thad witness the accidental death of their drug dealer and a riot of dope and cash drops in their laps. On a meth-fueled journey to nowhere, they will either find the grit to overcome the darkness or be consumed by it. The Weight Of This World is available now in paperback from Putnam Books.


David Joy is the author of the Edgar-nominated novel Where All Light Tends to Go (Putnam, 2015), as well as the novels The Weight Of This World (Putnam, 2017) and The Line That Held Us (Putnam, 2018). He is also the author of the memoir Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey (Bright Mountain Books, 2011), which was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award.

Joy is the recipient of an artist fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council. His latest short stories and essays have appeared in the "New York Times Magazine", "Garden & Gun," and "The Bitter Southerner."

Joy lives in the North Carolina mountains.

45 comments:

  1. Thanks for a very thought-provoking conversation.
    I hadn’t given it too much thought, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in Appalachia that didn’t depict the characters as living a hardscrabble life. Do you think that’s because it’s an “easy” characterization or that people simply don’t recognize the size and/or the diversity that exists within the region?

    Featuring your paintings in a Seussian nature story for children sounds like a perfectly marvelous idea, David . . . .

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    1. Outsiders certainly don't recognize the size or diversity of this place. As far as landscape is concerned, when outsiders think about Appalachia they imagine the coalfields of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. That’s all you ever see. That’s all that’s ever on the news. That's nothing like where I live. Where I live in Jackson County, North Carolina, we don’t have coal. Most people here have never witnessed strip mining or mountaintop removal. Our mountains are being lost to tourism, unrestricted land development, rising property costs, and gentrification. That's what will destroy the place where I live. You never see those mountains on the news, just like you never see or hear about the mountain people in Pennsylvania or Alabama.

      I do think there are plenty of writers working to portray the diversity that’s here, writers like Silas House, who’s most recent novel Southernmost examines sexuality in a way that I don’t think had really been done before. We’ve got writers like Crystal Wilkinson and Frank X Walker spearheading the Affrilachian writers movement, providing a stage for black voices in this region. We’ve got poets like Ricardo Nazario y Colon writing about what it’s like to be Puerto Rican living in this place. So the thing is, there are plenty of writers doing the work, plenty of writers capturing the diversity of this place, and no one is reading it. I think that outside of this region most people don’t even know this is happening.

      The only reason Appalachia became a hot word over the past few years was because it made an easy scapegoat. That’s the only reason outside of this place even batted an eye.

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    2. I have to admit complete ignorance when it came to the size and scale of Appalachia. I lived in Pittsburgh for three years when I was growing up, and it never occurred to me that the city was part of the region. David, do you think Pittsburgh and other more urban areas within the region are reluctant to claim their stake because of the negative stereotypes, (which I realize is the way to combat those stereotypes)?

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    3. I don't know that that's the case. I think about a poet like Joseph Bathanti, born and raised in Pittsburgh, and he very much identifies as Appalachian. I think part of that, for him, is that he moved to North Carolina has been in the mountains of North Carolina for a long time now, but I think he also recognized a lot of similarities between the people where he grew up and the people where he lives now. Maybe part of it is more a result of just this rural/urban divide. Maybe it's just this idea that Appalachia is purely rural, and so when people think about these larger towns and cities throughout the region, they don't think about them in those terms because they don't feel "Appalachian," they don't feel rural enough to qualify.

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    4. That makes sense. I think "rural" definitely comes to mind first, rather than "urban."

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  2. Wow, what an interesting interview. Nice to meet you here, David. Now I'm off to find your books; knowing a bit about you and your thinking makes me want to read them. Thank you.

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  3. Thought provoking, indeed! Especially your comments on Hillbilly Elegy, David. I grew up in the county seat, Hamilton, Ohio, down the road from Vance's hometown of Middletown, and have a different diaspora story involving Appalachia. My Hungarian great grandfather emigrated to West Virginia to work in the mines there. After a mine collapse my great grandmother moved to Ohio, where she remarried and opened a dry goods store. Vance either does not know or ignores the fact that not all of Appalachia was peopled with immigrants from the British Isles. And that was just a small portion of what irked me about his book.

    We have spent a fair amount of time in modern-day Appalachia, and it does not match up to the Lil Abner stereotypes that persist. That's not to say such people don't exist, just that real life is more complex.

    Happy to make your acquaintance here!

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  4. Pure joy! To find someone who 'gets it'--when I was a schoolgirl in northern Ohio, I didn't want my friends to know that my family was from eastern Kentucky, to be labeled a 'hillbilly.' Thankfully, I grew out of that nonsense. The finger-reach of Appalachia is spread wide across the US today--and I would venture to say that it still pulls at those second- and third-generations who landed in northern Ohio and Nebraska and Oregon and elsewhere. That landscape molded the people who lived there--wherever they came from, and it built strength and heart and beauty and dignity. I'm looking forward to getting acquainted with your work, David!

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  5. So great to see David here. Thanks for making that happen, Ingrid. THE LINE THAT HELD US is one of my most anticipated reads of the late summer. I practically had to sell my soul to get a copy for review, but then magically things fell into place. I read his other works too long after their release for consideration for BOLO Books, so I wanted to make sure this new one was featured.

    Readers, if you haven't tried a David Joy book yet, do so. You won't regret it.

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    1. I'm so glad that you risked your soul to get it!

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  6. This is great. I will be a reader! I am staying at a hotel a few miles from where I grew up. And I’ve been thinking a lot about small town life. I was at the cemetery yesterday planting flowers for my dad and brothers, and I walked around recognizing so many names. The levels of “knowing” other people.

    I am so interested in PTSD. My very violent father was a WWII Marine. I wish I could understand how those years affected him. I’ve read a lot about this and I think your book will help me to get a little deeper into this topic

    Thank you

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    1. David doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of the cost of war. As you know from personal experience, Denise Ann, veterans can't flick a switch and undo their experiences overseas. One of the things that I found so interesting about "Weight" was the main character's sense of belonging while serving and why the experience was both positive and horrific. I found it to be very thought-provoking, particularly given that our current state of affairs doesn't really allow for much gray area!

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    2. I think you're absolutely right that there isn't much allowance for gray area. Black. White. Makes it easy to fit into boxes. Much easier to compartmentalize. That compartmentalization allows you to tell yourself you have a handle on it. The reality, of course, is that those boxes just don't work. The reality is that it's ALL gray area.

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  7. I am captivated with your novel and your post which is fascinating. You are fortunate to be multi-talented and creative. I look forward to enjoying your book and your children's books would be wonderful.

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  8. Having grown up in Western New York (not Appalachia, granted) I was shocked when I ran into the "coal-field/strip-mine/moonshine" image of the area and it was presented as "this is all Appalachia." Because that's not representative of New York. Now I live in Pittsburgh and it still doesn't exactly fit.

    But I love the juxtaposition of gorgeous landscape with the possibilities offered by the variety of lifestyles/life experiences that Appalachia offers.

    Congrats on the book!

    Mary/Liz

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    1. I lived in Pittsburgh in 1986-1989 during a real time of growth in medicine, in particular. The city was undergoing a revitalization, and I never thought of it as part of Appalachia!

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    2. It's still revitalizing. And although the map shows the swath of Appalachia right over Pittsburgh, it doesn't resemble the stereotype at all.

      Go fifty miles south to where my books are set, and you find all the coal mining though.

      Mary/Liz

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  9. Thank you David for presenting the true picture of Appalachia. It is just as diverse as the rest of America. I look forward to reading your books. Hard work is not the cure-all if you can't drink the water.

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  10. I read Where All Light Tends to Go and loved it... now I need to catch up on your newer books. That's one Biiiiig fish. Got me remembering our own (New England) fantastic mystery author who was a brilliant fisherman and who wrote about fishing in a way that got me to GET IT... why people love fly fishing. William R. Tapply. Sadly died much too early Bitch Creek was my favorite.

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    1. I've never read any of Tapply's fiction, but I did read a book of his called Trout Eyes.

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  11. Goodness, there is a lot to respond to in this post. Thank you, David and Ingrid, for sharing this exchange. I grew up in south Louisiana, where the shrimping and trapping industries are part of the cultural heritage, but also trap people in institutional poverty. Every hurricane season, I see the comments from people who say "just leave" without understanding the complications of moving away from a place that may be difficult, but is still your homeland. Without moving too far into another topic, the Cajuns who live this hardscrabble life were victims of ethnic cleansing. When a place offers you refuge, it is hard to move away, even centuries later, even when the land beneath your feet is literally washing away. I think there are several pockets of the US that are almost separate countries within the country--Appalachia being one of them.

    I admire writers like Daniel Woodrell but also his wife Katie Estill, who wrote about the Ozarks in the same unflinching way he writes about Appalachia.

    Fishing! When we were newlyweds, my husband and my father got to know one another through fishing. My father was an excellent navigator and their excursions were along the coast, where the oil industry had cut canals as byways. Between the canals and the sawgrass islands, my husband said it was a miracle they never got lost, but my dad never did. My husband also said it would have been so easy for my dad to get rid of him--tip him over the side and he'd never been seen again. There's a story in there....

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    1. As if leaving were ever easy! Not only from an emotional standpoint, but just the logistics! Where do you go? How do you make a living? It's always easier to quarterback other people's lives.

      The description of your dad and husband on their fishing excursions sounds like a set-up for a mystery, Ramona!

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  12. David, welcome, and thank you for such an interesting post. Where All Light Tends To Go has been languishing in my to-read stacks--no reflection on you, but simply on how far behind I get. Now I must pull it out! And I'm fascinated by the map--I never really thought about what comprised Appalachia. The first thing that comes to my mind is not coal fields, but the beautiful North Carolina mountains. The reckless deforestation is terrifying, but now I feel compelled to learn more.

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  13. Love this, and I love David's take on Hillbilly Elegy. I thought it worked beautifully when Vance was sticking to straight memoir, but took a hard turn to reactionary talking points when he started prescribing "solutions."

    I'm not from Appalachia, but I've lived in and write about parts of New York State that have many similarities - 18th century English/Scottish/Scots-Irish migration, poor farming, loss of industries, generational poverty combined with enormous pride of place and identity. The problems arising from areas like the Northern Kingdom (or rural Maine, where I live now) are frustrating, often intractable, and fertile field for fiction.

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    1. Julia, I didn't know much about "Hillbilly" except that it was a huge bestseller, but when I learned David's thoughts, it was very eye-opening. It's interesting to me that so many people are embracing it without really questioning its premises.

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  14. I grew up in a military family, so many places became home. But it wasn't until I moved to Appalachia as an adult that I felt like I belonged in a place. I spent some years in Boone, NC and a decade in Fayetteville, WV. My wife and I met and were married in WV. My first born came into this world in WV. It is a place that has taken root in my soul. We left that place for a couple reasons (wife grad school) but often talk of going back. The problem in WV is education. The county we lived in had the worst education system in the state and WV is always ranked pretty low. Now I know, and count as friends many an Appalachian West Virginian whom I hold in very high intellectual esteem, but they all decry the same issue. we've seen it played out in the teacher protests. My question is, particularly for the area I lived, outdoor recreation / tourism is the big draw...can the rising tide of gentrification that may creep into areas like that ( because it won't be as fast as more urban areas) eventually float the education system, and thereby benefit all residents, if it is done wisely?
    Second, I found your work through fishing. It is a love of mine as well. I've read Where All Light Tends To Go and have since recommended it to many folks. Fell in love with your writing. Beautifully done sir. I plan on knocking out the Weight of This World next , but was waiting for the paperback. I've tried to find growing Gills to no avail. Will it ever have a reprint?
    Also, have you read The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart by M Glenn Taylor ? It is another one I've recommended to many friends.

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    1. I wholeheartedly believe tourism to be an extractive economy. Looks good for short-term economic growth, but long term, historically speaking, the local people are displaced, the environment is exploited, and what few jobs are created are low paying, entry level positions. Speaking strictly of where I live, there isn't the infrastructure in place to support what they've created. So you’ve got all kinds of issues arising out of that. One of their biggest pushes here was to make Jackson County the “North Carolina Trout Capital.” They made this an official designation. They created a list of fishing spots and marketed it nationally, some of these streams tiny holdout spots where some of our last healthy populations of native brook trout survive. There was no oversight. There was no accountability. The money generated doesn’t find its way back into the resource. It’s strictly a matter of exploitation. When those fish are gone and those streams are destroyed, the pockets will already be filled and they’ll turn their backs on what they’ve done.

      This idea of gentrification floating public resources for places that otherwise wouldn’t have the funding, gentrification only serves to benefit the gentry. It’s a matter of displacement. Any increased tax revenues won’t benefit local people because the local people won’t be there. Land values rise to a point that no one can afford to stay. Here, you’ve had land that’s been in your family for 200 years and you can’t afford to pay the taxes on it. You sell it and you make decent money on it because the values are high, but where do you go? Best case you make a lateral move, only really you can’t move laterally because the type of land that you’ve had for all those years doesn’t exist anymore. So you move altogether, settle some place else, someplace you might be able to find a decent job. That’s what happens. It happens in cities to historically black communities. It happens in Appalachia when outsiders decide they want to build second and third homes so they can have a nice view.

      I don’t know if Growing Gills would ever be picked up by another press and printed again, but you can order a copy online from my local bookstore, City Lights in Sylva, NC (www.citylightsnc.com). They have all the remaining copies and would be happy to mail you one. As for old Trenchmouth, Glenn’s a good buddy of mine and as talented as they come. I love his work mucho!

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    2. Thank you for the response. That Trout Capital debacle sounds horrendous. And I understand your position. Gentrification is a word with a healthy dose of negative connotation and for good reason. Namely all the reasons you've provided. I guess for me the details are in the planning. In my mind it's possible to do wisely, but the reality is it never seems to happen that way. As a budding politician who was just recently elected to the Town Council in my area, I'm immensely interested in smart growth and maintaining affordable housing for all residents, etc. I see you will be in Davidson for a book signing in August and I plan to attend. My youngest sister plays soccer for the college, and I'll be attending a game the night before your appearnace. Researching that town it appears many folks were priced out of the neighborhoods surrounding Davidson. We are coming up against some of those issues here as our university, Longwood, continues to grow. I don't want to see any of our residents displaced. thank you again for your response.
      And i'll check out City Lights

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    3. Welcome, Brian, and thanks to both you and David for contributing such thoughtful comments. I'm so glad you'll have the chance to see him in person, Brian. It's a treat to hear him talk about his own books, but also about other writers. David's knowledge is vast; like I said, I always learn from him.

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  15. Shalom David and Reds, My brother put up the link to the NY Times Magazine essay of your's about guns and society. I enjoyed it enough to go looking for more writing. I found and listened to the audio-book version of Where All Light Tends to Go. I look forward to finding the rest of your writing. Thanks.

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    1. That article is terrific, and I hope some readers today click on the link in our Q&A!

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  16. Well, so many questions--but first, thank you for a thought-provoking interview, you two!
    David--what a heartbreaking story, and your assessment of violence, and readers' reactions to it, is so touching and disturbing at the same time. I lived in Atlanta for several years, and doing stories in the rural rural rural parts of the North Georgia was one of the most eye-opening things of my life. I did a story called Slabtown Road, the real name of the road, where the only remaining resident made his living by foraging for old television sets, and ripping out the copper wire inside, and selling it. I found the story because I saw his whole front yard was strewn with gutted TVs.
    So there's that, and all it conveys.

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  17. On a different note! I cannot tell you how much I'd love to learn to fly fish. I just know, my brain knows, that I could do it. But there's not much of it in Boston.
    When you have a second, though--what's that Woodrell last line?
    Thank you so much for being here today!

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    1. The line won't make much sense outside the context of the story, but, "I'd say no dawns ever did break right over her and me again."

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    2. I was wondering about the line, too, Hank! I've made David promise that he'll take me fishing if I'm ever in his neck of the woods. I have visions of wading in, thrusting my hands into the murky depths, and breaking the surface with a huge, ugly creature, my forearm in its gullet. That's how it's done, right, David? ;)

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    3. You ain't sticking your arm in my gullet!

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  18. Wow! What a great interview, Ingrid and David. I was born in Maysville, KY, which has hills, something I so missed when I moved to the western part of the state after marrying, but we were rather at the foothills of the Appalachia chain, what I always called northeastern Kentucky. Now, here's where I was wrong, but Hillbilly Elegy serves to show what I feared people would label me as if I said just eastern Kentucky. I didn't want anybody to think I was from eastern Kentucky because the people in that region, in the heart of Appalachia, were so often referred to as hillbillies or backward or uneducated. Of course, it was a profile that was demeaning and dismissive of all the talented, intelligent, and wonderful people who populated the area. And, David, I'm so disheartened that a best selling book like Hillbilly Elegy projects the wrong image of a stupid and lazy people. And, to blame the people who were taken advantage of by the giant corporations, like coal, is especially a cruel portrayal. And, that the whole of the Appalachia Mountains area is one homogeneous grouping is absurd. I haven't read Hillbilly Elegy and now I won't. I do, however, look forward to reading your books.

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    1. I feel the same way, Kathy. Now when people sing that book's praises, at least I feel I can make an educated case about the skewed picture it paints of the region.

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    2. If nonfiction is your thing, read Jeremy Jones Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland instead. Or read Elizabeth Catte's What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia.

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    3. David, I don't read much non-fiction because of all the mystery/crime fiction I read, but I do like to try and fit a NF in when I can. Thanks for the suggestions. I will look them up and add to my TBR list. I have read Silas House's trilogy of A Parchment of Leaves, The Coal Tattoo, and Clay's Quilt because they are set in eastern Kentucky, where Silas is from. I heard him speak once, too, and enjoyed it. The books are a great look at a family going back several generations and the hardships they endured but remained family.

      Ingrid, I'm so glad David forewarned us.

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    4. Silas is a very good friend of mine. Be sure to check out his latest as well, Southernmost. It came out earlier this month. Probably one of the best books to come out of the region in a great while.

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  19. What a fabulous interview. I grew up on the north of the Appalachian Trail, and I love your description that the "characters claw themselves out of the landscape". Brilliant. Looking forward to reading your work!

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