Before moving to Seattle I had spent six years in the mountains of western North Carolina, in a hippie-artsy-literary town that Rolling Stone once called Freakville, U.S.A. So it's been a treat to read two great books published this month that happen to have strong ties to my former home town of Asheville, N.C.*
Ron Rash's The Cove, selected as our top Best Books of the Month pick for April, is set during World War I in Mars Hill, just north of Asheville. It's a taut and haunting story about trust and small-town mistrust, and an unlikely love story. And then there's former Ashevillian Wiley Cash's debut, A Land More Kind Than Home, one of our top 10 fiction picks. It takes place in Marshall, another town north of Asheville, where a young boy and his brother must cope with a dangerous secret.
Both books give off a musky scent of dread and darkness, which is what I love about the best of southern writing. The past is always ghosting in the shadows--the Civil War, slavery, moonshine. But at the core of each book is love of family, love of the land, a clear sense of home.
I reached out to both authors to ask a handful questions. Ron's answers are below, and we'll post Wiley's answers this weekend.
In The Cove, the land is very much a character. How/why is the land and its history important to your writing?
Landscape is always a major character in my work because such an emphasis allows the reader to enter the fictional world more fully and, also, understand how the locale affects the characters’ lives both physically and psychologically. In The Cove I hoped to do more--to depict landscape as destiny. Laurel Shelton’s attempts to transcend her dark place in the world, if not literally then through her imagination, is what makes her heroic.