I have no need for more material.
Dodge R.A. Barnes Marble City Publishing
We have some of the most interesting places, customs and people in the world, so why would I look elsewhere for material? My first novel was recently translated into Turkish. I learned through that exchange that Europeans consider the South the last pure American culture. You can actually major in Southern American studies at university.
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HOPE: What is your goal with your stories? In other words, what's your writing mission? My stories are family-oriented psychological thrillers. I love it when people say they stayed up until three a. HOPE: I sense a strong woman behind this body of work. Your messages are strong, and I'm sure they are an extension of you. How would you describe yourself, and how would you like your daughter to remember you? Believe in yourself. Help other people. Do the right thing. Do what you love, set high goals and then work your butt off.
You have to make your own success. Just see if you can give a few other people a hand on your way up. I wanted more than anything to see my name on the spine of a book on those humble shelves. HOPE: Your degrees are in communication. I started writing short stories in fifth grade.
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When I was eleven I volunteered at our local library and that was when I started reading adult literature. I worked in PR and loved it.
I enjoy figuring out the angle of a story, interviewing people, the actual writing, working with the media. I spent some time as a television announcer, but I quickly decided that being the one deciding what was important appealed to me more than being on camera. I wanted to shape the stories, not just read them. You also enjoy essays. In which writing form do you consider your voice the strongest and which do you prefer? My essays tend to either be personal or political.
My articles are generally about culture of some sort—visual or literary art usually. I always write short stories. The only way I can stop working on a story is to have it published. Then I can move on. I wish I could get that published so I could stop agonizing over it.
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This one is more of a love story than I usually write, but it also has a crime novel vibe. I love all parts of a writing career, but gaining firsthand exposure about a new subject from key players in a particular field is always exciting for me. I love the beginning stages of a new project when anything can happen. I used to worry a good bit about not being a gentleman, at least a gentleman by breeding.
The writing business is lousy with gentleman, the way chiggers are prolific in Johnson grass. I was just a Southern man, without a title or an old name, or a passed-down Confederate saber to hang over my mantle. When I go hunting, I do not wear a bow tie, or anything tweed. I do not own a pink cotton button-down.
When I go fishing, I do not fish the interior of Mongolia.
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I fish for the noble bass, in the interior of Mr. I do not own a fly rod, but I can drop a spinnerbait or chartreuse plastic worm into a five-gallon bucket from thirty-five yards away. If I fight you, and I can reach one, I will hit you with a tire iron. I look at cleavage; I do not give a damn. I do not write my stories on an old Underwood, under the magnolia, on my writing porch.
As I have often said, you need electricity to do this stuff right, to keep up with the hot mess of thoughts that come screaming out of your ill-born head. Muddy Waters used electricity; I bet he was no gentleman. My father was not a gentleman, either. He bet on chicken fights and fought men with knives after he came back home from a war where he killed a communist soldier with his bare hands.
My grandfathers were not gentlemen.
The other drank the liquor the first one made, in five-gallon cans intended for paint thinner, and once fought a man naked. The less said about that, the better. I guess, by the same standards, our women were not proper ladies. My mother was not a Southern belle. She dragged me on a cotton sack, and went most of her young life without a new dress so I could have more of what was there. My grandmothers had iron in their bones and were still gentle, not genteel. My maternal grandmother beat a city woman half to death for trying to steal her husband, but mostly because the woman washed her silk stockings in her dish pan.
Later, she buried a baby daughter in the mountains of north Georgia in a time when the gentlemen of the age considered the working people of the foothills — the laid-off mill workers and miners and cotton pickers — to be of little value. My paternal grandmother worked a twelve-hour shift at the cotton mill, and nursed her babies on a ten-minute break, standing on a concrete slab. Oh, the belles and the gentlemen tried to get her. She could have disappeared into that world when she was a belle-in-training in college, been locked into those traces, and made to pull those traditions throughout her life.
She rebelled then; she laughed during convocation. She figured out early there are things in this life that seem important, are made to seem that way, and then there are things that are. In her mind, friendship, true friendship, was more important that society.
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She figured out, even in college, when many, many young people are still trying to locate the library or fashion a passable fake I. Not sweet. She does not give one flip about sweet. She learned, in the midst of people who take themselves very seriously, to laugh out loud at herself. And she has learned, year by year, to appreciate the most precious thing of all: time.
I am glad the belles did not keep her. She says she is a failed one, but I think that denotes a desire to have been one in the first place. We come from the same rough geography, she and I. And I bet she would have liked my people, if they had known each other. I bet she would not have looked funny at them, and they would have been comfortable, at peace, in her company. A Spring Okra Pick! Adriana: Anton, you captured the beauty, mystery, and peril of the Appalachians in your novel. Why do you think the mountains of North Carolina make for such an evocative setting?
I'll bet you get your thank-you notes out immediately. What is it about growing up in the South that makes storytelling so delicious and inspires truthful and beautiful prose? Anton: I think Southerners have a real gift for sitting around and gabbing. So I grew up around my family, and friends, who just knew how to spin a tale, and took real pleasure in telling a story. The South prides itself on hospitality—I think we might rival Japan in how welcome we try to make guests feel in our homes—and part of making a person feel welcome is including her in your stories.
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And Southern women, especially, have such brilliant turns of phrases. I went to college there, at Emory, and I love the whole city, and would move back in a heartbeat. Adriana: You attended a camp similar to Yonahlossee, which was an actual riding camp for young women operating up until the s. What was your camp experience like? Anton: Nothing like Yonahlossee! The food was delicious—I have such a memory for food! And lots of drama happens, naturally. She's a total original—strong, feisty, determined. How did you imagine this headstrong, wild young woman?
Anton: She is definitely not based on me!