Cash in Town to Discuss Debut Novel
BY FAYE DASEN
Wiley Cash is from western North Carolina, and it is there that he returns for his first novel, "A Land More Kind Than Home."
Cash will be at The Country Bookshop Monday, May 21, at noon.
Cash, who currently lives in West Virginia, where he is teaching fiction writing and American literature at Bethany College, still has strong feelings about his home state.
"I deeply love my native state of North Carolina, especially its mountains," he says. "I hope my love for this region is evident in 'A Land More Kind than Home's portrayal of western North Carolina's people, culture and religious faith."
While "A Land More Kind Than Home" revolves around a young autistic boy who is smothered during a church healing service, the novel's three narrators all represent Cash's experience of growing up in North Carolina and being raised in an evangelical church.
"Like Jess Hall, the younger brother who secretly witnesses the tragedy that befalls his brother, I often found myself sitting in church and waiting for something to happen," Cash says. "As a boy I was promised that I would recognize my salvation when I felt Jesus move inside my heart; however, like Jess, I attempted to rationalize the mysteries of Christianity, and I soon realized that we often use faith to fill the empty spaces in our lives."
Like one of the other narrators of the book, Adelaide Lyle, the church matriarch who straddles the divide between religious faith and old-time folk belief, Cash says his own religious beliefs are rounded out with a healthy dose of skepticism.
"While I'm always suspicious of those who pray the loudest, I can't help but acknowledge the tug on my heart when I witness a baptism, and I can't account for the inexplicable peace that comes from humming an old-time gospel," he says.
But he most identifies with the third narrator, local sheriff Clem Barefield.
"Like Clem, I'm guided only by what I can perceive of this world, and I'm hesitant to get lost in following those who claim to be led by a spirit from the next," he says.
Cash began writing "A Land More Kind than Home" while working on his doctorate at the University of Louisiana.
"While living in Lafayette, I took a fiction workshop with Ernest J. Gaines, who taught me that by writing about home I could recreate that place no matter where I lived," he says.
While none of the characters in the novel are based on people who actually existed, they're all amalgams of the types of people Cash knew growing up.
"In creating these people and the place they live, I got to watch the sun split the mist on the ridges above the French Broad River," Cash says. "From my desk in Louisiana I pondered the silence of snow-covered fields. While living in a place that experiences only summer and fall, I watched the green buds sprout on the red maples, and I was there when their leaves began to shrivel before giving way to the wind. I lived in two places at once, and it was wonderful."
Cash says he became a Southern writer because he wanted to recreate the South that he knows.
"I learned to write about the South from the writers I loved," he says. "Because of this, I knew it was important to garner support for 'A Land More Kind Than Home' from authors like Gail Godwin, Fred Chappell, Bobbie Ann Mason and Clyde Edgerton."
And the novel did garner praise from these Southern novelists
Clyde Edgerton, author of "The Night Train" and "Walking Across Egypt," among other novels, says of the book, "A first novel that sings with talent. 'A Land More Kind Than Home' will knock your socks off."
And author Ernest Gaines weighs in: "Wiley Cash is a talented and disciplined young writer, and his first novel, 'A Land More Kind Than Home,' proves it. I think this could be the beginning of a long, fruitful career."
"Gaines often recalls William Faulkner's invocation of Oxford, Miss., as a little postage stamp of Earth that he continually mined throughout his career," Cash says. "Gaines did the same thing in his Louisiana fiction. That's what I tried to do in 'A Land More Kind Than Home.'
"My next novel is set in the same region of North Carolina. Fortunately, this part of the country is much larger than Oxford, and I can't imagine ever running out of stories to tell about it."
Cash holds a bachelor's degree in literature from UNC Asheville and a master's degree in English from UNC Greensboro.
He has received grants and fellowships from the Asheville Area Arts Council, the Thomas Wolfe Society, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo. His stories have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Roanoke Review and The Carolina Quarterly.
He also teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Program in fiction and nonfiction writing at Southern New Hampshire University.
A portion of the book sales will benefit the Moore County Literacy Council.
For information, call (910) 692-3211.
Contact Faye Dasen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (910) 693-2475.
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