Steve Weddle’s debut novel, COUNTRY HARDBALL, just came out, and he stopped by the blog to talk about the new book, and more!
So, COUNTRY HARDBALL is out this week! Will you tell us about the book and Roy Alison?
The setting for the book is that area of the Arkansas-Louisiana state line just south of Magnolia. The book is a collection of connected stories, and many of those stories involve Roy Alison and his family. As a teenager, Roy caused an accident that killed his parents, and he still carries this weight with him, into a great deal of trouble.
Now he’s trying to get back on the right path, essentially moving in with his grandmother, and getting a job cleaning up the church cemetery. The book is about Roy and about the people in the community, those people who have fallen on rough times — economically, socially, ethically – and their struggles to be better people – or people who just survive.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a little more about yourself and your background?
I’ve always been a writer — I just haven’t always written anything people wanted to read. I grew up in Louisiana and Arkansas and took an MFA in writing from LSU. Then I taught college for a few years before I got a job at a newspaper. Now I get up at four in the morning so I can write for a while before I spend my day with profit and loss reports.
What made you decide to write Country Hardball as a novel told in interconnected stories?
The story wouldn’t work as a traditional novel. The story here has as much to do with the region as it does with the people. Everything is connected, but everything is fragmented. It’s a bit like a window of stained glass. You could use one pane of glass and paint something on it, or you use these different bits to form a mosaic and hope it looks good from two feet away and twenty-two.
What is your writing process like?
Exhausting. I write long-hand when I can, then before work type words into the computer. To me, it’s sort of what I imagine sculpting is like. I get this piece of marble from the quarry and then spend time cutting away everything that doesn’t look like the story. I can spend an hour on a page or scrawl out a few thousand words in a morning, only to cut most of them in the afternoon. I’d like to be a better writer, a more proficient writer, but there it is.
What are a few authors that have influenced you the most?
Raymond Carver. Ann Beattie. Ralph Ellison. Bonnie Jo Campbell. David Means. Chris Offutt. Denis Johnson. Tom Franklin. Annie Proulx. James Salter. That “Comet” story by Salter is right up there with “Hills Like White Elephants” for its impact, its craft.
What are you reading now?
The Little Boy Inside by Glenn Gray and Big Stupid by Victor Gischler.
If someone wanted to dip their toes in the southern noir genre for the first time, what titles would you recommend (other than Country Hardball, of course)?
I’d suggest Chris Offutt and Tom Franklin, certainly. Daniel Woodrell. William Gay.
When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
I should probably say something like helping orphans find puppies, but when I’m not writing I am thinking about writing. Or reading.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on the next book set in that region. It’s a sprawling tale of 1933, 1955, and the present day. Right now, it’s more than I can handle. But I’m buying a new notebook this weekend, so I’m holding out hope.
About COUNTRY HARDBALL:
After more than a decade spent in and out of juvenile detention, halfway houses, and jail, Roy Alison returns to his rural hometown determined to do better, to be better. But what he finds is a working-class community devastated by the economic downturn–a town without anything to hold onto but the past.
Staying with his grandmother, Roy discovers a family history of good intentions and bad choices, of making do without much chance of doing better. Around him, families lose their sons to war, hunting accidents, drugs. And Roy, along with the town, falls into old patterns established generations ago.
A novel-in-stories in the tradition of Bonnie Jo Campbell, Donald Ray Pollock, Denis Johnson, and Alan Heathcock, Country Hardball is a powerfully observed and devastatingly understated portrait of the American working class.