The Fourth River

Finding Literary Value: An Interview with Wiley Cash


By Shelby Newsom, Assistant Editor, The Fourth River


Wiley Cash is The New York Times best-selling author of A Land More Kind Than Home (2012)and This Dark Road to Mercy, which was released in 2014 and nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. His work, which has roots in the tradition of Southern storytelling, has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Roanoke Review,and other publications. He holds a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and is currently writer-in-residence at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. Wiley Cash also teaches Fiction and Nonfiction Writing in the Low-Residency MFA Program at Southern New Hampshire University. He lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with his wife and their two daughters.

In 2015, Wiley Cash served as a fiction faculty member at Chatham’s Summer Community of Writers. He was the 2013 Melanie Brown Lecturer for Chatham University’s MFA Program. His short story, “Bertram’s Body,” is featured in The Fourth River Issue O.3: The Melanie Brown Feature in celebration of 10 Years of the Melanie Brown Lecture Series.

The Fourth River: What’s your favorite thing about “Bertram’s Body”?

Wiley Cash: I enjoyed conjuring the landscape: the scarred hills that had been deforested, the threat of mudslides, the cold air.

TFR: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively in your writing?

WC: I think the scope of my writing has grown. Or perhaps I’ve just grown more daring in trying to tackle larger ideas on bigger canvases and over the course of more pages.

TFR: Do you have a writing ritual?

WC: Do everything you can to clear your head and desk, and then write when there’s nothing left to clear.

TFR: What writing advice are you glad you didn’t take?

WC: Get a “real” job.

TFR: What have you been most surprised by in your writing life?

WC: How I never get tired or weary of talking about stories, how they work and how important they are to our cultural memory.

TFR: What up and coming writers are you reading right now?

WC: The best book that I’ve read in a few years is a debut novel called The Midnight Cool by a writer named Lydia Peelle.

TFR: What did it mean to you to be part of the Melanie Brown series?

WC: This award came at a time when I was trying to decide whether or not I could honestly make a go at being a full-time writer. An award like this is a validation of sorts not only in financial terms, but also because someone has judged your work as possessing some type of literary value. That’s emboldening for a new writer.



Shelby Newsom resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she is completing her MFA in Creative Writing at Chatham University with concentrations in poetry and publishing. She is an Assistant Editor for The Fourth River and an intern at Autumn House Press.