Carolina Minded: An Interview with Wiley Cash

When bestselling author Wiley Cash passed through Pittsburgh on the promotional tour for his award-winning novel A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME, he sat down with THE FOURTH RIVER to talk plot tricks and book deals. Cash also gave creative writing students at Chatham University a craft lecture before a public reading of his work, including excerpts from A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME, recently released THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY and a currently untitled novel-in-process. I talked with him about how to figure out the right book title, being star struck by Jeannette Winterson, and why he can’t wait to get back to North Carolina.

FR: It’s obvious that place plays a huge role in your books. A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road To Mercy are both set in North Carolina, and the new book you’re working on is historical fiction about North Carolina. You seem to really love the state. What was it like growing up there?

Wiley Cash: I absolutely love North Carolina. I did my undergraduate at UNC Asheville, my Masters at UNC Greensboro, and actually left to get my PhD at University of Louisiana-Lafayette. I spent five years in Louisiana. I’ve been teaching in West Virginia, but we’ll move back to N.C. this year. My wife took a job in Wilmington. I can’t wait. I grew up going to a Southern Baptist church in Gastonia. It was very conservative. There was pressure, imagined or whatever, to feel and talk about holy, biblical things. That anxiety transfers to A Land More Kind Than Home’s protagonist Jess, that guilt that young people have about “How do I know when I’m saved?” “Do I believe things correctly?” The rise and fall of Southern Evangelicals had a real impact on me.

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