Wednesday, March 4, 2015

David Joy, Interview Giveaway

Today I'm welcoming author David Joy, he's here to tell us all a bit about his new release, Where All Light Tends To Go. I'd never heard of the term "Appalachian noir" which is how his new novel is described, read on to see what exactly that means.
Plus David's Publisher Penguin is offering one entrant US ONLY a print copy of David's new book.
Giveaway details below!

  • ISBN-13: 9780399172779
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/3/2015
  • Pages: 272


The area surrounding Cashiers, North Carolina, is home to people of all kinds, but the world that Jacob McNeely lives in is crueler than most. His father runs a methodically organized meth ring, with local authorities on the dime to turn a blind eye to his dealings. Having dropped out of high school and cut himself off from his peers, Jacob has been working for this father for years, all on the promise that his payday will come eventually.  The only joy he finds comes from reuniting with Maggie, his first love, and a girl clearly bound for bigger and better things than their hardscrabble town.
Praise- "Lyrical, propulsive, dark and compelling. Joy knows well the grit and gravel of his world, the soul and blemishes of the place."—Daniel Woodrell
In the country-noir tradition of Winter's Bone meets 'Breaking Bad,' a savage and beautiful story of a young man seeking redemption.

Read an excerpt:

I hid the pickup behind a tangled row of pampas grass that had needed burning a good year or so before. The law never liked for folks to climb the water tower, but I hadn’t ever cared much for the law. I was a McNeely and, in this part of Appalachia, that meant something. Outlawing was just as much a matter of blood as hair color and height. Besides, the water tower was the best place to see graduation caps thrown high when seniors wearing black robes and tearful smiles headed out of Walter Middleton School one last time.
Rungs once painted white were chipped and rusted and slumped in the middle from years of being climbed by wide-eyed kids looking to paint their names on the town. Those things that seemed as if they’d last forever never did. I didn’t even make it out of tenth grade, and maybe that’s why I hadn’t felt the need to scale that tower with britches weighed down by spray-paint cans. There was no need to cement my name. A name like Jacob McNeely raised eyebrows and questions. In a town this small, all eyes were prying eyes. I couldn’t show my face, didn’t want the problems and rumors that being down there would bring, but I had to see her leave.
The grate platform circling the water tank had lost all but a few screws and curled up at the edges like a twice-read book. Every step I took shifted metal, but it was a place I’d stood before, a place I’d navigated on every drug I’d ever taken. With only a buzz from my morning smoke lingering, there wasn’t need for worries. I sat beneath green letters dripping a nearly illegible “FUCK U” across the front side of the tank, pulled a soft pack of Winstons from the pocket of my jeans, lit the last cigarette I had, and waited.
The school I’d spent the majority of my life in seemed smaller now, though looking back it had never been big enough. I grew up twenty miles south of Sylva, a town that really wasn’t much of a town at all but the closest thing to one in Jackson County. If you were passing through, you’d miss Sylva if you blinked, and the place where I was from you could overlook with your eyes peeled. Being a small, mountain community that far away, we only had one school. So that meant that kids who grew up in this county would walk into Walter Middleton at five years old and wouldn’t leave until graduation thirteen years down the road. Growing up in it, I never found it strange to share the halls with teens when I was a kid and kids when I was a teen, but looking down on it now, two years after leaving for good, the whole thing was alien.
The white dome roofing the gym looked like a bad egg bobbing in boiling water, the courtyard was lined in uneven passes from a lawnmower, and a painting of the school mascot, centered in the parking lot, looked more like a chupacabra than any bobcat I’d ever seen. To be honest, there wasn’t too much worth remembering from my time there, but still it had accounted for ten of my eighteen years. Surprisingly, though, that wasn’t disappointing. What was disappointing about that school, my life, and this whole fucking place was that I’d let it beat me. I’d let what I was born into control what I’d become. Mama snorted crystal, Daddy sold it to her, and I’d never had the balls to leave. That was my life in a nutshell. I took a drag from my last cigarette and hocked a thick wad of spit over the railing.
I was watching a wake of buzzards whirl down behind a mountain when the side door cracked against the gymnasium brick. One kid tore out in front of the crowd, and even before he jumped onto the hood of his car, I knew him. Blane Cowen was the type to drink a beer and scream wasted. I’d tested him once back in middle school, brought him up here on the water tower to smoke a joint, and when his legs got wobbly and vertigo set in he decided awfully fast he didn’t want to play friends anymore. In a school filled with kids who swiped prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets, Blane was the village idiot. But despite all that, I kind of felt sorry for the bastard, standing there, arms raised in the air as he dented in the hood of a beat-up Civic, no one in his class paying him a lick of attention while he howled.
The parking lot that had seemed so desolate just a minute before was crawling now as friends hugged, told promises they’d never be able to keep, and ran off to parents who had no clue of who their children had become. I knew it because I’d grown up with them, all of them, and all of us knew things about one another that we’d never share. Most of us knew things that we didn’t even want to confess to ourselves, so we took those secrets with us like condoms, stuffed in wallets, that would never be used. I wanted to be down there with them, if not as a classmate, then at least as a friend, but none of them needed my baggage.
Not until she took off her cap did I recognize her in the crowd. Maggie Jennings stood there and pulled her hair out of a bun, shook blond curls down across her shoulders, and kicked high heels from her feet. The front of her graduation gown was unzipped, and a white sundress held tight to her body. I could almost make out her laugh in the clamor as her boyfriend, Avery Hooper, picked her up from behind and spun her around wildly. Maggie’s mother hunched with her hands covering her face as if to conceal tears, and Maggie’s father put his arm around his wife’s waist and drew her close. A person who didn’t know any better would have thought them the perfect American family. Live the lie and they’ll believe the lie, but I knew different.
I’d known Maggie my whole life. The house she grew up in was two beats of a wing as the crow flies from my front porch, so there hadn’t been many days of my childhood spent without her by my side. About the first memory I can recall is being five or six with pants rolled up, the two of us digging in the creek for spring lizards. We were tighter than a burl, as Daddy’d say. In a way, I guess, Maggie and me raised each other.
Back before her father found Jesus, he’d run off on a two- or three-week drunk with no one seeing hide nor hair of him till it was over. Her mother worked two jobs to keep food on the table, but that meant there wasn’t a soul watching when Maggie and I’d head into the woods, me talking her into all sorts of shit that most kids wouldn’t have dreamed. I guess we were twelve or so when her father got saved and moved the family off The Creek. Folks said he poured enough white liquor in the West Fork of the Tuckasegee to slosh every speckled trout from Nimblewill to Fontana, but I never figured him much for saving. A drunk’s a drunk just like an addict’s an addict, and there ain’t a God you can pray to who can change a damn bit of it.
But Maggie was different. Even early on I remember being amazed by her. She’d always been something slippery that I never could seem to grasp, something buried deep in her that never let anything outside of herself decide what she would become. I’d always loved that about her. I’d always loved her.
We were in middle school when the tomboy I grew up with started filling out. Having been best friends, when I asked Maggie out in eighth grade, it seemed like that shit they write in movies. We were together for three years, a lifetime it had felt like. What meant the most to me was that Maggie knew where I’d come from, knew what I was being groomed into, and still believed I could make it out. I’d thought my life was chosen, that I didn’t really have a say in the matter, but Maggie dreamed for me. She told me I could be anything I wanted, go any place that looked worth going, and there were times I almost believed her. Folks like me were tied to this place, but Maggie held no restraints. She was out of here from the moment she set her eyes on the distance. If I ever did have a dream, it was that she might take me with her. But dreams were silly for folks like me. There always comes a time when you have to wake up.
I was proud that she was headed to a place I could never go, and I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket to text her, “Congrats.”
When Avery let go, Maggie jumped into her father’s arms, bent her legs behind her with bare feet pointed into the sky. Her father buried his head into his daughter’s hair, pretended for a split second that he’d had something to do with how she turned out, then placed her on the ground for her mother to kiss. Maggie stood there for a moment, rocked back and forth before she turned away. She glanced behind her to say something as she ran off to Avery’s truck, but her parents had said their good-byes. In a way, I think they knew she was already gone. They knew it just as much as I did. A girl like that couldn’t stay. Not forever, and certainly not for long.
Penguin Group US is offering one Print copy
of Where All Light Tends To Go
to enter please use Rafflecopter form below
Thanks Penguin
Good Luck!

Hi, David! Welcome to The Reading Frenzy. Tell my readers a bit about your novel, Where All Light Tends to Go.
It’s a debut novel set in Appalachia, and more specifically set in Jackson County, North Carolina where I live. As far as what the story’s about, I think Ron Rash did a fine job of summing it up in a sentence by saying that it’s “a young man’s attempt to transcend his family legacy of violence.” I think that description strikes at the heart of the novel, but, for me, the book becomes a sort of meditation on the balance of hope and fate. I think it’s about how futile hope can become for someone born into dire circumstance.

On the publicity sheet I received about this novel it’s described as an “Appalachian noir.” This is a new term for me, I think I might have an idea but I don’t want to suppose, so what exactly does it mean?
It’s a new term because I absolutely made it up. The reason, though, is that I wrote this novel coming out of an obsession with Daniel Woodrell, and more specifically his novels Tomato Red and The Death Of Sweet Mister. He actually coined the phrase “country noir” as part of the original title for the novel preceding Tomato Red, Give Us A Kiss. Daniel eventually distanced himself from that phrase, and he explains why in a few different interviews, but what it ultimately boils down to are the specific qualities that create noir, specific qualities that he doesn’t see his work adhering to. I’m quickly realizing a lot of the same things, I think, as this discussion continues. One thing I’m noticing as I have conversations with a lot of really great noir writers and writers who are a lot more knowledgeable on the subject than I am, folks like Court Merrigan, is that we’re coming out of two entirely different veins of literature. A lot of the people they name who paved the foundation of modern noir I simply haven’t read. I’m coming out of writers like Larry Brown, Daniel Woodrell, Harry Crews, William Gay, Ron Rash, and while these writers exhibit a lot of the qualities that come to define noir, none of them wrote or are writing something that is wholly defined by that genre. That being said, I’m starting to find my work is less “Appalachian noir” and more just a result of the Southern grit lit I grew up loving.

This novel is called your debut, but your book Growing Gills was published in 2011 as a memoir about your obsession with fish. First I have to admit I’m “hooked” by the blurb and it’s going on my unending to be read pile. Second- How was writing this non-fiction different from writing fiction?
That book was less about an obsession with fish and more an attempt to use flyfishing as a vehicle to illuminate self. There were many years where I fished every single day of my life. In a lot of ways, I was defined by that obsession and so it became a really great way to put my life under the microscope. As far as the transition from nonfiction to fiction, I always knew that the novel was where I was headed. One of my most influential mentors was a writer named Deidre Elliott, an incredible nonfiction writer, but because of that I spent a lot of time writing essay and memoir. I always wanted to write fiction, though, and so after two memoirs, only one of which ever found a publisher, I made that transition. I find myself writing less and less nonfiction now. I’m still really interested in it and I still read a good bit of it, but I don’t think I’m very good at what I admire most in great nonfiction, especially great memoir. I just read an incredible memoir by Leigh Ann Henion called Phenomenal that’s coming out of Penguin Press. One of the things I love most about that memoir is her ability to self assess and just the brutal honesty of it. I think the people who are masters of that form, someone like Rick Bragg or Rick Bass, have something I lack. That type of nonfiction takes bravery. I think sometimes I’m scared to go that far into myself for fear of what I might find.

Also your second novel tentatively titled Waiting On The End Of The World is coming in 2016. Congratulations! Were these novels already written and just waiting for the right time to be published?
The title of that novel is definitely going to change, I think, but we’re working through revisions now. As for whether the novels were written, Where All Light Tends To Go was obviously finished when I approached an agent and when she later sold that manuscript to Putnam. That being said, the novel did take on a fairly different shape as we moved through drafts, my editor having an incredible vision and ultimately helping to make that book a lot better than what it was in the beginning. With the new novel, I wrote that over the course of this past year. When Putnam purchased Where All Light Tends To Go, they also purchased an idea for the second novel. I finished that a little over a month ago and, like I said, we’re working through drafts of that manuscript now.

Still speaking of publishing would you please share your personal journey from unpublished to published author?
With the first book, Growing Gills, it was more the type of publishing that most writers are familiar with in that I wrote the book and I shopped it around looking for a publisher, dealt with rejection for many moons, and eventually found a really small press that was willing to take a chance. Looking back that was a great experience because it provided some insight into everything that’s happening now, but the reality is that moving from a small independent press to one of the Big 5 is like going from community theatre to Broadway. The actors can be just as good at both venues, but NYC has a lot bigger stage and a lot bigger audience. But when I finished writing Where All Light Tends To Go, I think I knew early on that had something special. I shopped that around to agents and generated a good bit of interest and wound up with the perfect match, a brilliant woman who understands exactly what I’m trying to do and who is willing to go to bat for me in the city. I think that’s all you can hope for in an agent. The reality is that I’m just some nobody who lives in a town of a few hundred people. The fact that someone in NYC wound up finding that novel is a result of some serendipitous beauty in this world, and a result of her hard work and willingness to fight for someone she believed in. So my agent shops the novel around and it winds up landing on the desk of an incredible editor at Putnam. I love both of these women and trust them wholeheartedly. The three of us seem to be kind of the perfect match, really. All the pieces just sort of fell together, I guess.

Did you always want to write? Are you an accidental author? Or do you fall in some other category?
I think I always wanted to write. I grew up in a very rich storytelling tradition, everyone in my family being storytellers, but I think I’ve always identified more with the written rather than the spoken word, even very early on. My parents had an electric typewriter that used to sit under one of the end tables when I was a child and I used to drag that thing out almost every night. I can still remember the way it would warm up and the smell of the ink and the sound it made as you hammered letters onto the page. My mother has always said that I was doing this before I could spell, that I’d actually dictate the stories and she’d tell me which letters to press to spell the words. I can’t really remember that in detail, just the way it smelled and the way it felt. So I wrote very young, and I kept at that all my life.
I started taking my writing seriously in high school, I think, and especially once I got into college. I probably had over 1,000 pages written before I ever got a story published. Looking back none of that work was any good, but I had to get it out of my system. I used to write on notebook paper and I saved it all in shoeboxes. One day I called my mother and had her take all of those boxes out into the yard and set fire to them in the burn barrel. I’m well past 2,000 pages now and still there are a lot of days that feel like I’ve never written a word. I think that’s part of the appeal. It’s the fact that no matter how long you’ve been at it there is always more to learn. Anyone who spends their life trying to make art will die a student. That’s the reality of it and that’s what makes the pursuit so beautiful. It’s less about the attainment of perfection and more about the pursuit. Otherwise, we’d reach what Faulkner described in that famous Paris Review interview: “Once he did it, once he matched the work to the image, the dream, nothing would remain but to cut his throat, jump off the other side of that pinnacle of perfection into suicide.”

You’re a tried and true outdoorsman, especially angling. Does this love make it into your fictional works too?
I think it does, though a lot of times its in more obscure vignettes as sort of a backstory to the main narrative. With Where All Light Tends To Go, there are stories of Jacob fishing with his father. There’s even mention of the state stocking program that destroyed the walleye fishery on Lake Glenville, something that’s absolutely true. One of the hinging moments of that book is a story of Jacob pig hunting with his father, a story that was actually the first thing I wrote, and that image is from where the whole novel grew. I was standing at a friend’s pigpen and we were talking about hunting pigs in South Carolina and I saw an image of a young boy standing over a slain boar, the boy on a hunt with his father, and the boy recognizing just how much power he had over life and death. That boy and that image became Jacob McNeely. So I think my obsession with the outdoors always finds its way into my work whether I’m intending for it to or not. One of my favorite scenes in the novel I just finished is a flashback of the two main characters poaching a lake stocked with trout. That scene has one of my favorite lines from the whole book: “Those years when they were boys, there were nights so still that as they paddled across the sky’s reflection on Balsam Lake, the borrowed canoe seemed to slice the moon in half. The world split in their silent wake and lapped back together in their passing.” I think some of my better writing comes out of that love I have for the natural world.

David this novel is getting some really great press, from being listed in Cosmo as one of its 50 things to do this month, to being one of LibraryReads’ 10 top books published in March and some great reviews from your peers. Congratulations!
Accolades tend to have differing effects on authors. Some relish the notoriety, while some use it as a scale from which to go from, and still others think it’s actually a jinx. What’s your take?
I think it’s really dangerous to pay attention to what others are saying about your work. I try to separate myself from it as best I can. The reality is that once an artist puts a piece of work out into the world it becomes something solely separate from the creator. There are going to be people who love the novel and there are going to be just as many people who don’t like it all, and that’s okay. I’m proud of what I created, and I’m proud of the work that went into it. That’s all that matters is the work. At the same time, it is gratifying when people share how much they enjoy it. Something like being chosen by Cosmopolitan magazine or having someone you’ve idolized for so long, someone like Daniel Woodrell for me, praise the work is just kind of mindblowing, but, personally, it means just as much or more when someone tells me that they know the people I wrote about and that they’re proud that I told their story. I don’t care so much what some nameless critic has to say about the work as I do the people where I come from, the people I write about, my people. It’s their story that I’m trying to get out. Their’s is the only opinion that matters.

David, thank you so much for answering these questions. I’m really looking forward to reading this novel and your memoir.
Thanks so much for the interest.

I’m including a link to your events page from your website where it seems you’re doing quite the whistle stop tour (unfortunately none is in my neck of the woods) for all your to be fans out there!
Can’t wait to meet everyone.

Connect with David - Website - Facebook - Twitter

David Joy’s stories and creative nonfiction have appeared in Drafthorse Literary Journal,Smoky Mountain LivingWilderness House Literary ReviewPisgah Review, and Flycatcher, and he is the author of the memoir Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman’s Journey. He lives in Webster, North Carolina. Where All Light Tends to Go is his first novel.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Today's Gonereading item is:
a Blow Fish charm celebrating
David's love of angling
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  1. An intriguing novel which interests me greatly. Thanks for this great giveaway and wonderful feature. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  2. Love the setting, and the excerpt has me curious. Thanks Debbie for sharing this

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.