Grove Atlantic Publishing sent Richard Flanagan to Mississippi for the Oxford Conference for the Book in 2000 on his U.S. tour for The Sound of One Hand Clapping. Those were heady times. Larry Brown, William Gay ("Willie" to Richard) and Barry Hannah were all still with us. We found his writing powerful, affecting, and empathetic, while we found Richard to be humble, affectionate and simpatico. Since then, Richard has returned to Oxford for all but one of his six novels; each time building a larger reading audience and making more friends. It has been seven years since we had an event for The Unknown Terrorist, and we were anxious to welcome him back to his spiritual home in the United States.
To make it official, Mayor Pat Patterson issued a proclamation declaring Richard Flanagan an honorary citizen of Oxford and he was given a bag of the best tchotchkes our Tourism Office has to offer. Flanagan went on to speak eloquently about Oxford, about The Narrow Road to the Deep North and his father. The audience was visibly moved and many expressed thanks for the best reading they had ever attended. We are happy to be able to share videos taken during the event here and here. And we were thrilled -- but not surprised -- to find out on September 9th that The Narrow Road to the Deep North is named to the short list for the Man Booker Prize (see the finalists here). We are placing all bets on him.
The Fall 2014 Dear Reader is available for online viewing and is packed full of debuts from authors who are going to be visiting us soon such as Malcom Brooks with PAINTED HORSES, John Darnielle with WOLF IN WHITE VAN and Katy Simpson Smith with THE STORY OF LAND AND SEA. Plus, new books from favorite authors Curtis Wilkie, John Hailman, John Grisham, and Richard Flanagan, Richard Ford, Darcey Steinke, Frederick Barthelme, and -- for the first time here -- children's authors Chris Van Allsburg & Jon Scieszka.
Some nonfiction writers say they have a hard time writing fiction because they'd have to make everything up from scratch, while some fiction writers say they struggle with writing nonfiction because they have to stick to the facts and can't shape the story to their liking. You've done both. Which form do you find easier?
I don't think I really came into my own as a writer
until I started to blend the two for my novels. My first four books were
somewhat surreal, and it wasn't until I started using my background as a
reporter in my fiction that my stories took on an added dimension. My
fifth novel, White Shadow, really changed everything for me in
my writing style and approach to novels. I work much in the same way now
with my Quinn Colson books.
Why did you decide to write about the plight of the American soldier returning home after being at war?
My longtime editor at G.P. Putnam asked me to consider
developing a series character in contemporary times. Coming off four
novels based on true stories set long ago, I was searching for someone
specific to the South, where I live, and who offered an exciting story
to play out in future books...