Wiley Cash: Meeting the Author

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I went to another author signing at Malaprop’s last Friday, this time for Wiley Cash. I just reviewed his second novel, This Dark Road to Mercy, last Tuesday. I highly recommend it. He’s also the author of A Land More Kind than Home, which I haven’t read but which has been highly recommended to me by a friend I trust.

I was so close I was afraid I would blind him
with my camera flash if I took a picture while he was speaking!

I met that friend and a couple of others at the store. They were running late but they said it was getting so full that staff were starting to turn people away at the door!

Wiley made his appearance and we were pleasantly surprised to realize that he is hilarious! This Dark Road… is fairly dark and it sounds like A Land More Kind… is as well, so I was expecting someone serious. He kept us all laughing pretty much the whole time!

He opened by telling us where the idea for his second book came from. His wife swears that she was an awesome softball player when she was younger, “Something I have seen no evidence of, nor have I heard anyone corroborate her claims,” but the only thing that kept her from being truly great was the fact that she couldn’t slide into base. So her dad would take her out to the ball field after he got home from work and they would practice sliding. And there was the seed for fathers and daughters and baseball. Wiley grew up around Gastonia, NC, where the book is set, and he knew a couple of girls who were in foster care there. They were sent back to live with their mother when they were something like 13 and 15 years old. Their boyfriends, who were in their 20s and 30s, killed them shortly afterward. He said something like, “Those girls were so sweet but they never stood a chance to live different lives than the ones they got.” And that’s where the idea to place his characters in foster care came from.

He spoke about how he wrote his first book, also set in NC, while he was living in Louisiana. “I missed hearing that NC accent.” So he started writing about home. And then he made us laugh while talking about the way different people in different areas react to hearing his accent. The locals in the audience have been there. You’ll just be ordering a pizza or something and all of a sudden someone’s saying, “C’mon. Say sum’in else! We just luuuv to hear ya tawlk,” in an imitation of our accent that is almost insulting. We just cracked up!

He apparently arranges his own book signings, a fact that surprises his agent or publicist or someone like that. He said, “I was in a fraternity here at UNC-Asheville, and let me tell you, that is great practice for organizing events like this. Once you’ve figured out how to get 500 drunk college kids from one location to another, everything else is a piece of cake.”

Someone asked if he had ever thought about writing humorous books. He said no. “You have to be brilliant to write humor. I’ve met Christopher Moore and seriously, the guy is hilarious but he’s so smart I was afraid to look him in the face. Anybody can make you feel sad so I’ll stick with that. I’m not smart enough for comedy.”

Mr. Cash did announce at the beginning of his talk that he and his wife had decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of his books that night to our local literacy council. What a nice gesture!

Someone asked him if he had visited any snake-handling churches in the research for his first book. He said no. “I thought about it. I knew where to find some and I would have been welcome because they welcome anyone through their doors. But I wouldn’t have been coming there from a place of faith, or even as an anthropologist, trying to preserve a disappearing part of our culture. I would have been taking something away and I decided that wouldn’t be right.” Holy cow. My respect for him shot through the roof with those two things!

I didn’t buy a book or get anything signed (one new hardcover per paycheck being enough) but my friends did. I hung back but Mr. Cash seemed very nice and accommodating as they were taking pictures with him.

He’ll be touring pretty extensively with his new book. Read one or both of his novels, and if he’s going to be near you, be sure to go see him!

You can listen to a podcast of the event here.

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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1 Comment

  1. I was totally blown away by Cash's first novel and was super excited that his tour includes one NH stop. unfortunately it is a really tough night for me schedule-wise so I am trying to sort that out. I'm glad to hear he is a good speaker as well as a great writer.

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