Wednesday, March 27, 2019

#28 Inside The Emotion of Fiction's TO THE BONES by Valerie Nieman . . .

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****Valerie Nieman’s ’s To the Bones is the twenty-eighth in a never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece. 

Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us? To the Bones
I started using The Incidental Zombie partway through the writing, but it didn’t stick

Fiction genre?  Ex science fiction, short story, fantasy novella, romance, drama, crime, plays, flash fiction, historical, comedy, movie script, screenplay, etc.  And how many pages long? 
This is genre mashup, a satirical look at the effects of the coal industry in West Virginia, refracted through horror, Appalachian tall tale, quest literature, and Celtic mythology.  Oh, and a bit of romance as well. 2014 pages

Has this been published? And it is totally fine if the answer is no.   If yes, what publisher and what publication date? To the Bones will be published in spring of 2019 by West Virginia University Press.

What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction? After investing more than six years in a novel I still love, Backwater, including three go-arounds with agents and numerous revisions, I was worn out.  I decided that I would write a novel in less than a year, working fast and drawing on memory and personal experience rather than research.  For the setting and the story, I went back to West Virginia, my home for three decades, and the place where my first novel was set. I sketched in a rough outline and set myself a daily word count, which I mostly met.   Nine months later, the first draft was done, early in spring 2017.  Some wonderful beta readers gave me good advice, and I began marketing it in July 2017 (With To the Bones safely placed, it’s time to find home for Backwater!)

Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work?  And please describe in detail.  And can you please include a photo? I write at a cobbled-up desk, made form a narrow door sitting atop of a pair of two-drawer filing cabinets.  I face my iMac and the wall, with a flurry of notes and reminders posted above and a map of the Great Glen of Scotland to my left – 
reminders for a work in progress! I keep my back to the sliding glass doors and a view of the outside, as that would lure me away.

What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day? I’m pretty strict about writing – seldom any alcohol, no music.  I may make notes longhand, but when I draft, it’s always at the keyboard.  I write best in the morning, but I’ve always had to work around work, whether in my days as a newspaper reporter and farmer, or now as a college professor.  I have a lot more time as an academic, but not as much energy!

What is the summary of this specific fiction work? From the WVU Press catalog: “Darrick MacBrehon, a government auditor, wakes among the dead. Bloodied and disoriented from a gaping head wound, the man who staggers out of the mine crack in Redbird, West Virginia, is much more powerful—and dangerous—than the one thrown in. An orphan with an unknown past, he must now figure out how to have a future.
Hard-as-nails Lourana Taylor works as a sweepstakes operator and spends her time searching for any clues that might lead to Dreama, her missing daughter. Could this stranger’s tale of a pit of bones be connected? With help from disgraced deputy Marco DeLucca and Zadie Person, a local journalist  investigating an acid mine spill, Darrick and Lourana push against everyone who tries to block the truth. Along the way, the bonds of love and friendship are tested, and bodies pile up on both sides.
In a town where the river flows orange and the founding—and controlling—family is rumored to ‘strip a man to the bones,’ the conspiracy that bleeds Redbird runs as deep as the coal veins that feed it.”

Can you give the reader just enough information for them to understand what is going on in the excerpt? Lourana has been desperately searching for her daughter. When this battered man said he woke up in a pit full of bones, she takes a chance and brings him home to learn more.  Darrick  has been talking with her about her family and what has happened to it as a result of mining and the Kavanagh family when the excerpt begins.

Please include the excerpt and include page numbers as reference.  The excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer.

From Chapter 4
       She got up and cleared the table, rattling the glasses and bowls into the sink.
“What did they take?”
Lourana stood staring into the sink, the suds rising. Seemed like she spent too much of her life cleaning up messes. “What didn’t they? Pap, like I told you, wore out from work. Then him dying took the heart out of Mama. My ex, his back ruined, addicted. But when Dreama disappeared, my little girl, that was the last straw. My little girl.”
“I’m sorry.”
She shook herself, refused the tears.
“It was so damned hard to get away. I thought we’d done it at last, my ex getting clean so he could get a job that wasn’t tied up with the Kavanaghs, and we were out of here.” She remembered looking out the back window of the car as they crossed the bridge, thinking, Screw you, Redbird, that’ll show you. Her chest nearly caved in at the memory. “Three years later, Dreama graduates from South Charleston High School and damn if she don’t run right back and take a job at KCL. I don’t know what possessed her.”
“Maybe it was home.”
“What’s home?” Lourana wished she could feel real anger, but what came out was flat and factual. “I was born in Redbird and I’ll most likely die here, sooner than later, but it’s not home like you want it to be. You don’t want to be here unless you are from here, and if you’re from here and you got any sense, you want to leave.”
“They never found out what happened to your daughter?”
“The police said she probably run off with some man. Not that she wouldn’t, maybe, she wasn’t no plastic doll baby, but she would have let me know she was all right. That was what my family did—you went somewhere, you always called to let folks know you got there safe.”
“Lourana, when I was in the hole. I found something. A necklace.”
She turned from the sink. Soap dripped from her arms onto the floor.
“What did it look like?” What if it was Dreama’s necklace, that single strand of gold beads she’d taken to wearing every day in the months before she disappeared? Lourana held her breath as he dug into his pants pocket and pulled out an antique silver locket, heart shaped, swinging from a dirty chain. She put out her hand. He dropped it into her palm as though it burned him. His face went white. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. If I said anything that pained you. About the bones.”
She pushed on the catch and the heart sprang open. Inside, where there should be a picture of a boyfriend or a curl of baby hair, was nothing. How sad. “It’s not hers, at least, not anything that I remember her having.” The chain slid through her fingers and she dropped it on the counter next to the dish drainer.
Why is this excerpt so emotional for you?  And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt? I believe there are two kinds of people: stayers and leavers. Those who cut free from their home towns and go searching, and those who are comfortable remaining in familiar territory, or who can’t find the means to escape.  Lourana’s dialogue here draws on some of my own feelings as a “leaver,” as well as comments I remember from people back in my Rust Belt hometown and my emotional home place in West Virginia.  It also starts to sketch in some of the problems confronting coal country people, job losses, environmental degradation, damaged bodies, opioid addition – and often, a deep love for home despite all that.

Other works you have published? Neena Gathering, my first novel, was an Appalachian post-apocalyptic science fiction story that might be classified as YA these days. Initially was published in 1988 by Pageant Books, a paperback imprint of Crown Publishers.  It was going along nicely, including translations, when Crown was taken over by Random House.  The Pageant line was axed and the book went out of print.  In 2013, I was approached by Permuted Press about returning the book to print as a “classic in the post-apocalyptic genre.” Not only did I get a new advance, but they brought the book back as a trade paperback, an e-book, and an Audible book beautifully voted by Cassandra Morris.  So it’s come back to life and is available today, so many years after its birth.

       My most recent new novel was Blood Clay, which came out in 2012 and won the Eric Hoffer Prize in General Fiction. It’s set in Northi Carolina and focuses on “strangers in the South,” both a woman who moves there from the North and a natie, who has tried to leave but been forced to return home.  Other fiction books were Survivors, a Rust Belt novel, and Fidelitties, a collection of short stories.
I’m also a poet and my most recent collection, Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse, is a sort of novel.  In a mid-20th century carnival sideshow, a biracial orphan who belies she’s been endowed (and afflicted) by God with gifts that set her apart becomes friend with a divinity student who’s lost his faith.

Appalachian heritage is the common thread binding Valerie Nieman’s wide range of writing, from science fiction to mainstream to horror novels, and both lyric and narrative poetry. Her fourth novel, To the Bones, a genre-bending satire of the coal industry and its effects on Appalachia, is a spring 2019 release from West Virginia University Press. 

Her third poetry collection, Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse, was published in fall 2018, with work that has appeared in The Missouri Review, Chautauqua, and other journals. Her writing has appeared in numerous anthologies, including Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods (WVU) and Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (U Georgia). 

She has held state and NEA creative writingA graduate of West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte and a former journalist, she teaches creative writing at North Carolina A&T State University.
@valnieman on Twitter
@valnieman on Instagram
@valerienieman1 on Facebook

Newly released: Leopard Lady: A Life in Verseas featured at the Coney Island Museum
Coming in Spring 2019: To the Bonesan Appalachian horror/ecojustice novel

Upcoming appearances and workshops (Visit my website or Facebook page for updates.)
Twitter @valnieman, Instagram @valnieman

MARCH 27 - Water Bean Cafe, Huntersville, NC.
APRIL 11 - Reading at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill.
APRIL 13 - Isothermal Community College Writers Workshop, Spindale, NC.
April 28 - NC Poetry Society Series at McIntyre's Books, Pittsboro, NC.

MAY 7  - Reading and visit with The Nexus Poets, 7 pm, New Bern, NC.
MAY 16-17 - Bridgewater International Poetry Festival, Bridgewater College, Virginia.
MAY 18-19 - Greensboro Bound book festival, Greensboro, NC.
JUNE 11 - Ohio County Public Library reading, Wheeling, WV.

JULY 6 - Writing workshop with Netwest Group, 1-4 pm, Hayesville, NC.
JULY 7-13 - Teaching "Flashes of Brilliance" at John C. Campbell Folk School.
JULY 15 - Reading at The Inner Geek/Empire Books, 7 pm, Huntington, WV.


001   11 15 2018 Nathaniel Kaine’s
Thriller Novel
John Hunter – The Veteran

002   11 18 2018 Ed Protzzel’s
The Antiquities Dealer 

003   11 23 2018 Janice Seagraves’s
Science Fiction Romance
Exodus Arcon

004   11 29 2018 Christian Fennell’s
Literary Fiction Novel
The Fiddler in the Night

005  12 02 2018 Jessica Mathews’s
Adult Paranormal Romance
Death Adjacent

006  12 04 2018 Robin Jansen’s
Literary Fiction Novel
Ruby the Indomitable

007  12 12 2018  Adair Valerez’s
Literary Fiction Novel

008  12 17 218 Kit Frazier’s
Mystery Novel
Dead Copy

009 12 21 2019 Robert Craven’s
Noir/Spy Novel
The Road of a Thousand Tigers

010 01 13 2019 Kristine Goodfellow’s
Contemporary Romantic Fiction
The Other Twin

011 01 17 2019 Nancy J Cohen’s
Cozy Mystery
Trimmed To Death

012 01 20 2019 Charles Salzberg’s
Crime Novel
Second Story Man

013 01 23 2019 Alexis Fancher’s
Flash Fiction
His Full Attention

014 01 27 2019 Brian L Tucker’s
Young Adult/Historical

015 01 31 2019 Robin Tidwell’s

016 02 07 2019 J.D. Trafford’s
Legal Fiction/Mystery
Little Boy Lost

017 02 08 2019 Paula Shene’s
Young Adult ScieFi/Fantasy/Romance/Adventure
My Quest Begins 

018 02 13 2019 Talia Carner’s
Mainstream Fiction/ Suspense/ Historical
Hotel Moscow

019 02 15 2019 Rick Robinson’s
Multidimensional Fiction
Alligator Alley

020 02 21 2019 LaVerne Thompson’s
Urban Fantasy
The Soul Collectors

021 02 27 2019 Marlon L Fick’s
Post-Colonialist Novel
The Nowhere Man

022 03 02 2019 Carol Johnson’s
Mainstream Novel
Silk And Ashes

023 03 06 2019 Samuel Snoek-Brown’s
Short Story Collection
There Is No Other Way to Worship Them

024 03 08 2019 Marlin Barton’s
Short Story Collection
Pasture Art

025 03 18 2019 Laura Hunter’s
Historical Fiction
Beloved Mother

026 03 21 2019 Maggie Rivers’s
Magical Mistletoe

027  03 25 2019 Faith Gibson’s
Paranormal Romance

028 03 27 2019 Valerie Nieman’s
Tall Tale
To The Bones

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