We chatted with Scott Sharpe, author of the South Carolina Novel Prize winning A Wild Eden, about his novel, what's on his bookshelf, and more.
A Wild Eden tells the story of long-absent son, Jack, trying to reconcile his father’s antemortem actions with who he always believed his dad to be. Jack, home only for his dad’s funeral, gets caught up in his father’s work and his family’s troubles. At its core, this novel is about familial relationships and the extraordinary lengths to which we’ll sometimes go to heal and protect those we love most.
This novel explores domestic abuse, opioid addiction and the quiet, violent undercurrent that pervades many rural Southerners trying to navigate the modern world with an outdated compass. With one foot in the past and one cautious foot in the present, Jack tries to chart the gray boundaries between right and wrong.
In fiction, I’m reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (a gift from my daughters) and Lisa Gardner’s Look for Me. I’m rereading some of William Trevor’s and Alice Munro’s short stories and Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes canon, which I do every year.
In nonfiction, I’m reading Walter Edgar’s South Carolina: A History.
In Poetry, I’m reading Ron Rash’s Waking (again) and Ray McManus’s Punch.
Among others, my reading queue consists of Charles Frazier’s Varina and Bren McClain’s One Good Mama Bone, both of which I’ve been saving for holiday reading.
I read all genres and authors without regard to reviews or trends – just whatever strikes a chord or calls to me.
I’m inspired by music, both the melody and lyrics. That so much emotion and story can be condensed into a four-minute song has always fascinated me. Writing flash fiction is my attempt to make music.
Certainly, other authors inspire me, or rather their words. I don’t read with the intent of memorizing passages or quotes or themes. When I read (or listen to music), I let it pour over me – through me – and occasionally it will flavor my thinking, my perception, or my writing.
More than anything else, I’m inspired by nature, by its beauty and seduction. A river, a storm, a sunning water moccasin all stimulate my imagination as nothing else can. I once wrote a story just from watching a squirrel sit atop a pine limb, raining down orange pine cone lobes as it sought the sweet pine seeds.
I like to think that the South informs my writing by gently revealing customs, attitudes, and beliefs of people of a certain region or sub-region. Almost exclusively, I write about South Carolina, and specifically the Sandhills or the Cowasee Basin, because I know them most intimately. These areas have been my playground for many years and are about where I feel most at home writing. I simply want to invite others to visit my world for a bit. I want place to be the spice that flavors the story, so that the reader tastes the world I’m trying to describe – and perhaps wants seconds. I don’t believe the tight geographical area limits my writing; indeed, there are commonalities of place that exist across the globe. I hope that when anyone reads my work, they both identify with my place and perhaps celebrate the similarities to (and differences from) their own.
I’d rather fish than just about anything. I typically choose canoe and paddle over flat-bottom and Evinrude, because although I recognize my status as a visitor in the woods and swamps, it’s easier to pretend I belong there when I’m not making a dreadful racket and spewing exhaust. Fishing is so much more to me than passing a few hours trying to catch dinner or a wall trophy. It’s a way to readjust my life when the world gets sideways. I have many other interests which keep me busy, but writing, reading and fishing are my passions. Sometimes, I combine them. I’ve been known to take a book or legal pad and pen in my dry bag – my take on multi-tasking.