Friday, June 21, 2024

Q&A with Jeffrey Dunn




Jeffrey Dunn is the author of the new novel Wildcat. His other books include the novel Radio Free Olympia. He is also a longtime educator.


Q: How was your new novel’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: In the Appalachian village of Braeburn, Pennsylvania, there is a road called “Wildcat Hollow Road.” It’s a good Appalachian name: free but threatened, just like the wildcats whose coughs, screams, and yowls are familiar to those who know these hills.


Q: The novel’s subtitle is “An Appalachian Romance”--how important is setting to you in your writing?


A: Crucial. Reviewers have pondered and struggled with the word “romance.” Is it sexting with your paramour? Is it a love affair with Appalachia? Is it “Romance” with a big “R,” as in fighting oneself out of the classical/industrial and into the romantic/natural? Yes, yes, and yes. Apparently, many aren’t fans of complexity.


I want all readers to enjoy Wildcat, but I especially want readers connected with the Appalachian Rust Belt to resonate both with the area’s industrial collapse of the 1980s and with the area’s magical potential for a sustainable future.

Q: The BookLife review of the novel says, “Dunn...strikes a graceful balance between the mystical and the everyday in this meditative reflection on acceptance and belonging.” What do you think of that description?


A: Spot on, really. “Everyday?” No argument there. Appalachia doesn’t suffer outsiders gladly and quickly judges people by whether they talk Appalachia’s talk and walk Appalachia’s walk.


“Mystical?” Yes, if by mystical you mean magical—e.g. the transformation the landscape goes through as the sun tracks through the sky as well was the unexplainable “Shadows” of those killed in mine accidents just outside a mine.


And “meditative reflection on acceptance and belonging?” Seems fair. Although the speaker in the novel has retired to the place where he graduated from high school, he, in many ways, remains an outsider. For him, the act of journaling about his return is a chronicle of both the town and himself weaving back together the threads that unraveled during Wildcat’s dark past.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: My new novel, Whiskey Rebel (Izzard Ink), will be out in 2025. This is the story of a shell-shocked soldier who returns home from Iraq only to question the very meaning of American freedom.


While panning for gold, he meets Hamilton, a barefoot, manic, obsessive drummer with a burning desire—to distill tax-free whiskey just like his forefathers during the American Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.


They join forces, set up shop in the rugged western high desert of Washington's Columbia Basin, and begin producing Westcoulatum Good Goddamned 1794 Freedom Whiskey. As they explore their friendship, they assemble a cast of quirky characters who discover that freedom is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I am the author of the critically acclaimed novel Radio Free Olympia (Izzard Ink, 2023), have been featured on NPR, and write for Medium. I also advocate for educational reform, drawing on my award-winning 41-year teaching career, my Ph.D. in Cultural Studies and English Literature, and my experience with dyslexia.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Jeffrey Dunn.

No comments:

Post a Comment