Literary awards vie for wall space with pictures of Loretta Lynn, Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs in the office where Silas House writes. House, 32, is the author of Clay's Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves and The Coal Tattoo (forthcoming), three novels inspired by his family's Appalachian heritage and underscored by his passion for country music. Born in Lily, Ky., he's a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University and earned an MFA from Spalding University. He lives in his hometown with his wife and two daughters.
When did you learn to write?
When people in my family came in from a day at work. A normal person would come in and somebody would say, "How was your day?" and the father would say fine, we did this, we did that, but it was epic to hear my people tell it. Every day there was this huge story they could tell with very small prompting. It was just a natural ability to tell a story that they have, and I think I inherited that.
How did you learn to write?
By reading. That's the only way to learn how. I read all the time as a child. Never went anywhere without a book. Even when I was fishing, I would have to have a book in my hand. And I grew up listening to stories being told. From a very early age, I understood how you constructed a story. It was very clear about the beginning and the end and that something had to happen in the middle, a crescendo that you reach.
What is your South?
I live in Appalachia. The mountains dictate everything: our economy and our traditions and the way we talk. When I go outside, I see what a rough land it is and I'm thinking I have to be from pretty tough stock because this was not an easy place to settle. Southerners have such a strong sense of place because when you have to defend where you're from, you have to love it even more.
Why do you want to reach as many people as possible with your work?
In the last 20 or 30 years, so much literature that has been acclaimed has been all about stylistics. So many writers today just want to look clever. What's important to me is a good story told in a beautiful way. So many books have a negative impact on the world. I want my books to be always shot through with some hope. Hope is the thing that outlasts anything else. No matter how bad it gets, everybody always has hope.