What if I told you this:
When my parents married in 1957, my father was French. He signed his name “Paien” and gave my mother a set of French conversation records she can still quote from today: “Je m’appelle Jean LeCharpentier mais je ne suis pas charpentier, ha ha ha.” One Sunday they drove from the small town in Bladen County where my dad served as a Methodist pastor to Pinehurst to eat at an upscale French restaurant. It was so expensive all they could afford was the green beans, les haricots verts. Soon thereafter my father became an Eskimo.
My father’s name is Carl. He grew up a Methodist preacher’s kid. As far as we know his only map-able genes are Scots-Irish and English. His selection of Eskimo heritage did make a kind of sense, because he was born in Nome, Alaska, where his parents were missionaries to a mining community. They moved from Alaska when he was two, first to the Seattle area and then to North Carolina. My dad was eight when his family moved to North Carolina, where his father pastored various churches in Swan Quarter, Elizabethtown, Pittsboro, Burlington. To protest the move my dad refused ever to develop a southern accent.
By the time I was born in 1963 my father had left the ministry, moved the family to Raleigh, and become Danish. He hung a large red and white Danish flag above his desk in our living room. When my third grade teacher asked us to tell our heritage, she must have been surprised when I, with my brown eyes and un-Viking-like dark hair, claimed Danish ancestry.
When I was twelve, my father became Greek. He listened to balalaika music and learned Greek folk dances. He was the first person in Raleigh to discover feta cheese and kalamata olives. He named himself “Karlos,” which he spelled with Greek letters. He took a trip to Greece, bringing me back drachmas I could bend with my teeth and the palm-sized casing of some sea creature, bleached white by the sun and still smelling of the Aegean.
My dad was Greek for a long time--through a divorce, his children leaving home, his mother dying. All the letters he wrote me in college were signed Karlos.
Now my father is Scandinavian.
If I told you all this (some of which is true) you would say, “your father is such a character!”
We’ve all known people about whom we’ve said “he [or she] is such a character.” Often we follow this statement by shaking our heads, rolling our eyes, or perhaps adding a “bless his heart.” What is it about these folks that makes them so interesting and unforgettable? How can we make our fictional characters just as compelling, without sacrificing credibility or resorting to stereotype? Those are the questions we’ll explore in my 5-week “Such A Character” workshop through the Great Smokies Writing Program this summer, starting June 5th. Register HERE.
The Puppeteer's Daughters has been recognized as a Finalist in the 25th annual Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards!
As part of its mission to discover, review, and share the best books from university and independent publishers, Foreword Magazine, Inc. hosts an annual awards program each year. Finalists represent the best books published in 2022. After more than 2,500 individual titles spread across 55 genres were submitted for consideration, the Finalists were determined by Foreword’s editorial team. Winners will be decided by an expert team of booksellers and librarians—representing Foreword’s trade readership—from across the country.
“Our goal for the INDIES Book of the Year awards Finalists gives us a chance to recognize great projects from small presses, and mirrors our mission of discovering outstanding books as showcased in Foreword Reviews. This year’s Finalists represent the top offerings in each genre, from debut author publishers to established university and independent presses,” says Publisher Victoria Sutherland. “It’s really a wonderful tribute to the independent voices that don’t often get the recognition they deserve.”
I'm thrilled to be in such good company with the other finalists in General Fiction!
If you or your book club haven't yet read The Puppeteer's Daughters, now is your chance. The paperback is available March 7, 2023. Here is what reviewers have to say: "A complicated father-daughter story that fulfills its promise. Fans of Tara Conklin’s The Last Romantics and Melissa Scholes Young’s The Hive will love this." --Library Journal “An aging, celebrated […]
I'm honored to be in wonderful company as a finalist for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. The other finalists, whose work shows fascinating aspects of our region, are Anne Chesky Smith – Murder at Asheville’s Battery Park Hotel: The Search for Helen Clevenger’s Killer; Lance Greene – Their Determination to Remain: A Cherokee Community’s Resistance to […]
Want to learn more about The Puppeteer's Daughters? Listen to my August 2nd conversation with author Tommy Hays at Malaprop's, in which we discuss fathers and daughters, puppets (I brought one) and the writing life: https://youtu.be/_Tf5XHDxzDM
THE PUPPETEER'S DAUGHTERS is now available for order from fine booksellers everywhere! If you read it and like it, please post a review on Goodreads or Amazon. If your book club reads it, get in touch! There are book club discussion questions at the back of the book and I love Zooming with book clubs […]
THE PUPPETEER'S DAUGHTERS is now available for pre-order from fine booksellers everywhere. Order now through the end of June 2022 from one of the following three fine Indie booksellers, and I'll not only sign your copy, I'll include this beautiful 6"x9" art piece created by artist Katrin Dohse inspired by the novel with the first 30 pre-orders fulfilled […]
I'm super grateful to everyone who has given me an opportunity to talk about McMullen Circle and about writing in general. Below are links to interviews with Charlotte Readers Podcast, Blue Ridge Public Radio, Mountain XPress, my author event at Malaprop's Bookstore (in conversation with Tessa Fontaine), my Crowdcast event with Amy Willoughby-Burle and Heather […]