Interview with Oscar Patton, author of Rachel: A Satilla County Novel

Have you published other novels?  Yes, Rachel is the seventh of my Satilla County novels, all except one slice-of-life stories from the late nineteenth/early twentieth century in the South.  A Place to Call Home is set in the seventies.

What is the inspiration for your novels?  My writing comes from history,  memory, and my imagination.

What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?  My writings are based on actual events in south Georgia, but the themes are universal and timeless.

How important is research in your work?  Research is essential.  I research before I write and while writing.  My aim is to give my novels as much historical accuracy and verisimilitude as I can.

Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; how true is that for you?  Solitude is the writer’s oxygen.  I am comfortable being alone for hours, days at a time.  I was a college English teacher for more than 40 years.  When it comes to social interaction, I gave at the office

How hard is it to sit down and actually start writing something?  Not hard at all.  I am a compulsive writer.  I write each morning, and I begin by reviewing what I wrote the day before.  Sometime I start at the top and browse down.  I revise, edit, and get ideas for where to go next.

Speaking of revision, how important is rewriting in your process?  Absolutely essential.  Most of the good stuff comes in rewriting and rewriting and rewriting.  A lot of the fun too.  Rewriting fulfills the human need to say what we wish we had said.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you.  I set the general framework for the story and try to anticipate the conclusion; then I go where the story and the characters take me.  Discovery is key.

What for you is the hardest part of writing?  The hardest part of the writing process comes after the writing: the proofreading and editing for grammar, usage, mechanics, and gremlins.

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title? Very important and challenging to create.  Cover and title give a reader the first impression of the work.  I have designed my own covers for some books and have had them done by professionals for others.  Coming up with a good title drives me to distraction.  I obsess over it and suffer.  I usually think of a better title once the book is published.

What is most important about a novel?  A novel should entertain as well as reveal and affirm life.  Serious readers want to enjoy a good read but also find in it some truth about what it means to be a human being.

Tell us about your writing style.  My unadorned, fast-paced style is influenced by Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor, Steven Crane, and others who write without curlicues and rhetorical flourishes.  Somebody said, “It is hard to believe a man is intent on plowing a furrow if he stops every so often to jump through a hoop.”  I write for the reader.  I try to keep the reader engaged and to make my writing easy and fun to read.  Post Script:  I don’t think I am Hemingway, O’Connor, or Crane.

Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?  I am working on my eighth Satilla County novel, set in 1915, the year the Klan returned and the world appeared to be coming apart.  The working title is, drum roll please, Coming Apart.  The title may change (see above), but the major theme is the same as in all my books: change and what is lost in time.  Think William Butler Yeats and “The Second Coming.”

Is there one book you like most among the ones you have written?  To paraphrase William Faulkner, I consider Riding the Fantastics my “greatest failure.”  I don’t know I favor it over the others, but it has some literary merit and is based on the life and times of my great-grandfather.  I used multiple first person narrators to tell the story.

Have you written a character that is the true you for the most part? Yes, against the advice of almost everyone, I wrote an autobiographical novel.  The main character Oliver Hardin is Oscar Patton in his seventies avatar.  Oliver is taller, best looking, and smarter than I am, but, hey, would you not spruce up the portrait if you wrote about yourself?









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