Friday, November 4, 2016

Birthday Book of the Day: From the author of Cold Mountain

Today is the 66th birthday of North Carolina author Charles Frazier, best known as the author of Cold Mountain.

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Frazier, Charles, Nightwoods (Random House, 1st ed., 1st printing, 2011). ISBN 978-1-4000-6709-1. A gripping tale of an Appalachian woman Luce, who inherits her murdered sister’s troubled twins. By the author of Cold Mountain. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition, autographed. HBB price: $75.

The Writer’s Almanac Reports:

He grew up in a tiny town in western North Carolina, far from the cultural centers of the state. The tallest building was three stories high, the radio station went off the air when the sun went down, and to get a state paper you had to drive two hours to Asheville. He said, “I met people when we lived down in Raleigh who’d ask where I grew up, and I’d say about two hours west of Asheville, and they’d say they didn’t know there was any North Carolina two hours west of Asheville.”

He said that as a boy he was “a great reader of junk.” He was more interested in hiking around in the woods, especially with his grandparents. They lived on a farm at the base of Cold Mountain, on the edge of the Pisgah National Forest, a region where his family had lived for 200 years. His grandmother knew the name of every plant that grew in the woods, and his grandfather still ran a farm without a tractor. Old-timers like his grandparents grew up not long after the Civil War ended, and they passed on their families’ stories of life in the mountains during that time — of poverty, raids by soldiers, and sons going off to fight for a cause they barely understood.

Frazier went to college and graduate school and began to make some money writing; he co-wrote a textbook, Developing Communication Skills for the Accounting Profession (1980), and then a travel guide for the Sierra Club called Adventuring in the Andes (1985). He became a teacher, and worked for a while on a novel that he eventually abandoned.

Frazier began writing a novel inspired by the journey of his great-great-uncle Inman. He did painstaking research about the time, reading through old letters and journals, trying to get every historical detail right as well as the sound and rhythm of the language. His wife encouraged him to quit his teaching job and devote himself to writing the novel — if he didn’t, she said, he would regret it for the rest of his life. He took her advice, sometimes spending weeks at a time alone at his in-laws’ cabin in the mountains. He showed his work to his wife and daughter, but no one else, afraid that he would be discouraged by their reaction. Finally, his wife told him that she was going to take matters into her own hands and share it with their friend Kaye Gibbons whether he liked it or not, so he gave in. Gibbons, a novelist, was so impressed that she sent the manuscript straight to her agent, and before Frazier knew it, he had a book deal. When Cold Mountain (1997) was published, it won the National Book Award and sold more than 3 million copies.


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