Local New York Times bestselling author Silas House talked about his first novel “Clay’s Quilt” Thursday with fellow author Angela Correll.
The event, which was hosted by the Kentucky Book Festival, took place virtually via zoom and Facebook.
During the event, House reflected on writing “Clay’s Quilt” and his other novels. House shared, with Correll and the audience, some of the inspirations for his books, including the stories he asked to hear from older family members when he was young and the community of Lily where he grew up.
House grew up around people with a natural ability for oral tradition. His version of storytelling came in written form.
“Since I was often too bashful to do that [orally tell stories], I wrote the stories down instead, so I would say that my being a writer absolutely stems from that desire to tell a story,” said House.
House said the stories he heard have worked their way into his books.
“In Clay’s Quilt, I incorporated lots of tales from my family,” said House. “The one people like the best is about when my great uncle rode a mule into the house just to prank my great-grandmother.”
Not only did House listen to the oral stories, but he said that he was a “voracious reader.”
He encourages aspiring writers to read a variety of books.
House reflected on the writers that he believed had inspired him the most, such as Bobbie Ann Mason and Barbara Kingsolver.
House said that he hopes that his writing allows others to see themselves in print.
“Growing up, it was hard to find a lot of representation of rural, working class people in literature that didn’t feel stereotypical or old fashioned, so one thing I always want to do is put rural, working class people on the page in a complex way,” said House.
“Whenever I am on the road and people say stereotypical things to me because of where I’m from, I always think of how intelligent and loving and full of life those storytellers in my family were, and I want to honor them with the way I present myself to the larger world and the way I write about the place,” said House while reflecting on his family and the town where he grew up. “I never want to vilify it, but I don’t want to romanticize it, either. I want to show it as a complex place full of complicated people.”
While he hopes others see themselves in print, he also hopes that his writing teaches readers about others.
“I think the main and best thing that literature teaches readers is empathy,” said House. “Books have introduced me to different kinds of people that I would have never known otherwise and by doing so those books broadened my world-view and allowed me to see the humanity in people very different from me as well as those who felt very familiar.”
While the conversation focused on his first novel, House also announced the anticipated publication of his seventh novel, which is expected to be released in fall of 2022. The novel will be unlike the books he has previously written because it is a speculative novel that is set in Ireland.
House, who is a professor at Berea College, was the 2020 recipient of the Artist Award from Gov. Andy Beshear as part of the annual Governor’s Award in the arts.