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Country Dark
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Group Reads: Post-1990 > Author Q&A: Chris Offutt: July 2018

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message 1: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new) - added it

Tom Mathews | 2749 comments Mod
Author Chris Offutt has graciously consented to join our group for a Q&A of his new book, Country Dark. Please make him feel welcome and post your questions here.


message 2: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura | 2284 comments Mod
Welcome Chris Offutt! This is our first time reading one of your works as a collective group. Member, Tina, nominated your book and it received the most votes for July’s read. We are looking forward to the book and the discussion.


message 3: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 4427 comments Mod
Welcome from me as well. Love your short stories, your wry humor, and your way with words. Looking forward to this novel.


message 4: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Hi, and thank you for the welcome. I appreciate your all's choosing my book for July. I'm new to goodreads and don't quite know how it works or what's expected. I am happy to answer questions.


message 5: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura | 2284 comments Mod
You have found the right spot for our questions. Check in as you have time. Very excited that you are joining us.


message 6: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura | 2284 comments Mod
We are also doing a Q&A with Michael Farris Smith this month. Both of you live in the general vicinity of Oxford, Home to all these great writers. Do authors that are currently living there actually hang out together? Do you like the company of other authors?


message 7: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments The answers to both questions are the same--sometimes !!


message 8: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments A small follow-up. Yes, there are quite a few writers who live around here. A surprisingly hight percentage given the small size of the town. We all know each other. At the same time, writers tend to be reclusive by nature and require solitude to work. We do get together at times.

As far as liking the company of other writers goes--they tend to be smart and well-read, which I like. Some are pretty funny and some are shy. Most are pretty nice people. I like knowing they're out there when I get lonely.


Connie G (connie_g) | 515 comments I thought the scene with the guy in the old pickup with the moonshine was priceless. It certainly didn't develop the way I would have expected. Very creative!

I keep noticing that Southern writers love to incorporate snakes into their stories. Can you tell a Northern gal if snakes are supposed to foreshadow evil, or if there's another reason they show up in so many Southern books?


message 10: by Chris (last edited Jul 11, 2018 01:05PM) (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments I can't speak for other writers, especially their intent at foreshadowing. It's possible that some writers use the snake in its context as a Christian symbol.

As far as actual snakes go--there are a lot of them active in any rural world, regardless of locale. In the south there are more than elsewhere due to an environment that's hospitable to snakes. They're a part of life that is distinctively different from the urban environment.


Howard | 503 comments Hello, Chris.

I read that your first crush was Becky Thatcher. Me too. I envied Tom, even when he was trapped in that cave with her -- and even though his candles were in short supply.

I also loved your story about how you discovered "The Catcher in the Rye." It is priceless. Would you mind repeating it here?


message 12: by Chris (new)


message 13: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura | 2284 comments Mod
We were in Oxford over Memorial Weekend and we are on the street and we hear this young adult say, "I've counted three bookstores already, they must really like to read here." To say the least, it's a charming town where a person can gain major weight on food and bourbon and spend tons on all the books you most definitely need.


message 14: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura | 2284 comments Mod
Do you prefer to write novels or short stories? Which is easier, if there is such a thing as “easy” in writing. (I’ve got specific questions about the book, but waiting on my reread)


Howard | 503 comments I really liked your final scenes with Tucker and Jimmy. I'm not going to give anything away nor am I asking you to, but did you have those in mind early on or did they evolve with the story?


message 16: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Laura wrote: "Do you prefer to write novels or short stories? Which is easier, if there is such a thing as “easy” in writing. (I’ve got specific questions about the book, but waiting on my reread)"

I love both. Short stories were more suited to my lifestyle when I had young kids at home and was working a lot. Now, I prefer novels, due in part to the sustained time they require and I now have.


message 17: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Howard wrote: "I really liked your final scenes with Tucker and Jimmy. I'm not going to give anything away nor am I asking you to, but did you have those in mind early on or did they evolve with the story?"

All the scenes with Jimmy and Tucker evolved as I wrote. Those two guys were always interesting to write about--anything could happen! Either one might say or do anything at any time.


message 18: by Howard (last edited Jun 29, 2018 10:27AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Howard | 503 comments Chris, if I am correct, the title has two meanings. One of them is explained early on, while the second describes the story. Was the title your idea?


message 19: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura | 2284 comments Mod
Great question Howard, I agree with you but very interested in what he has to say about it.


Cathrine ☯️  | 759 comments Hello Chris. Welcome & thanks.
About the epilogue. Did you always have that in mind to include or was it a finishing touch that seemed right to you at the end?


Howard | 503 comments Chris,

I am curious about Richard Howorth's cameo in the book. How did he like being transformed from selling books to selling hardware? I thought that his wife in the story was hilarious -- and also in the epilogue.


message 22: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Howard wrote: "Chris,

I am curious about Richard Howorth's cameo in the book. How did he like being transformed from selling books to selling hardware? I thought that his wife in the story was hilarious -- and a..."


Yes, he liked it. His wife really liked it. They are old friends who founded and continue to operate Square Books here in Oxford, MS.


message 23: by Chris (last edited Jun 29, 2018 01:07PM) (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Howard wrote: "Chris, if I am correct, the title has two meanings. One of them is explained early on, while the second describes the story. Was the title your idea?"

I've wanted to use that phrase as a title for a long time. This book seemed appropriate. The term "country dark" means the quality of night in an isolated rural area. There is no ambient light from town, no glow of streetlights or windows. The only illumination is from the moon. The vastness of space is remarkable and you can see thousands of stars.


message 24: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Cathrine ☯️ wrote: "Hello Chris. Welcome & thanks.
About the epilogue. Did you always have that in mind to include or was it a finishing touch that seemed right to you at the end?"


I'd had the idea for a while, and had never seen one like it before in a novel.

I'm happy to talk more about it, but I don't know the protocol here, and am reluctant to give away anything about the book before everyone has had a time to read it. Hope I'm not jumping the gun here by responding in June!


message 25: by Howard (last edited Jun 29, 2018 12:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Howard | 503 comments Chris wrote: "Cathrine ☯️ wrote: "Hello Chris. Welcome & thanks.
About the epilogue. Did you always have that in mind to include or was it a finishing touch that seemed right to you at the end?"

I'd had the ide..."


There is no protocol. At least there is none that I am aware of and if there is I have violated it. We are happy that you are willing to spend time with us.


Carol (carolfromnc) Chris wrote: "Cathrine ☯️ wrote: "Hello Chris. Welcome & thanks.
About the epilogue. Did you always have that in mind to include or was it a finishing touch that seemed right to you at the end?"

I'd had the ide..."


It may be kind to put the term, "spoiler" at the top of any response that has them, but anyone reading this thread should know that spoilers are part of the possibilities and will avoid it until they are ready. You shouldn't feel constrained to not answer questions.


message 27: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura | 2284 comments Mod
The Q&A section would be free to ask whatever and readers would know there could be spoilers. The first impression section, readers are asked not to drop spoilers.


message 28: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Cathrine ☯️ wrote: "Hello Chris. Welcome & thanks.
About the epilogue. Did you always have that in mind to include or was it a finishing touch that seemed right to you at the end?"


If I really like reading a book, the characters become real people in my imagination. I often wonder what became of them after the novel ended. With Country Dark, I loved all the characters, good and bad, and I wondered what happened to them after the narrative.


message 29: by Howard (last edited Jan 18, 2022 03:01PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Howard | 503 comments Chris,

My introduction to your work was the short story "Melungeons" which was included in "Grit Lit: A Rough South Reader." When I read the story I had never heard of the Melungeon people, but afterwards I did a little research and discovered that they are real.

Since the story appeared in a book title "Grit Lit," I'm wondering if you accept that label, or "country noir," or do you reject such categorizations?


Cathrine ☯️  | 759 comments Chris it's so interesting to me that you relate to your created characters as the reader does. Are you a reader first and an author second? Does that make sense?

Good question Howard. I just read A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House and that was the first time I heard of the Melugeon people. I'm a fairly new reader to this genre and have wondered about the distinction between grit lit and country noir or if there is one.


message 31: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Howard wrote: "Chris,

My introduction to your work was the short story "Melugeons" which was included in "Grit Lit: A Rough South Reader." When I read the story I had never heard of the Melugeon people, but afte..."


I'm a reader first, have been since age five. Writing is a way to provide myself with the kind of work I want to read!

I suspect that "Grit Lit" and "Country Noir" are marketing terms, the same as the "Rough South" and the "Dirty South." They help publishers and reviewers, and maybe some readers, too.

As a writer, these designations are not important or helpful to me. I just write, try to do my best on the page, and hope people will read the work. Call it what you will--just read !!


Howard | 503 comments Chris wrote: "Howard wrote: "Chris,

My introduction to your work was the short story "Melugeons" which was included in "Grit Lit: A Rough South Reader." When I read the story I had never heard of the Melugeon p..."


I suspected that would be your response.


message 33: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura | 2284 comments Mod
Since Howard mentioned Mulungeon there are different things that I I have read that say this mixed race were prone to birth defects but others that say there’s no links. I have a book I’ve loaned out but it speaks about this group of people. I have yet to read so I ask with Little or absolutely no intelligence on the subject. Is there any ties to this and Tucker’s children that have the special needs?


message 34: by Howard (last edited Jun 30, 2018 11:44AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Howard | 503 comments Chris,

I really liked the end of the scene where Tucker is leaving after failing to get the money owed to him by Beanpole:

"Tucker walked down the steps. At his car he turned and looked at Beanpole for a long time, then lifted his hand. He drove out the ridge and off the hill, wondering why he'd waved. It was instinctive, as if something had ended, a farewell to everything that had happened between them for the past sixteen years."

When I read that I found it to be a poignant parting between the two, especially Tucker's wave. But I knew that they would meet again -- at least one more time. However, how that transpired was a total surprise.


message 35: by Cathrine ☯️ (last edited Jun 30, 2018 12:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cathrine ☯️  | 759 comments Spoiler, maybe?

Chris I've been dying to ask about that final meeting between Beanpole and Tucker. That was a "total surprise" to me also, because Tucker went to all that trouble to doctor Jimmy up and then . . .
I did not see that coming.


message 36: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Laura wrote: "Since Howard mentioned Mulungeon there are different things that I I have read that say this mixed race were prone to birth defects but others that say there’s no links. I have a book I’ve loaned o..."

None of the Melungeon people I know are prone to birth defects. It's a discredited theory that so-called mixed race people are likely to have such problems.


message 37: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura | 2284 comments Mod
The character Rhonda is so loyal. When I read My Father, the Pornographer I interrupted that your mother was extremely loyal. Did you use your mother for this character or anyone else in particular?


message 38: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 4427 comments Mod
The ending was inspired. Tucker was such a wonderful character who was smart, instinctual, and resourceful. Do you identify with him at all? You wrote his responses to all his challenges, so you get credit for his intelligence, because you had to figure out what he would do. He is one of my favorite characters in contemporary fiction.


message 39: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Laura wrote: "The character Rhonda is so loyal. When I read My Father, the Pornographer I interrupted that your mother was extremely loyal. Did you use your mother for this character or anyone else in particular?"

No, my mother was not the model for Rhonda. Like all my characters, she's an amalgam of a real person or people, myself, and my imagination. Loyalty is a deep trait in hill people.


message 40: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Diane wrote: "The ending was inspired. Tucker was such a wonderful character who was smart, instinctual, and resourceful. Do you identify with him at all? You wrote his responses to all his challenges, so you ge..."

Yes, I identify with Tucker on every page. It wasn't so much having to figure out what he'd do, but more like--I gave him obstacles and watched what he'd do. Always surprising to me!


message 41: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 4427 comments Mod
Loved the wasps used as a weapon. Do you have experience removing wasps nests, or did you have to read research that part? Also, having Tucker concerned about the wasps "they had a right to live too", that was such a great way to show what a nice guy he was. Even though he did kill two people later, but they deserved it.


message 42: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura | 2284 comments Mod
I loved Tucker as well but I loved Virgil just as much in The good Brother. What do you see as the biggest difference between these two characters? Do you even compare characters from one book to another or are they completely behind you?


message 43: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Diane wrote: "Loved the wasps used as a weapon. Do you have experience removing wasps nests, or did you have to read research that part? Also, having Tucker concerned about the wasps "they had a right to live to..."

I've never removed wasps nests. Those are the ones that are small, about the size of a baseball. They dark gray with a lot of openings in the top. A hornets nest is much bigger, can be the size of a beachball! Gray and papery. I have two in my writing studio from the woods. One smelled of honey for several years.


message 44: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Laura wrote: "I loved Tucker as well but I loved Virgil just as much in The good Brother. What do you see as the biggest difference between these two characters? Do you even compare characters from one book to a..."

I appreciate that you also read The Good Brother. Virgil and Tucker are marked by similarities--loyal to family, following the old codes of the hills, smart and resourceful. Beyond that, they are extremely different people.

Comparing characters from book to book would be difficult, like choosing which child you liked best. Or which Nancy Drew novel you preferred!


message 45: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura | 2284 comments Mod
I’d love to have a hornets nest as part of my home decor. But in nature they are freaking scary. So the question next is, is there a stuffed opossum in your study?


message 46: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Laura wrote: "I’d love to have a hornets nest as part of my home decor. But in nature they are freaking scary. So the question next is, is there a stuffed opossum in your study?"

Yes, absolutely. It was a gift from a woman whose husband owned it. He died and she gave it to me. When I asked him why he had a taxidermied possum, he said, "It keeps me humble."


message 47: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura | 2284 comments Mod
That’s great!!!! Definitely a conversation piece.


message 48: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 4427 comments Mod
Chris, any idea whether you'll be at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville this October?


message 49: by Chris (new)

Chris Offutt | 33 comments Diane wrote: "Chris, any idea whether you'll be at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville this October?"

Possibly. My publisher is looking into it. It's a terrific festival.


message 50: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Laura | 2284 comments Mod
The contrast between Marvin and Hattie, was that how you originally wrote that part of the book? These two side characters were excellent. I loved Hattie and that’s one of the reasons I was a big fan of the epilogue (Jo too!)

“He arranges on his face an expression of deep compassion, one he’d copied from a preacher”-brilliant!

“Then why set down to eat with him?” “ I was hungry,” she said.

Chapter 6 was fabulous.


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