Article Published: Sep. 20, 2012 | Modified: Sep. 20, 2012
On Thursday, Oct. 4, three renowned writers and the senior
editor of Algonquin Books will gather for a special event at the Broyhill Events Center on the
campus of Appalachian State University.
Authors Barbara Kingsolver, Hillary
Jordan and Naomi Benaron will join editor Kathie Pories for a conversation about literature,
culture, politics and social issues.
The event is sponsored by Kingsolver
and ASU’s Belk Library.
Both Jordan and Benaron are recent Bellwether Prize
winners. Established by Kingsolver, the Bellwether Prize is given to debut novels that promote
conscience, social responsibility and literary merit. Winning authors receive a $25,000 to help them
further their writing careers.
Jordan received the 2008 Bellwether Prize for
her debut novel, “Mudbound.” She has since then published “When She Woke,” a chilling tale of the
near future where criminals are genetically dyed different colors to show the public what sorts of
crimes they have committed. The story’s protagonist, Hannah, has been convicted of murder and has
had her body completely changed to red.
The paperback edition of “When She
Woke” was released by Algonquin Books this week. Editions of books by Jordan, Benaron and Kingsolver
will be available at the ASU Bookstore, and the authors will meet with the public and sign copies of
their books after the event at the Broyhill Events Center, formerly the Broyhill Inn &
Conference Center, located at 775 Bodenheimer Drive on campus.
For more information
on the event, call (828) 262-2186.
The Mountain Times caught up with Jordan
to find out what goes on behind the writer’s door.
Mountain Times: How did
winning the Bellwether Prize change your life?
Hillary Jordan: It was simply
unbelievable. To have one of the best authors in the world in Barbara Kingsolver acknowledge my work
was completely uplifting. I worked on “Mudbound” for six years, so to have it recognized by her
really boosted my confidence as a writer. Plus, the $25,000 prize was extremely significant in
allowing me to continue to write. I was pretty broke at the time. It has also been rewarding to get
to know Barbara Kingsolver, who I can say is now my mentor. The acclaim for “Mudbound” and the
Bellwether Prize also helped me sell “When She Woke.”
MT: How have fans of
“Mudbound” received “When She Woke” so far?
HJ: I think most of them have enjoyed
it, even though some people of faith might have trouble with some of its themes, such as abortion
and lesbianism. I’ve had a lot of great responses from young women who feel the book is empowering.
MT: Has anyone approached you about turning your books into
HJ: That’s interesting, because I try to write very cinematically.
“Mudbound” has been optioned and is currently being turned into a screenplay, which is very
exciting. With “When She Woke,” I’ve had a nibble that didn’t turn into anything. I think Hollywood
is afraid of anything controversial, especially if it deals with abortion or lesbian love
MT: You wrote “When She Woke” last year. This year, there has been
a lot said in the news about abortion and women who have been raped being compelled to carry their
pregnancy to term. Do you think the society that you portray in the novel is coming to
HJ: I think there are certain elements of our society who feel like they
know what is best for everyone, even for people who do not share their
MT: What are you writing now?
HJ: I am working on
a novel that is kind of a sequel to “Mudbound.” One of its central characters, Ronsel Jackson, is an
African American who served overseas during World War II. While over there, he impregnates a white
German woman. The new book is the story of what happens to their child. I also have a digital short,
called “Aftermirth,” that will be released by Algonquin Sept. 18. It is available for Kindles and