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Author Michael Morris Loves to Find Eccentric People in "Small Southern Towns"

Kevin Willis

Michael Morris is a man with a passion for southern fiction. His latest book is called Man in the Blue Moon, and he is in Bowling Green Thursday promoting the new work, and speaking to different organizations around town.

Man in the Blue Moon was the fall selection for the SOKY Reads! program, a community "one book" reading project in southern Kentucky.

Morris stopped by the studios of WKU Public Radio to talk about writing southern fiction, and how he got into writing late in life.

Here are some excerpts of our conversation:

You're giving a writing workshop today at WKU about writing southern fiction. What's distinctive about southern fiction? What makes it stand out from other genres?

“I just think the way we speak is different, obviously. That stands out. There are other aspects to the south that you don’t find in other places in the country. A lot of it has to do with the food. You know, we plan a big celebration around our food—the Sunday dinners."

"You know, William Faulker said the difference between the north and the south is that in the north the crazy relatives are hidden in the attic. In the south, we put them on the front porch and let them wave to everybody."

"That’s funny, but I think it’s also true. And maybe more true in times past. But I just love eccentric people, and I think we find them in our small, southern towns."

You came to writing later in life. How did that happen?

"When I go to book clubs, or events like today at the library, I always get the question, ‘did you always want to be a writer?’ I wish I could say ‘yes.” I hear these writers talk about how they were writing their first novel when they were ten years old, or something like that."

"But that’s not my story. I didn’t grow up in a family of readers. But I did stumble upon some southern writers who write about the people I know. One is Pat Conroy. His novel, “The Prince of Tides”, I found  just by happenstance at my library. That was one of the first books I read outside of the classroom. And the other writer is Lee Smith, who is one of my all-time favorite writers, and who has been a big mentor and encourager to me, too."

"I worked in the pharmaceutical industry and lived in North Carolina, and Lee Smith also lived in North Carolina. So I became this literary stalker, and go to every event she did.”

Michael Morris is giving a talk and signing copies of Man in the Blue Man Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Warren County Public Library on State Street.

WKU Public Radio's interview with Morris is airing Thursday during All Things Considered at 4:50 p.m. central/ 5:50 eastern. You can also hear the interview by clicking on the audio archive at the top of this page.

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio. He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.