Authors in Real Life: Michael Farris Smith

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“I love gritty — and this is the ultimate grit,” says Parnassus Book Clubs manager Kathy Schultenover. If you’ve been in the store when Kathy’s on duty lately, you’ve likely heard her pitch for Desperation Road, the new novel by Michael Farris Smith. She compares it to fiction by Tom Franklin, Ron Rash, William Gay, and Larry Brown — and says fans of True Detective would love it.

Read a review at Chapter 16.

Without giving away the twists and turns, Publishers Weekly describes the story this way: “Like those in his 2013 novel, Rivers, the characters in Smith’s latest struggle to put the past behind them—but this time, the storms that have torn their lives apart are mostly of their own making.”

Smith told us the novel started with a vision: “Desperation Road came about because of an image in my mind I couldn’t shake, that of a woman and child walking along the side of the interstate under a punishing summer sun, with the woman carrying all they owned in a garbage bag. I didn’t know where they were going or what they were doing, but I had to find out. And I immediately felt compassion for them, as well as empathy and worry, and that emotional attachment told me, you have to go with them.”

Intrigued? Come to Smith’s reading at Parnassus on Monday, March 20, at 6:30 p.m. Meanwhile, get to know him a bit better as he answers our Authors in Real Life questionnaire:

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 4.48.13 PMI’ve been listening to: Like a lot of people I’ve been hooked on Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton, but lately I’ve also been going back to Uncle Tupelo and some early Son Volt, listening to the beginnings of that alt-country movement. I also have Lucero and the Drive-by Truckers looped in pretty regular.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 1.20.00 PMI love to watch: This is going to sound strange, but I just love to watch the NHL playoffs. Playoff hockey is just another level of intensity, and I’ve been a Penguins fan since I made some friends from Pittsburgh back in college, so I get into that amped up version of the game. Otherwise, I find myself rewatching movies I love more than finding new ones, movies like Raising Arizona, Red Dawn (the original, of course), Beautiful Girls, No Country for Old Men.

Something I saw online that made me laugh, cry, or think: My youngest daughter is hooked on the movie Trolls and she showed me a video of some kid making Troll dolls talk to one another, and the dog snuck around and snapped one out of her hand and took off, and my little one just threw her head back and cackled. And then so did I.

Best meal I’ve had in the past month: This is an easy one because it was in my backyard on a sunny Sunday afternoon, after I’d been on the road for a week, and my wife and I ate crawfish and sipped on cans of PBR while our daughters played and danced around.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 1.30.35 PM.pngA creator who’s doing something I envy: I can’t name one song by Lady GaGa, but I thought her stripped-down Dive Bar Tour last year was such a cool idea. She wasn’t afraid to dial it back and go out and show she is a real musician.

The book I most recently recommended to someone else: For fiction, Donald Ray Pollack’s The Heavenly Table. For the soul, Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke.

The last event I bought tickets to was: Don’t laugh, but some Columbus friends and I bought tickets to go see Tesla and Poison at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater this May. The ’80s, baby.

Most meaningful recent travel destination: I recently did a book event down in McComb, Mississippi, the setting for Desperation Road and where I went to high school. The event was at a local watering hole. I saw so many old friends and looked for my characters around every corner.

I wish I knew more about:  The constellations.

My favorite thing about bookstores: Just one? It’s gotta be the people, because it takes a certain kind of person to work in an indie bookstore, and a certain kind of person to frequent and support those stores. And these are my kind of people.

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TODAY, Thursday, 3/16 – Nickolas Butler, The Hearts of Men, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, 3/17 – Jack Spencer discusses This Land with Jon Meacham, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, 3/18 – Steph Jagger, Unbound, 2 p.m.

Monday, 3/20 – Michael Farris Smith, Desperation Road, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, 3/21 – Holly Tucker, City of Light, City of Poison, 6:30 p.m.


Wednesday, 3/22 –  John Farrell discusses Richard Nixon: The Life with David Maraniss, 7 p.m. (at the First Amendment Center)

Saturday, 3/25 – John Scalzi, The Collapsing Empire, 2 p.m.

Saturday, 3/25 – Salon@615 presents Greg Iles, Mississippi Blood, 2 p.m (at the Nashville Public Library)

Monday, 3/27 – Classics Book Club, So Big by Edna Ferber, 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, 3/29 – Hannah Tinti, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, 6:30 p.m.