Daren Dean pic 2What have you been reading in terms of new fiction? Can you make any recommendations?

If you like Cormac McCarthy, read Secessia by Kent Wascom; If you like grit lit, read A Tree Born Crooked by Steph Post; if you want a writer with her finger on the pulse of contemporary life, then read Refund by Karen Bender; If you long for prose reminiscent of incredibly bright moments that Raymond Carver was so adept at creating, then read Dispensations by Randolph Thomas; for New Orleans grit, read Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa; If you want a writer with the linguistic brilliance of Barry Hannah, try The Book of Duels by Michael Garriga; if you want to read a contemporary and brilliant southern writer then look no further than the current summer issues of both Tin House and Zoetrope for two short stories by Jennifer Davis. Finally, I’m especially looking forward to a Civil War novel called Fallen Land by Taylor Brown. That ought to keep y’all busy.

What have you been reading lately?

Good question! I have been reading Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I came across this sentence that really made me start thinking: “What this person sees in a painting is not a picture, but a “thought machine” that includes the painter’s emotions, hopes, and ideas–as well as the spirit of the culture and the historical period of the culture and the historical period in which he lived.” This is really the great thing about reading; it can lead you to thinking not only just logically about what the writer just wrote but can also open up the possibility of a tangent or non-sequitur. For example, this notion of a “thought machine” is interesting whether or not it pertains to author’s example of a painter. Consider what happens in the mind of the one observing the work! I recently went to the St. Louis Art Museum and had the opportunity to observe van Gogh’s work. I’ve read so much about him that it is always a thrill to see his original work rather than just an image online or a reproduction in a book. How he had, at times, produced work in a manic state reminds me of a “flow state” of sorts, but I will refrain from placing labels on his process. However, it made me think about teaching writing since the summer is about over now and it won’t be long before I’m in front of a class of first-years trying to teach them something about academic writing and creative writing and what it has to do with their own motivation or success particularly if they remain in academia or enter the professional world after graduation. I’ve even decided to use Flow in my first-year composition classes. He tells a truth young students need to hear now because it might save them time.

So, Far Beyond the Pale is out now, but are you working on anything new?

Well, I have two novels that probably fit in the same vein as Pale. In fact, in my mind I think of them as a trilogy of sorts. Not Volume 1, 2, and 3, exactly, but they’re about the same sorts of people. You might think of the work of Daniel Woodrell or Kent Haruf in this sense, if you get my meaning. Also, this summer I just finished the first major draft of a civil war novel I’ve been working on for about 9 years now off and on. It deals with the Kansas-Missouri Border wars and the Civil War in Missouri.


DAREN DEAN is the author of Far Beyond the Pale (Fiction Southeast Press). His fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in BULL, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, Missouri Life, The Oklahoma Review, Midwestern Gothic, Ecotone, Image, Chattahoochee Review, Fiction Southeast, Story South, Yemasse, Aries, and others. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Dean also worked in acquisitions and marketing at the University of Missouri Press. Currently, he teaches creative writing and composition in the English department at Louisiana State University. Keep up with him at http://darendean.wix.com/daren-dean.

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