Earl Hamner, Jr.

by Nicole Golden

Marianne Worthington

by Lisa Phillips

Rita Quillen

by Lisa Phillips

Mark Powell

by Chasia Eidson

Anne Shelby

by Kristin Mayes

Catherine Landis

by Brooke Drinnon

Mark Powell

Emancipator staff member Chasia Eidson recently conducted an interview with Mark Powell, one of the South’s rising literary stars and a judge for the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival’s annual writing competition. Powell is the author of Prodigals and Blood Kin, which won the Peter Taylor Prize.

Eidson: Why do you love writing?
Powell: I'm not sure, to be completely honest. Maybe it's the desire to create things, to tell stories and build worlds, maybe it's just that that's what I do. I only know I can't imagine my life without it; when I don't write I get anxious and don't feel well. Writing is so much a part of my identity I feel like a ghost without it. Flannery O'Connor said writing was her "habit of being." I like that answer a great deal.

Eidson: Who is your favorite character in your writings?
Powell: Probably James Burden in my novel 'Blood Kin.' He's broken and vulnerable, and completely honest. He has followed a path divergent from the spiritually-empty conformity of a modern society mindlessly drugged on TV and celebrity. Ironically, it is partly to his detriment, but I always admire underdogs and outsiders, anyone who wants to live on his or her own terms.

Eidson: Which writers do you admire?
Powell: I believe Ron Rash to be the exemplar of writer and gentleman. Ron has been generous to me beyond belief. So too have a number of other writers: Silas House, George Singleton, and John Lane, to name three. I admire writers who are willing to engage with the world: Tolstoy, George Orwell, Janisse Ray—anyone willing to stick his or her neck out.

Eidson: Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing?
Powell: Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy. Now I would add Dostoevsky to that list, too. The other principle influence has been growing up in a talkative family full of stories: everything I've ever written has been based in some way on something I've seen or heard.

Eidson: You have visited Lincoln Memorial University before - what was your impression of the campus?
Powell: I loved my visit to LMU. Seldom have I been treated with such hospitality and warmth; from the reading, to the cottage we stayed in, to dinner. Some of my closest and kindest friends are at LMU. And of course the woods—the trees and hills—I'm a man who swoons over trees.

Eidson: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Powell: Read everything, everyday. And write every single day. You have to center your world on the written word. It's a way of being that comes from years and years of discipline. Write, and don't worry about what anyone thinks. Write because it's what you do. –e-