Interview with author Dixon Hearne, Ph.D.


Brief Bio:

Louisiana native Dixon Hearne teaches and writes in southern California and Mississippi. His creative work has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and he has received numerous literary awards. Plantatia: High-toned and Lowdown Stories of the South won the 2010 Creative Spirit Award-Platinum for best general fiction book, as well as a Hemingway/PEN nomination. He is the editor of four recent anthologies, and other work appears in Louisiana Literature, Post Road, Cream City Review, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Potomac Review, Louisiana Review, Big Muddy, Roanoke Review, Wisconsin Review, New Plains Review, and numerous other magazines, journals and anthologies, including University of Texas Press’s The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume IV: Louisiana. He is currently at work on a novel, as well as new short story and poetry collections. Visit his website here.


1.) What made you want to be a writer?

Writing was not nurtured as a worthwhile pursuit in public schools where I grew up. Nor did MFA programs abound when I got to college. Like so many young men, I wondered how J.D. Salinger knew enough about me personally to create his character Holden Caulfield. I knew that if old Holden could tell a good story—so could I. But it wasn’t until years later, when I read Linda Ellerbee’s, And So It Goes and Move On, that I had courage enough to test the waters. She talks about her old haunts in Houston, the very same places where my fellow college pals and I could be found chugging away our free time. I loved the way she could spin a tale—still do. She made me feel like I should get my own stories onto paper, that someone might really be interested. My hat’s off, Linda!  

2.) How long have you been seriously pursuing a career in writing?

I began serious writing during my Ph.D. program at Claremont Graduate University, where candidates were expected to have published research in respectable venues prior to graduation. I published widely in professional journals—all in the same voice. It was not until about 1999 that I felt the call again to experiment with writing in a different voice. My first short story was accepted very quickly by a respectable print journal, and since that time, I’ve published in more than 100 literary magazines, journals and anthologies. Obviously, my career path took a new trajectory.

3.) If you had to choose three words to describe your writing nook/office, what

would they be?

Scattered, organized, and comfortable—depending upon the day of the week.

4.) Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?

I write mostly about my native South. I’ve always been drawn to “places.” As a boy, I travelled with my father through the wonderful back roads of north Louisiana on his sales routes. I would study the old men on store front porches, listen to conversations between customers in the stores and imagine entire lives for each of them. I was moved by the language and the passion, at once genteel conversation—the next moment, political rant. I have also travelled the back roads of the American West, and I feel strongly connected to these places as well— the native voices that seem to speak in the winds.

5.) Give us a one sentence pitch for your current work.

This is a tough request. However I’ll borrow one of my reviewer’s statements, as it seems to capture the essence of my last book, Plantatia: High-toned and Lowdown Stories of the South (Southeast Missouri State University Press):

Plantatia” is full of familiar people and places—a wisteria-bound and oak-shaded South comprised of honky tonks, corner stores, mills, and revival churches populated by drunks, gossips, and scandalous preachers –part yarn and part folk in a way that is reminiscent of Zora Neale Hurston.” Darien Cavanaugh, editor, Yemassee. Visit:  www.dixonhearne.com

6.) Are you an outliner or a seat-of-your-pantser?

I’m definitely a “seat-of-the-pantser.” I rarely know exactly where a story is headed until I’m well into it. Some stories come to me fully realized, whole; others proceed in fits and starts and the characters seem to lead me. I’d rather wait for the urge and let it unfold rather than give it shape and parameters that might constrain creativity.

7.) If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Another tough one—with so many contenders! I love the simplicity with which Truman Capote and Eudora Welty can create vivid and memorable characters. I’d like spend an afternoon with either or both of them talking about the way they approach character development and story line. Dorothy Allison is equally deft.

8.) If you could meet one character in your book, who would it be? Why?

I’d like to meet Plantatia, the title character from a short story by the same title. She captures both innocence and a sassy strength that seems to endear her to readers. I didn’t know where she was going to take me when we started her story. You can now find her name with a Google search—I know she’d be pleased.

9.) Favorite quote/personal motto:

There are two closely-related quotes that guide me, both by Einstein:  

 “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”  Albert Einstein

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” Albert Einstein

10.) If you could give any advice to other writers, what would it be?

Don’t compare your creative work to other writers. Keep in mind when “workshopping” a piece with other writers that you relinquish a degree of your own creativity, and the final piece is a composite—never truly yours alone. Great writers from the past, whose work still lives and is taught in our colleges and universities, did not require peer teams to produce memorable work. Believe in your own voice and direction—and read in all genres!

 

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Belle Rêve Literary Journal is a southern literary experience. Our mission is to capture everything that makes the South and its residents unique through the best contemporary literature we can find. We publish new works weekly.