Meet Donald Ray Pollock, Bestselling Author of The Devil All The Time
A powerful new bestselling author will be stopping by the Lakewood Public Library on his way to national reknown. His novel, The Devil All The Time, is a shattering vision of violence and redemption set in Southern Ohio, following a cast of bizarre characters from the end of the Second World War to the 1960s. Donald Ray Pollock first proved himself to be a master of taut gothic yarns with his short story anthology, Knockemstiff. Now, with his debut novel named one of the top ten books of the year by Publisher’s Weekly, he’s ready for the Lakewood Public Library. Are we ready for him? Find out on Thursday, November 1 at 7:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium. Books will be available for sale and signing at the event.
Q. Is it hard to create such dark characters without letting them turn into monsters? Even the darkest characters retain a sense of humanity despite the terrible things they do.
A. Well, probably even the worst people have certain "humanizing" characteristics--maybe they like pancakes or certain songs or love their mother--and so I try to work with those elements some. Too, I tend to think that most bad people don't start out that way, that there is usually something in their history that triggers them to take the wrong path in life. Don't get me wrong, I'm not making excuses for them--lots of people are, for example, abused as children, but don't become serial killers--but I do try to have a little empathy.
Q. The Devil All The Time is a wonderfully bleak book. Did anyone try to sway you into making the book lighter?
A. No, my agent and the people at Doubleday seemed to like it that way, and they were really the only people who read it, at least in its entirety, before it was published. I realize that there are more than a few readers who wish it had been "lighter," but, for better or worse, it's just not that kind of book.
Q. Did you begin writing this novel while still working in the paper mill?
A. I didn't begin the novel until after my short story collection, Knockemstiff, was published in 2008. I was in my third year of grad school at Ohio State University by then, and The Devil All the Time took a little over two years to write.
Q. I am afraid to ask, but are any of the characters in The Devil All The Time based on people you knew in real life?
A. Ha! I hate to disappoint, but all the characters are fictional. Probably the only thing in the book that comes out of my personal experience is, besides the location, the prayer log; and that evolved from a memory of a devout old man who lived on a hill above us in Knockemstiff and used to walk out to the edge of his woods every evening and pray for a couple of minutes.
Q. The New York Times Book Review called your novel, "Brutally creative...Pollock knows how to dunk readers into a scene and when to pull them out gasping." Were you surprised how well the book was received?
A. Yes! And, of course, also greatly relieved. I had a lot of doubts as to whether I could even write a novel in the first place. Too, I have to always remember that there are lots of writers out there better than me who hardly get reviewed at all.
Q. What is the strangest question you have received during a meet and great?
A. I really can't recall any strange questions asked during a Q&A, but someone did email once and ask if I'd come to California and help him burn down Los Angeles.
Q. What’s next for you? Can you share what you have been working on?
A. I'm working on another novel, also set in and around "Meade" in southern Ohio, but I'm going back further in time a bit, to 1918. That's really about all I should say about it right now.