About The Author
Kevin Wilson lives in Sewanee, Tennessee, with his wife, the poet Leigh Anne Couch, and his son, Griff, where he teaches fiction at the University of the South. Orange Prize winning author Ann Patchett describes him as "a dazzling and important new writer".
He is the author of the short story collection Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, which received an Alex Award from the American Library Association and the Shirley Jackson Award. He has also had stories published in magazines and journals including Ploughshares, Tin House, One Story and Cincinnati Review.
His first novel, The Family Fang, introduces a family of avant-garde performance artists, Caleb and Camille and their children, Annie and Buster, known professionally as Child A and Child B. The book opens with both children finding the need to take a break from their respective careers as an actress and a writer and returning reluctantly home. When their parents disappear, leaving behind their blood-stained car at a spot notorious for abductions, they are unsure whether to worry or simply to wait for their parents' latest performance to play out.
A glorious send-up of the pretensions of the art world and a moving family drama with a twist, The Family Fang is one of the funniest novels of the year. In this exclusive interview for Foyles, Kevin talks about getting the balance right between sadness and humour, the benefits of being married to a fellow writer and trying to not blow himself up with a potato gun.
Below the interview is a list of titles by Kevin Wilson currently in print in the UK. You may find othereditions in our 'New and Used' section by typing the author's name into the Search field at the top of this page andselecting the 'Author Exact' filter to the far right of the Search field.
Questions & Answers
Are any of the Fang family's extravagant art projects based on genuine performance art?
Not that I know of. There are, however, numerous photos collected on the internet of crying children posing with Santa Claus. I took idea that without reservation.
The children, Annie and Buster, are both quite emotionally detached, as a result of being encouraged to retain an artistic detachment. Did you find it difficult to write characters who have such difficulty in expressing themselves?
I don't think so, mostly because I have great difficulty expressing myself. Most human interaction, for me, is anxiety-inducing, and I frequently find myself unable to express myself or properly understand my own emotional state. I feel very Fang-like in that regard.
Buster returns home after an unfortunate accident involving a potato gun. Was there any practical research involved in that section of the book?
Living in a rural area in the Southern part of the United States, you cannot help but find yourself holding a potato gun, hoping you do not blow yourself up. I have seen a foot demolished by a misfired potato gun; it was as unpleasant as it sounds. So, I resisted the urge to do more research when I was writing the book. I don't trust myself with a potato gun.
There's a thread of humour that runs through both this novel and your earlier page. Is there a secret to pulling it off successfully?
For me, I try to mix sadness and humour together and hope that they mask each other just long enough that the reader doesn't have a chance to see them coming. The element of surprise works best, I think. For me, humour and lightness, is just easier than darkness. So I use it as much as I can without annoying the reader.
Caleb is inspired by his tutor to pursue his artistic ideas and Buster is able to do the same for a young writer. Did you have much encouragement in developing your writing?
My parents encouraged me from the very beginning. They indulged all of my career desires from an early age. If I wanted to be a superhero, they bought me a cape. If I wanted to be a writer, they bought me more books to read. Later on, Tony Earley, a novelist who taught me at Vanderbilt University, told me that I could, if I worked at it, make a career of writing, which was so unbelievably kind.
You and your wife are both writers [Kevin is married to poet Leigh Anne Couch]. Do you rely on each other for feedback or do you work fairly independently?
My wife is one of the only people who ever sees my work in rough form. The same goes for her and her poetry. I trust her without reservation. No one knows me better than she does and so she understands what I'm trying to do, even if it isn't working. She knows me well enough to know what I want the story to be. And she knows how to get me to that place. She is my ideal reader, someone who loves me even if I fail.
Given the turmoil that Annie and Buster go through being part of their parents' art, what advice do you think you'd give your son if he expresses interest in becoming an author?
Without hesitation, I'd tell him to go for it. Right now, he wants to be a fireman. He is three. Without hesitation, I tell him to go for it. There will be enough people telling him what he can't and can't do with his life, so I don't want to add to it.
You've recently had a tattoo of Buster and Annie on your arm. Does that mean that you also having difficulties drawing the line between life and art?
They're pretty well tied together for me, I think. I spent two years with Buster and Annie in my head. Having them on my arm is much, much easier.