What is your book about?
Knox Thompson thinks he’s working a hustle, but it’s a hustle that’s working him. Trying to keep his pizza shop and parents afloat, he cleans out a backroom Kentucky poker game, only to get roped into dealing marijuana by the proprietor—an arrangement Knox only halfheartedly resists.
Knox’s shop makes the perfect front for a marijuana operation, but his supplier turns out to be violent and calculating, and Knox ends up under his thumb. It’s not long before more than just the pizza shop is at risk.
Can you tell us about your path to publication?
I started writing Hillbilly Hustle in 2014. My family owns a pizza shop that at one time was locally famous for selling marijuana. We’ve never done that, but the concept got in my head as an idea for a novel. In 2018, I signed with West Virginia University Press.
Where were you when you heard your book tour and/or launch party was cancelled and what did you do?
I managed to get a couple small local events in before everything shut down. The first big cancellation was a panel at the Appalachian Studies Association with Leah Hampton, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, and Savannah Sipple. We had a group chat and we were on pins and needles hoping to get it in on March 13th, but were also unsure if we should. Once it got close it was obvious it should cancel, and it did. We all kind of jointly shared our disappointment. Then the Virginia Festival of the Book canceled, then the Western Carolina Spring Literary Festival. The big ones cancelled and the bookshop readings postponed. They all went down like dominoes.
Are you and your publisher doing anything special/different instead of a book tour to promote your novel?
I’ve responded to several online calls for newly published authors to promote their books and am trying to follow up on those—much like this one. West Virginia University Press didn’t end up going to AWP so they ran a sale on all their titles through their website that’s still going on. They’re doing their best to promote all their authors, but there’s only so much they can do.
On the Facebook page “Hillbilly Hustle – A Novel” I’m going live and reading an installment of the book each day. I’ll read the entire book beginning to end on there.
On a lighter note, do you have any quirky writing rituals?
I don’t know how quirky it is, but I talk as I write dialogue, which sometimes strikes my family odd. If I can’t say it cleanly and naturally, I don’t want it on the page.
What was the hardest thing you had to cut from your book, your favorite Dead Darling?
My original protagonist was a pizza shop employee named Casey. I later added Knox and had dual protagonists. Not long before my deadline I attended the Tin House Summer Workshop where I was taught by Benjamin Percy. Ben persuaded me to cut Casey from the book entirely. I had real short time, but I went from 100,000 words down to 50,000, then up to 72,000. My editor liked the new revision better. That’s what was published. Casey was dead. No trace.
Where can we buy your book?