Author Interview: Christopher Martin

Chris Martin Paradise Garden

What’s new and exciting in your life as an author? 

My debut book, This Gladdening Light: An Ecology of Fatherhood and Faith, came out this past summer with Mercer University Press. It’s kind of a memoir/essay collection/spiritual journal hybrid. It won the Will D. Campbell Award in Creative Nonfiction and has been featured in ArtsATL and the AJC, and is the subject of a recent Literary Atlanta podcast. I was just nominated for a 2018 Georgia Author of the Year award in the essay/creative nonfiction category for this book.

As for individual pieces, I have some fairly recent essays published at New Southerner.

I’ve got plenty of other irons in the fire. My full-length poetry collection is done and I’m just trying to find a publisher for it. I might be self-publishing a chapbook soon. I’m working on a book about R.E.M.’s Fables of the Reconstruction. And I’ve always got individual poems or essays or satire pieces floating around.

And while this isn’t publication news, I’m excited to share I’ve been invited to lead a monthly writing workshop at Reformation Brewery in Woodstock, Georgia. The first one, which will focus on creative journaling, is set for February 11 at 3:00. It’s free but space is limited to 30 participants, so anyone interested can reserve a spot here, and the FB invitation is here.

What is your connection to the American South?

I’ve lived in Georgia all my life. I’m originally from Gwinnett County, spent a short but significant time in Newton and Jasper Counties, and ended up in northwest Cobb. Both sides of my family have been in this general Georgia piedmont area for a while. My wife is from Washington County so we also have a deep connection to rural east Georgia. My sisters now live in Atlanta, which has become a meaningful place for me, as well.

In her essay “Home,” the late Melissa Walker writes, “To most Southerners, home is the place where they were born and grew up. Like many people my age in the South, I lived in one place until I left to go to college, and that place is the center of a larger geographical area extending from the Georgia Sea Islands and the Okefenokee Swamp in the south to the Appalachian Mountains in the north.” She goes on to call her house in the Atlanta area “only one of many linked elements that all together comprise home.” While I didn’t live in one place growing up and don’t feel rooted to any one particular location—even for the relatively small range of places I’ve lived, we moved around a lot between parents and grandparents within that range—I get what she means and more or less feel the same. The northwest Georgia piedmont is about as close to home as it gets for me—places like Kennesaw Mountain and the Etowah Mounds make up my spiritual terrain. But places like Jekyll Island and Blood Mountain inform my sense of home and my connection to this region, too.

It’s hard to think of any one place as home but I’m always haunted by the idea of home (which is a somewhat redundant thing to say given the etymology of haunted). The suburbs, often soulless, probably have something to do with that, as well. I guess the title of your blog got me thinking along these lines. But I’ve always been here in Georgia, and my family has been here for a long time, and this is the American South, so…

How has that connection to the South informed your work as a writer? 

I like thinking about open-ended questions but I’m not that good at answering them. I start to ramble. Though I am a Southern, place-based writer, “Southern” isn’t a label I’m particularly interested in claiming or reclaiming, though I don’t disown it, either. I just let it be what it is. It has too many associations—positive and negative, romanticized and demonized, documented and caricatured, and everything in between—that vary far too widely to meaningfully talk about in a general sense in a short space. I guess the best answer to this question is the work itself. I could say, for example, that the Confederate flags flying in downtown Kennesaw inform my work as a writer, in the sense of making me angry, and I wouldn’t have that basis anywhere but here. But I could also say the diamorpha on Arabia Mountain informs my work as a writer, in the sense of giving me peace, and I likewise wouldn’t have that basis anywhere but here.

What can we expect to see from you in the future? 

I mentioned the poetry book and the book on R.E.M.’s Fables of the Reconstruction. I have tons of poems in progress; I’m particularly proud of two unpublished drafts called “My Daughter Refuses to Smile” and “Crawling Out of Christian Psychology.” Maybe they’ll be out soon. I’ve got some notes for children’s books. I try to get a piece of satire into McSweeney’s once a year (I guess my time’s run out on 2017, though it happened in 2015 and 2016). I’d like to write some kind of manifesto on Christianity and unicorns. That sort of thing.

My book is available at all the big online outlets, though I encourage folks to order directly through the publisher, Mercer University Press, or to ask your favorite local indie bookstore to get a few copies for its shelves (and maybe hit me up for a reading or signing while they’re at it).

My website is christopher-martin.net. Anyone interested can find most of what I’m up to through links at the site, which I try to keep updated as much as humanly possible.

Author photo (above) by Cannon Martin (7), taken at Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden 

This Gladdening Light

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