Friday, June 5, 2015

Author Interview: Natalie S. Harnett, Excerpt and Giveaway

June is Audiobook Month and to celebrate Audible has been kind enough to provide a clip of The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett narrated by Luci Christian and also an inteview with the author and a giveaway for the book! After listening to the clip and reading the description, this book sounds great!

Thanks so much to Audible for the giveaway and to Natalie for being so kind as to answer some questions for me!

Goodreads Description:

Set amongst the deadly coal mine fires of 1960s Pennsylvania,The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut that will "grab you by the brisket and not let go." (Gary Shteyngart) 

"We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say. Basement floors too hot to touch. Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter. Sinkholes, quick and sudden, plunging open at your feet."

The underground mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents, the formidable Gram and the Black Lung stricken Gramp. Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the "curse" laid upon them generations earlier by a priest who ran afoul of the Molly Maguires. The weight of this legacy rests heavily on a new generation, when Brigid, already struggling to keep her family together, makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft. In the aftermath, decades' old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet. Inspired by real-life events in now-infamous Centralia and the equally devastated town of Carbondale, The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut with an atmospheric, voice-driven narrative and an indelible sense of place. 

What is something you would like readers to know about The Hollow Ground that we won't get from the description? 

That this story is a hero’s journey.  It’s a story about family—about all the ways we need, love and betray each other—but what the young protagonist achieves at the end is nothing short of heroic.  I so admire her.

Since June is audiobook month. Let's talk about audiobooks. How do you feel about them? Do you listen to audiobooks? 

I love audiobooks!  I got hooked on them twenty years ago when I had a job with a long commute.  I definitely feel I have a more visual experience with them.  The books I listen to I’m able to envision better.  I think it’s made me a better writer, too.  There’s such a power to oral storytelling.  The listener is more sensitive than a reader to wasteful words and lazy plots. I always read my work aloud, many times, in an effort to polish it.

What attracted you to writing about the 1960's coal mine fires? 

During the 70s, while I was a young child, my grandfather lived in the Pocono area of Pennsylvania and through him, I became familiar with the nearby city of Carbondale.  It was back then, in my childhood years, that my desire to write about Carbondale formed.   There was something about the city’s steep, narrow streets and large, often dilapidated, homes that called to me.

It wasn’t until years later, though, that I had the inspiration for Brigid’s story and knew I wanted to set the novel in Carbondale (which I renamed Barrendale in the book).  From my grandfather’s neighbor I’d heard about how coal mine fires had sunk houses and poisoned people, but at that time, I’d had no intention of writing about a coal mine fire.  In fact I didn’t even know about Carbondale’s fire until I started doing research on the city.

Gradually, as I learned more and more about that fire and the horrific conditions the residents had survived, I knew I also wanted to tell the story of the fire.  That’s when THE HOLLOW GROUND really started to take shape. 

If being a writer wasn’t an option, what would your dream job be?

Working at a nature preserve.

I believe that all good writers have something they want readers to take away from their books. What do you want readers to take away from yours?

The great strength of Gram and Brigid. The power and relief that comes from forgiveness.

Avid readers’ favorite books seem to change week to week based on what they’ve read recently or what kind of mood they are in (at least that’s how I am) What’s your favorite book right now?

Right now I’m reading LIFE ON THE COLOR LINE by Gregory Howard Williams, a memoir I picked up as research for my new novel.  It’s about a boy who spent his childhood thinking he was white and then found out as an adolescent that he was black.  It’s so riveting and well written that I’m reading it slowly because I don’t want it to end.  I’m currently reading other books (I tend to do that) but the Williams book is definitely my current fave.

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