This week’s guest on Five Things is Kentucky author Silas House, who made his name as a novelist (Clay’s Quilt, Eli the Good) and is also known for his essays and other writings on food, music and politics.
He teaches writing at Berea College, so I made the drive to that lovely town and interviewed him at his dining room table. We had a great conversation about growing up in the small town of Lily, Kentucky, how he feels a little bit guilty living only 45 minutes away from there, and some of the people and experiences that have most influenced his writing life.
Listen to our conversation in the player above.
On his Waltons-themed lunchbox:
“I would have never been a writer if it hadn’t been for ‘The Waltons.’ I was really lucky to grow up in a time when everybody that I knew gathered to watch two shows: everybody watched ‘The Waltons,’ and everybody watched ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ and both of those shows were about writers. And so you know, little boys I knew, they were obsessed with Evel Knievel or Luke Skywalker or Kyle Macy, who was one of the great UK ball players of the time, and I was obsessed with John-Boy Walton.”
On a pair of patent leather dress shoes worn by both his daughters:
“Obviously when you’re a parent, that shapes everything, but for me as a writer in particular, it changed everything for me to have children. Not only to write from the point of view of a parent but also to write from the point of view of a child, which I’ve often done since they were born. I couldn’t have done that without having children. [My next novel] that comes out in 2018 is all about being a parent and how far you will go as a parent, how far you have to go, how you’d never know if you’re making the right decision or if you’re doing the right thing. And I couldn’t have done that without being a father.”
On his tea-drinking habit, and the harmful habit it replaced:
“The reason it’s most important is because it used to be that ceremony was tied up in smoking. I was a smoker from the age of 16 until I was about 34, and it was incredibly hard to quit. And one of the reasons it was so hard for me to quit is because my writing was tied up in that. I would think, alright, if I write for 45 minutes, I can smoke another cigarette. It was like a little treat that was spaced out. Seeing this teacup reminds me of how glad I am that I’m living a healthy life now, in a way that I wasn’t for years and years. I was really, really conscious that I was killing myself, and I hated that but I also — God, I loved cigarettes.”
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