"People want you to be what you write about," novelist Daniel Woodrell commented during his public presentation Wednesday night at the 9th annual Writers in Paradise conference at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. He knows this from experience. Woodrell, the author of Winter's Bone and other novels about poor, white people in the Ozarks, is often confused with his characters. Sometimes, he said, devoted readers will even give him jugs of whiskey at book signings.
Yet if he isn't really as rough-edged as most of his characters, it may only be by the grace of God. He grew up in the Ozarks (and lives there now), and the people he writes about are often based on people he has known, even members of his own family.
Woodrell read the opening pages of The Maid's Version, his next novel scheduled for publication in September. He said the book is based on stories his grandmother, once the illiterate maid for a prosperous family, used to tell about a tragic explosion at a local dance hall in which many of the town's young people were killed or terribly injured. The cause of the blast was never determined, but his grandmother always suspected that her employer had something to do with it. An investigation into the explosion was called off, Woodrell said, when the panel seemed to be getting too close to the truth. His novel will offer a fictionalized version of what happened that night.