Lily native Silas House celebrated the 20th anniversary of his debut novel, “Clay’s Quilt,” with a virtual event on Thursday night.
Kentucky Humanities hosted the virtual event, “An Evening with Silas House,” sponsored by First Southern National Bank, where House was joined in conversation by author and business owner Angela Correll. This was the first of four virtual events leading up to the Kentucky Book Festival which will be held the first week of November, with a mixture of virtual and in-person events.
House, a 1989 graduate of Laurel County High School, is a multi award-winning, “New York Times” best-selling novelist. He has six novels, one book of creative nonfiction and three plays. He is also the National Endowment for the Humanities Chair of Appalachian Studies at Berea College and serves on the faculty of the Spalding University School of Creative Writing.
House’s novel, “Clay’s Quilt,” was published 20 years ago on Tuesday, March 30, which he said he has been reminiscing a lot about as the anniversary got closer.
“One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about is just how I had no idea what I was doing,” House said during Thursday’s event. “I had been a voracious reader, so I really learned how to write by reading but I think ‘Clay’s Quilt’ is so much about storytelling. Growing up around so many storytellers really fed this book in a different way.
“Readers tell me all the time that the reason they like this book so much in particular is because they feel as if they are being told a story and that it’s comforting in that way. Even though there are some disturbing and gritty things going on in the book, you know there’s a lot of violence, drug use, broken families, things like that but it’s sort of all couched in these stories being told and this deep love for family and a deep love for place. I think the fact that I didn’t really know what I was doing, gives it a specialness that I couldn’t have created on my own.”
Correll asked House a series of questions about his inspiration behind the town and characters in his novel, symbolism within the novel and the dialogue throughout the book. House also discussed some of his other novels, “A Parchment of Leaves” and “The Coal Tattoo.”
“I think I love each of them in different ways and there are things I would like to change about each of them in retrospect,” House said of the trilogy. “But I think that I have an allegiance to ‘Clay’s Quilt’ because it gave me a career as a writer. I really thought that some in my family and some people in eastern Kentucky would read ‘Clay’s Quilt’ and that would be it. I just wanted a book published, I wasn’t setting out to have a career as a writer and I certainly didn’t think that it would be widely read.”
House also discussed his upcoming novel set to come out in the fall of 2022, which he said would be a speculative novel set in the future and very different from any other novel he’s written before.
“It’s a lot about my love for dogs, it’s an environmental novel and about the way that we have to take care of the world we have. And, like all my books, it’s about family—created family, blood family,” he said.
House also lended some advice to any aspiring writers, encouraging them to read often and read a variety of genres. He encouraged an aspiring writers to enroll in writing courses and workshop, as well.