Local author Scott Gould has a simple way of explaining the art of creative writing.
“I tell my students that creative writing is the fine art of getting your butt in the chair,” Gould said. “I don’t know many things I’m good at, but I’m pretty good at getting my butt in that chair.”
At 61, Gould is pretty sure he’s now disqualified from ever earning the title “hot young writer.” Nor is he intending for his books to fund some lavish retirement on a private island. After all, he doesn’t write about vampires, wizard schools, serial killers or gun-toting secret agents.
But what he does write about — and what keeps him getting his butt in that chair — are stories of wandering souls, private tragedies, unlikely friendships, small-town heroics and quiet lives tucked away in the oft-overlooked corners of Southern America.
Gould, who teaches at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts, has already made a name for himself in the Southern writing scene with his 2017 short story collection “Strangers to Temptation” (Hub City Press) and his novel “Whereabouts” (Koehler Books), which was released last October.
His new memoir “Things That Crash, Things That Fly” (Vine Leaves Press) is coming out March 9 and will be available at local bookstores such as M Judson and through online marketplaces like bookshop.org and Amazon.
But Gould has more on the horizon. His second short story collection, “Idiot Men,” will be published in August, and his second novel, “The Hammerhead Chronicles,” will be coming out in February 2022. He also has one more completed novel that he’s getting ready to send out to publishers.
While that prolific output might not sound so unusual for a writer who churns out formulaic paperback thrillers, it’s far less common for a craftsman like Gould, who spends years laboring over the smallest details of his manuscripts.
“It’s weird,” he said. “People look at this little period of time right now where all these books are coming out, but some of these books have been around forever. It’s not like I sat down and wrote five books in the period of a year or two.”
With his newfound “overnight success” after years of labor, Gould is emblematic of a rising crop of writers, especially Southern writers, who are eschewing the big-name publishers in New York City and instead opting to submit work to small independent publishing houses. They’re not the type of publishers with big marketing budgets, but they cater to the types of stories Gould and other literary writers are trying to tell.
“It’s indicative of what’s happening in publishing, because there are a lot of really good small presses out there,” Gould said. “I’m looking for these places that are open to looking at the kind of work and stories I tell.”
With his new memoir, Gould is turning his focus inward, telling a true story that combines the historical and the personal. In what can be described as “Under the Tuscan Sun” flipped on its head, the book begins with Gould and his wife preparing for a long-planned trip to Italy with friends. Just before they leave, his wife tells him she is going to leave him when they get back from the trip, but she asks that they still go and keep their imminent separation a secret so as not to ruin the fun for everyone else.
From there, Gould tracks his personal transformation as he returns to Italy years later in an attempt to investigate a story he heard on that first awkward trip, a story about the death of a young WWII fighter pilot who crashed and died in the Italian hills — and through that investigation, he manages to build himself back up again.
“You always have to be honest in your writing,” Gould said. “Even when I’m writing a character that just happens to be me, I’m old enough in my life now where I know who I am, and I know what story I need to tell.”