If you don’t know Scott Gould, you’d think he was just some ball-cap-wearin’, PBR-drinkin’ Lowcountry good ol’ boy. Can’t judge a book—until you can. Gould’s acclaimed Strangers to Temptation, a collection of short stories, comes out this month from Spartanburg’s Hub City Press.
Pen to Paper // Strangers to Temptation, Scott Gould’s first collection of short stories, is available at the Hub City Bookshop & Press in Spartanburg as well as M. Judson Booksellers & Storytellers in downtown Greenville. Read an excerpt from Strangers to Temptation in Cold Comfort.
A TOWN contributor and 13-year chair of the creative writing program at the Governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities, the too-humble author owns two master’s degrees and tons of accolades. On a warm, breezy afternoon in downtown Greenville, Gould, 57, talked about his debut collection, of which 10 stories previously appeared in major literary periodicals. Over beers, Gould’s interview went like this, though much-distilled:
Short stories, rather than a novel? >> Today, you can’t get a collection published unless the stories are linked, unless they have the same narrator. I feel like I created this almost novelistic world, rather than 13 little short-story worlds. The thing I’m most proud of, I think I did a fairly good job of capturing that time and that place.
Which time, what place? >> It’s this kid telling these stories as a grown-up, looking back to when he was just 13, 14 years old in the early ’70s.
There’s a story—this really happened—we’d be playing baseball by the railroad tracks. The black kids from the other side of the tracks would toss rocks into the baseball field because they had no place to play. This was segregation; the tracks were the tracks. It’s real.
So this kid’s trying to navigate changing relationships with music, race, religion, girls, life, and death. His father’s a Vietnam vet who drinks a little, his mother’s a nurse. He’s pulled all these different ways.
How’d these stories come together? >> A couple of summers ago, I was getting ready to work on a bigger project, and so I needed to warm up. I started writing and said, ‘I’m going to do a short story, set it in Kingstree, and match it up with those others I’ve got.’ I ended up writing five, just boom, boom, boom. Then I said, ‘Wow, I’ve got something here.’
The book’s autobiographical? >> The real parts of it are the place where it’s set, the time it’s set. Other than that, bits and pieces are real. Fiction’s about finding a piece of the truth you know well enough to lie about. I know that place, and I know those people, so I can make up stories.
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