Western Carolina University faculty member and writer Ron Rash is putting the final touches on his new novel even as he is honored for the contributions he has made to Southern literature through his previous novels, short stories and poems.
Rash, who serves as WCU’s Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture, is currently making last revisions to “The Cove,” which is scheduled for release next April. Set in Western North Carolina during World War I, the novel tells the story of a mountain woman who comes upon a mysterious stranger in the woods whom she saves from a near-fatal accident.
Rash said his novels always begin with a single image that refuses to leave his mind, and in the case of “The Cove,” that image was of “a young woman peering through the branches of a rhododendron bush and seeing a bedraggled man playing a beautiful silver flute.” Rash began working on the novel in September 2008, but after a year the story “flatlined” and he dropped the book several times as a lost cause. Finally, he said, the story revealed itself as he deleted 100 pages, added 50 new pages, and “the novel I had been waiting for finally emerged.”
As Rash gets “The Cove” ready for publication, he also is working on a new book of short stories. He has about one-third of the stories written, and one of them, “The Trusty,” was recently published in The New Yorker magazine, along with an interview with Rash.
His last book of short stories, “Burning Bright,” won the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award, the world’s richest prize for the short story literary form. That book is currently being released in China, Australia and Great Britain.
Closer to home, Rash’s peers across the South have honored him with induction into the Fellowship of Southern Writers, an organization founded in 1987 to encourage the development of literature and honor outstanding literary achievement in the South. Other members of the fellowship from North Carolina include, or have included, Fred Chappell, Reynolds Price, Wilma Dykeman and Charles Frazier.
Rash is the author of seven books of fiction set in the Southern Appalachian Mountains (including the best-selling novel “Serena”) and three books of poetry. A native of Boiling Springs who was raised there and in Chester, S.C., he teaches Appalachian literature and creative writing at WCU.