North Carolina has boasted quite a few literary stars over the years. Poet Maya Angelou wasn’t born here but she spent more than 30 years teaching at Wake Forest. Dramatist Reynolds Price’s best-selling novels garnered him the cover of Time Magazine, while Durham-born Clyde Edgerton won five New York Times “Notable Books of the Year” awards. And then, of course, there’s Nicholas Sparks, who has sold more than 105 million copies of his books in 50 different languages. However, these big names overshadow a growing, lesser-known group of local authors making their mark in the literary world.
“So many talented students are graduating from the schools in the Triangle and taking root in the area,” says Kelly Brzoska, co-founder of the For the Love of Books and Alcohol Book Blog. “With the expansion of self-publication, it is allowing for more and more writers to become authors. I think that because of this, the growth of authors coming out of The Triangle has been steadily increasing over the last five years.”
The authors Brzoska is referring too span a wide range of genres from children’s books to thrillers but there is also a large, robust community in both romance and science fiction.
“Ninety-five percent of what I publish is Fantasy/Science Fiction and the rest is contemporary romance,” says Georgia McBride, a Raleigh-based publisher of Month9Books, Swoon Romance, Tantrum Books, and Tantrum Jr. “We want folks who read and write fantasy and romance to get to know us and embrace our books because they’re good and because we’re local.”
Beyond a growing publishing scene, local organizations, such as the NC Writers’ Network, are focused on supporting and promoting writers in North Carolina. They also offer competitions, conferences, critiquing services and writers’ workshops aimed at encouraging new writers to start typing. Moreover, independent booksellers are playing a key role in getting NC writers in front of the public.
“Writers of all backgrounds and experiences are also being embraced by chain booksellers like Barnes and Noble as well as indies like Quail Ridge Books and Music, Regulator, and Flyleaf, to name a few,” says McBride.
Indeed, these bookshops are supporting local authors through programming, including talks and book signings. In June alone, Quail Ridge will host Barbara Garrity-Blake and Karen Amspacher (Living at the Water’s Edge), Mark Weathington (Gardening in the South), Dorothy Baird (Indelible Ripples), Sarah Dessen (Once and For All) and several more North Carolinian authors.
“We host many local authors for events, not all of them because we get so many requests and our calendar is so full, but a large number every year,” says Sarah Goddin of Quail Ridge Books. “The Triangle is filled with writers of every description: literary, genre, cooking, science and nature, academic, YA and middle grade fiction, children’s picturebooks and more!”
Indeed, more and more Raleighites are writing novels as a complement to their day jobs. Clean Design President and Chief Strategy Officer Jeremy Holden’s first novel Sea of Doubt was two years in the making. He was inspired to write the story based on his experiences in the advertising world. Conservationist and NC State Professor Caren Cooper’s recent Citizen Science, a non-fiction book about how everyday people participate in the scientific process, garnered praise. Raleigh physician Kristine Scruggs, MD is publishing her first novel, What They Don’t Know, a medical thriller this month. And Durham-based singer-songwriter John Darnielle debuted his second horror novel, Universal Harvester, earlier this year.
The sheer number of new authors is enough to get the literary community excited about the future and the public interested in learning more about them. Indeed, Brzoska and partner Danielle Hernandez will be hosting a book festival this August in Raleigh, where locals can meet many of these authors—both established and up-an-coming.