His first novel took six or seven years to write, with two solid years of submitting the manuscript to agents and publishers.
But, oh, what a debut. In 2001, writer Silas House became a finalist for book awards for Clay’s Quilt, which landed on The New York Times Best Sellers list.
He splits his time nowadays between writing at his home in Lily, Kentucky, teaching at Lincoln Memorial University, and speaking out against mountaintop removal mining.
But novels represent just one outlet for this talented author.
Novels: Silas has published three: Clay’s Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, and The Coal Tattoo. His fourth, Eli the Good, comes out next fall. And he’s working on a fifth, Evona Darling, about a mother who loses custody of her child and ends up kidnapping him.
Plays: The University of Kentucky commissioned him to do a Christmas play. He came up with The Hurting Part, which explores homesickness and loss. It was inspired, in part, by real-life childhood trauma, when his uncle, Jack Hoskins, was shot and killed during a card game. That sudden and violent loss left a hole in his family, especially during the holidays.
His new play, Long Time Traveling, which debuts in April 2009, revolves around a mechanic who discovers he’s really a poet.
Blog: Silas writes essays from time to time on his blog, A Country Boy Can Surmise. “The Internet is a great tool for writers. It’s a great way to reach your readers. Most people who read fiction are definitely Internet-literate.”
Poems: To come up with poems for his protagonist in Long Time Traveling, Silas took classes and worked with established poets to understand the craft better. While he doesn’t plan on pursuing poetry for publication, he’ll continue to write poems as gifts for family and friends. “It’s an incredible art form. You have to write a novel in each poem.”
Songs: He plays guitar and sings in the band Public Outcry, which performs protest songs against mountaintop removal. With his songwriting partner, Jason Howard, he’s penned “Massey and the Mountain” and an updated version of “Which Side Are You On?”
He and Jason also make up the duo The Doolittles.
Screenplays: Silas cowrote a screenplay on playing basketball in Appalachia called Carr Creek. Actress and fellow Kentuckian Ashley Judd was in line to direct, but the screenplay is stuck in development, and no one seems to know if and when it will ever be filmed and distributed.
He says he’d love to see one of his novels become a movie but would turn over the screenwriting duties to someone else.
Magazines: Silas freelances for magazines, including Oxford American and the now-defunct No Depression.
Press kits: His articles in No Depression got him noticed by music publicists, who hired him to write press kit bios for artists, including Kathy Mattea, Kris Kristofferson, and Lee Ann Womack.
For more on Silas, see the December 2008 issue of Southern Living.
"Musings from Appalachia" is from the December 2008 issue of Southern Living.