Tawni O'Dell biography

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Tawni O'Dell

Tawni O'Dell

Tawni O'Dell Biography

Tawni O'Dell is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Sister Mine, Coal Run, Fragile Beasts, and Back Roads, which was an Oprah's Book Club pick and a Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection. Back Roads has been made into a movie in 2014, staring Andrew Garfield and Jennifer Garner. She is also a contributor to the anthology, Becoming Myself: Reflections on Growing Up Female.

Born and raised in Indiana (also the hometown of Jimmy Stewart) in the Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania ("a beautiful ruined place where the rolling hills are pitted with dead gray mining towns like cigarette burns on a green carpet") O'Dell has been writing fiction since she read Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach when she was six years old. By the time she was eight she had a stack of her own short stories. When she was ten she read To Kill a Mockingbird four times in a row which was the catalyst for her lifelong love of southern writers such as Truman Capote, William Styron, Carson McCullers, William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor.

She spent thirteen years in the Chicago area before moving back to Pennsylvania where she now lives with her two children her husband, literary translator Bernard Cohen.

About This Biography
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Interview

Why Sister Mine?
By Tawni O'Dell

People are always asking me why I chose to write my first two novels in the male first person. I don't choose what I write about, I tell them. Harley and Ivan, the male protagonists of Back Roads and Coal Run, chose me. I've never written a novel because I decided I wanted to write a novel and then said to myself, “Hmm. Now what should I write about? Who should my characters be? Where do they live? What do they do?” My characters come to me. They settle in my brain and get into my blood. They tell me their problems and show me their wounds. They reveal their hopes and dreams, their regrets and fears, and sometimes their terrible secrets. They plague me until I tell their stories whether I want to or not.

And I don't always want to. Writing a novel is hard. It's exhausting and all-consuming. You have to do it completely on your own; there's no one to pick up the slack on those days you're not at your best, and there's no one to share the blame on those days you fail outright. And there's a fatalistic element to it, frightening in its inescapability: like childbirth, once you begin, there's no way out except to finish it.

Sometimes a character suddenly ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Tawni O'Dell at BookBrowse
One of Us jacket Fragile Beasts jacket Sister Mine jacket Back Roads jacket
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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Tawni O'Dell but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
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  • Bonnie Jo Campbell

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    Bonnie Jo Campbell is the author of the National Book Award finalist American Salvage, Women & Other Animals, and the novels Q Road and Once Upon a River. She is the winner of a Pushcart Prize, the AWP Award for Short ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Back Roads

    Try:
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    by Bonnie Jo Campbell

  • M. Allen Cunningham

    M. Allen Cunningham

    M. Allen Cunningham's debut novel The Green Age of Asher Witherow, set in nineteenth-century Northern California, was a #1 Book Sense Pick and a finalist for the 2005 Book Sense Book of the Year Award alongside Marilynne... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Sister Mine

    Try:
    The Green Age of Asher Witherow
    by M. Allen Cunningham

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