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.
Tawni O'Dell's website
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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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