Although she has lived in the Augusta area for many years, author Louise Shivers never strays too far from her North Carolina roots.
Her novels Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail and The Whistling Woman both take place in eastern North Carolina and her new memoir, My Shining Hour, addresses the influence the region and its people had on her development as a writer and a person.
The book was inspired by the publication of the widely acclaimed Civil War novel Cold Mountain.
“I just didn’t like it,” Shivers said with a laugh. “I read it and remember thinking, ‘This is not my North Carolina.’ I saw that there were things about that area that had not been written.”
Although certain names and events were altered in the novel the Martinez resident planned to write, Shivers soon realized that the story became more powerful when it wasn’t about characters but dealt with how history affected her, her family and the small town of Wilson, N.C.
The book depicts a single year in her own life, 1945, the year World War II ended and she turned 16.
She chose that period because it allowed the book to become a story about the inevitability of change. She said the changes in the world dovetailed nicely with the changes she was going through, leaving childhood behind and becoming more aware of the world around her.
“I remember very clearly thinking ... that if I ever had children I would want to remember exactly how wretched I felt,” she said. “You just feel so lost at that age.”
Shivers said she never considered becoming a writer, but fell in love with poetry. Later, as a poet, she said she never imagined becoming a novelist, but her first book was selected as the best debut novel of 1983 by USA Today and was later adapted as the film Summer Heat.
Still, even with the success of that book and her second novel 10 years later, Shivers found herself at loose ends when she was ready to publish My Shining Hour.
“The industry had changed,” she said. “I couldn’t get an agent or a publisher or a editor to read it.”
Shivers opted to publish it through her writing partner Thomas Turner’s Dash Press imprint.
“I just wanted this to come out,” she said. “And I wanted it to come out while there were still people that were interested in this period.”
With the memoir behind her, Shivers said she is continuing to work on finding a home for a finished Civil War novel and will continue to research and write, probably about the North Carolina she still considers home.
“It’s important,” she said. “Because it’s just too good to be gone.”
My Shining Hour is available for $10. Mail a check or money order to United Marketing Services, P.O. Box 212144, Augusta, GA 30917.