Cary Holladay, author of Brides in the Sky: Stories and a Novella, grew up in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Her awards include an O. Henry Prize and fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Holladay is a professor of English at the University of Memphis. She and her husband, the poet and fiction writer John Bensko, live in Memphis, Tennessee, and in Rapidan, Virginia.
What books have you read recently that have made an impact on you?
Holladay: A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction by Joel Greenberg describes the relentless slaughter the birds endured, to the point that none are left. The parallels to the present times are painfully obvious, as hundreds of species are now imperiled. Birds are sky poets. I’ve loved them all my life. Their songs and calls—beautiful, urgent, evocative—influence my writing.
What was your favorite part about writing your latest book?
Brides in the Sky: Stories and a Novella is largely a book about women. I enjoyed exploring the characters’ hearts and secrets. The historical research for the title story was great fun. The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman, a detailed true-life account of the overland journey made by thousands of westward-bound emigrants, provided a sense of the travelers’ daily life, notably the hardships of the long trip in wagons or on foot.
What advice would you give to beginning writers?
Mix light and dark elements in your stories. Neither entirely sunny, because “All sunshine makes a desert,” according to an Arabian proverb; nor entirely grim. Merry-go-sorry—that’s an old word that means a tale that contains both good news and bad, both joy and sorrow. Don’t forget the joy. “Where’s the somethin’ fun?” I ask my students.
Cary Holladay was scheduled to take part in the 2020 Virginia Festival of the Book. You can learn more about her work by clicking here, and you can order her books from a local bookseller by clicking here.