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Ron Rash Explores Time in Nothing Gold Can Stay

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“Nothing Gold Can Stay cover
Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Ron Rash

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The greatest challenge of the collection was exploring this idea and showing how cultural geography influences how people live…"
—
RASH

An Authorlink Exclusive Interview with Ron Rash
Author of Nothing Gold Can Stay

By Ellen Birkett Morris

March 2013

In his latest collection of short stories Nothing Gold Can Stay Ron Rash offers a kaleidoscopic view of the Appalachian region of North Carolina were he was raised. The stories span time, from the Civil War era to present day and explore the idea of “landscape as destiny.”

“The greatest challenge of the collection was exploring this idea and showing how cultural geography influences how people live, their economic and educational possibilities, their psychology. What does it mean to be born in Mississippi versus by the ocean?” said Rash.

The result is a fascinating look at characters struggling against their environment, dreaming of a better life, and sometimes succumbing to circumstances beyond their control. Rash was 41 when he published his first book after writing seriously for fifteen years. He has a BA and MA in English Literature.

“I was a slow developing writer. I needed to read deeply.”
—
RASH

“I was a slow developing writer. I needed to read deeply. It grounded me in the possibilities of what could be done. You learn from other writers. It becomes a stew. A writer finds his voice by absorbing other voices,” said Rash.

Rash’s voice is distinctly southern, through he is leery of being tagged as a regional writer.

“I show the culture not to idolize or demonize it. Ultimately my character’s concerns are the human concerns we all have. As Eudora Welty said ‘One place understood helps us understand all places better,’” said Rash.

The stories in Nothing Gold Can Stay cover a span of time that highlights the travails of runaway slaves during the Civil War in “Where the Map Ends” and explores the draw of crystal meth for young people with limited opportunities today in a love story titled “Those Who Are Dead Are Only Now Forgiven.”

His aim was to “allow the reader to enter that world through time as well as geography.”

“Time is a geography that takes us to a place we didn’t know.”
—RASH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“To offer a sense of that place through time lets the reader come away with an overall sense of the depth of the place,” said Rash. “Time is a geography that takes us to a place we didn’t know.”

Rash writes across the genres and has published novels, short stories and books of poetry. He begins his work with an image or a voice that demands to be explored. He starts writing and waits to see what will emerge. Rash says writing a novel is “an endurance contest” that he finds physically and emotionally depleting.

“No matter the length of the book it usually takes three years. People tell me I look more at ease when I’ve finished a novel.”

For Rash short stories are kin to poems in that they require precise language and have a poetic rhythm, while at the same time having a sense, like a novel, of “a story fulfilled.”

He believes the sound of the story when read aloud is as important as the sense of the story. “You don’t want the reader to feel too many bumps when reading it. You want the rhythm to bring the reader deeper into the story,” said Rash.

“I always struggle until I get the voice. For my novel Saints in the River I wrote 40 pages in one voice and figured out it wasn’t the right voice. I had to switch to another character. You need to find the character who needs to tell the story.”

When it comes to developing a short story collection, Rash works to make sure all the stories are of good quality and that they are in the right place in the collection so that the stories can play off of each.

The ending to his stories emerge as he writes. “Go into a story not knowing what is going to happen. Be very malleable. Hope for an ending that seems both surprising and inevitable.”

Now a story craftsman, Rash worked for 25 years before he published his first novel, which drew national attention.

“I was learning my craft. Young writers too often seem more interested in writing as a career path than as a calling,” said Rash.

He urges those with the calling to read widely and to explore writers from the past as well as contemporary writers.

“I don’t know a really good writer who isn’t a voracious reader,” said Rash.

He works an average of six hours a day and manages to get three to four hours of work in a day while on book tour.

“Too many people with the talent to be a good writer give up too soon.”
—
RASH

“Too many people with the talent to be a good writer give up too soon. To be a good guitarist you have to put in thousands of hours,” said Rash.

About the Author

Ron Rash grew up in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, and graduated from Gardner-Webb College and Clemson University. He holds the John Parris Chair in Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University. Rash is the author of 15 books. His poetry and fiction have appeared in over one hundred journals, magazines, and anthologies. The movie version of his novel Serena will be released in September and stars Jennifer Lawrence.

About Regular Contributor
Ellen Birkett Morris
Ellen Birkett Morris is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in national print and online publications including The New York Times. She also writes for a number of literary, regional, trade, and business publications, and she has contributed to six published nonfiction books in the trade press. Ellen is a regular contributor to Authorlink, assigned to interview various New York Times bestselling authors and first-time novelists.