Author Steve Berry to headline 2018 Southern Voices Festival

October 11, 2017
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National Book Award – Author Steve Berry to headline 2018 Southern Voices Festival at Hoover Public Library

Photo courtesy of Kelly Campbell

Author Steve Berry is the scheduled headliner for the 2018 Southern Voices Festival at the Hoover Public Library in Hoover, Alabama.

Bestselling author Steve Berry will be the headline speaker for the 2018 Southern Voices Festival at the Hoover Public Library, library officials announced tonight.

Berry, a historical fiction thriller writer who regularly sits near the top of the New York Times, USA Today and Indie bestseller lists, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the festival on the night of Friday, Feb. 23.

Library officials also tonight announced the eight authors who will speak at the Saturday authors conference on Feb. 24. They include Paula McLain, Andrew Gross, Taylor Brown, Kelly Grey Carlisle, Lisa Ko, Daren Wang, Stephanie Powell Watts and Lisa Wingate.

They include a mix of prolific writers with many books and accolades under their belt and first-time authors who have garnered much praise for their early work, said Carrie Steinmehl, the technology coordinator at the Hoover Library and chairwoman of the 2018 Southern Voices Festival. All but Carlisle are fiction writers.

“I think it’s pretty strong,” Steinmehl said of the lineup. “We have a lot of different themes going on. … Every year, we just try to outdo the years before in bringing good names to the conference. It’s fun for us to put the lineup together. … It’s very gratifying that we can expose our community to these authors.”

This will be Berry’s second time to speak at Southern Voices. He was a guest author in 2005 after publishing his first novel, “The Amber Room.”

Since then, Berry has written at least 15 other books. His works have been translated into 40 languages with more than 22 million copies sold in 51 countries, according to his website.

His books include “The Lost Order,” “The 14th Colony,” “The Patriot Threat,” “The Lincoln Myth” and “The Romanov Propehcy.” In 2010, an NPR survey named another of his books, “The Templary Legacy,” as one of the top 100 thrillers ever written.

His books are full of mystery, espionage, action and adventure, Steinmehl said. His early books were set in Europe, but more recent storylines have been based in America, she said.

“There is so much research that goes into his books, I don’t know how he has time to eat and sleep,” Steinmehl said.

In 2013, Berry received the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award given by Poets & Writers. He also has received the 2013 Anne Frank Human Writes Award, and the Silver Bullet, an award given by the International Thriller Writers for his philanthropic work.

This year, Berry was selected as the 2017 Writer of the Year by the Florida Writers Association and dubbed a Literary Legend by the Florida Heritage Book Festival. He and his wife, Elizabeth, also this year were chosen to receive The San Jacinto Star Award in Texas for their philanthropic work with History Matters, a foundation they created that is devoted to historic preservation. He also serves on the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board.

Here is a bit more about the authors participating in the Saturday authors conference:

Paula McLain

McLain is best known for authoring “The Paris Wife,” a New York Times and international bestseller that has been published in 34 languages. It is a fictional account of Hadley Richardson, the first wife of Ernest Hemingway.

McLain was born in Fresno, California, in 1965. After being abandoned by her parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California court system, moving in and out of foster homes over 14 years, according to her website.

When she aged out of the system, she supported herself by working as a nurse aide in a convalescent hospital, a pizza delivery girl, an auto plant worker and a cocktail waitress before discovering she could write, according to her bio. She received her master’s degree of fine arts in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996 and has written two collections of poetry, a memoir, and most recently, a book called “Circling the Sun.” She now lives in Cleveland.

Andrew Gross

Gross, like Berry, writes thrillers. He has written 10 by himself and five with bestselling author James Patterson, Steinmehl said.

His latest, “The Saboteur,” tells the story of an engineer from Oslo, Norway, who escapes to England in 1943 to transmit secret evidence of the Nazis progress toward development of an atomic bomb at an isolated factory in Norway.

Gross’ books have been sold in more than 25 countries. Many of his early books were classified as suburban thrillers, telling the story of ordinary people who, through a flaw or weakness, end up over their heads in situations that they can’t escape and that threaten to take everything they have, according to his website.

More recently, Gross has expanded his writing to include other settings and different times, but he remains a storyteller who tries to tap into universal human qualities, he says.

Taylor Brown

Brown, whom Steinmehl described as a “true Southern literature writer,” has written three novels, including “Fallen Land” in 2016, “The River of King” this year and “Gods of Howl Mountain,” due out next year. He also is the author of a short story collection, “In the Season of Blood and Gold.”

He has received rave reviews from previous Southern Voices authors and is the recipient of a Montana Prize in Fiction award and a finalist for the Press 53 Open Awards, Machigonne Fiction Contest, Wabash Prize in Fiction, Rick DeMarinis Short Story Contest, Dahany Fiction Prize and Doris Betts Fiction Prize, according to his website.

His work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including The North Carolina Literary Review, The Southwest Review, The Baltimore Review, Chautauqua, Garden & Gun, The Rumpus, CutBank and storySouth.

Brown grew up on the Georgia coast and graduated from the University of Georgia in 2005. After long stints in Buenos Aires, San Francisco and the mountains of North Carolina, he settled in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he is editor-in-chief of BikeBound.com.

Kelly Grey Carlisle

Carlisle is the lone nonfiction writer speaking at the 2018 Southern Voices.

She is a new author who has written a memoir, “We Are All Shipwrecked,” that tells her story of being abandoned in a Los Angeles hotel at 3 weeks old when her mother, a prostitute, went to meet a customer and was strangled to death. She was raised by her grandfather, who owned a pornography store in California, and lived for a good while as a child on a boat in a bay.

Steinmehl said she went to college with Carlisle and had no idea of what all her past entailed until she ran across her recently and found out she was writing this book. Carlisle is now a creative nonfiction professor at Trinity Univerity in San Antonio and edits “1966” A Journal of Creative Nonfiction.” Her essays have been listed as notable essays three times in Best American Essays and appeared in Salon, Ploughshares, New England Review, The Sun, Cherry Tree, The Rumpus and The Touchstonre Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction, according to her website.

Lisa Ko

Ko is a Chinese-American author whose first novel, “The Leavers,” took her 10 years to write. But it won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and has been nominated for the National Book Award.

The book tells the story of a Chinese-American boy whose mother went to work at a nail salon and never returned home. He was adopted by two white college professors and moved from the Bronx to a small town in upstate New York and ends up struggling to reconcile his new life with the family and community he left behind.

Ko was born in Queens, New York and raised in a New Jersey suburb as the only child of color in her community, according to her website. She considered herself a weird outsider and moved to New York City when she graduated college and started working in book, magazine and online publishing. She moved to San Francisco for five years, worked for a film production company and started an Asian-American magazine before moving back to New York City at the age of 30 and finishing her book.

Her writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2016, The New York Times, Apogee Journal, Narrative, O. Magazine, Brooklyn Review and other publications, and she has received fellowships from numerous foundations.

“I kind of fee like we got a coup there, getting her,” Steinmehl said.

Daren Wang

Wang is the founder of the Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, Georgia, which bills itself as the largest independent book festival in the country. He quit working with the festival recently in order to promote his first novel, “The Hidden Light of Northern Fires.”

It’s a historical fiction book that tells a story based in the only town north of the Mason-Dixon line to secede from the United States during the Civil War. “He has gotten huge praise for it,” Steinmehl said.

Wang was born in Buffalo, New York but now lives in Decatur, Georgia with his wife, Eva. He is a public radio producer and has produced or hosted several series, including “The Spoken Word,” “Porches: The South and Her Writers,” “Circle of Friends,” “Between the Lines,” “Art Voice” and “Atlanta Forum.”

His writing has appeared in Paste Magazine, Five Points Magazine, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AJC Travel and The Saporta Report.

Stephanie Powell Watts

Watts also is a new novelist whose first book, “No One is Coming To Save Us,” was the inaugural selection by actress Sarah Jessica Parker for the American Library Association’s Book Club Central.

It was named one of the best books of 2017 by Entertainment Weekly, W Magazine, Bustle, The Millions, Babble, Redbook, Elle and The Chicago Review of Books, according to Watts’ website.

The book has been compared to “The Great Gatsby” but is told in the contemporary South and tells the story about an extended African-American family and their colliding visions of the American Dream.

Lisa Wingate

Wingate is a former journalist, inspirational speaker and New York Times bestselling author of 30 novels who lives in Texas, according to her website.

She has been nominated for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, Oklahoma Book Award, Utah Library Award, The Carol Award, Christy Award and the RT Booklovers’ Reviewers Choice Award.

The group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with six others as recipients of the National Civics Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life.

Her breakout novel, “Before We Were Yours,” tells a fictional story of a child based on the real-life drama of a Memphis-based adoption organization that kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country.

In addition to the authors, the Southern Voices Festival each year includes some sort of visual artistry and music.

The 2018 festival will feature a group of artists from The Do Good Fund, a public charity based in Columbus, Georgia, that since 2012 has been building a museum-quality collection of photographs taken in the American South since World War II. The collection includes works by more than a dozen Guggenheim Fellows, as well as images by lesser-known, emerging photographers in the region.

Dennis Darling/The Do Good Fund

Dennis Darling is part of The Do Good Fund’s collection of more than 500 photographs taken in the American South since World War II.

The Hoover Public Library will display The Do Good Fund’s work in both of its art galleries and hold a reception for the artist group on the night of Tuesday, Feb. 20.

The musical act for 2018 is The Roosevelts, a duo that has been described by others as both folksy and rock ‘n’ roll but describes themselves as “harmony-driven American rock with a ‘70s sensibility.” The duo, made up of Jason Kloess and James Mason, are scheduled to perform at the Hoover Library Theatre on Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 21-22.

The Roosevelts

They are originally from Texas but now are based out of Nashville when they aren’t touring. Some of their early childhood heroes include Simon and Garfunkel, Carole King and James Taylor. A song they released in April, “The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn,” reached No. 5 on iTunes’ singer/songwriter chart.

Both Kloess and Mason are Eagle Scouts and have a love for nature. They both sport beards and have a beard oil line with 10 percent of the proceeds going to the National Parks Foundation.

Tickets for the 2018 Southern Voices Festival go on sale Jan. 5.

Tickets are: $35, plus a $3 processing fee per person, for the Friday night talk, reception and book signing with Berry; $40, plus a $3.50 processing fee per person, for the Saturday authors conference; and $25, plus a $2.50 processing fee per person, for The Roosevelts concerts. The artist reception with The Do Good Fund is free.

The Saturday authors conference has two venues — the 250-seat Library Theatre and 100-seat Library Plaza. One change this year is that tickets for the authors conference theater venue will be sold as reserved seats instead of general admission in an effort to eliminate orphan seats, Steinmehl said.

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