Make no mistake, Kentucky’s Silas House has influenced our work at Queer Kentucky since writer and publisher, Sarah Gardiner, introduced his work to QKY founder, Spencer Jenkins in 2018.
We are beyond proud to congratulate House on receiving the Duggins Prize for Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist, the largest prize given to an LGBTQ writer in the United States. The award is given annually by Lambda Literary to two novelists.
House is the nationally bestselling author of the novels–Clay’s Quilt, 2001; A Parchment of Leaves, 2003; The Coal Tattoo, 2005; Eli the Good, 2009; and Same Sun Here (co-authored with Neela Vaswani) 2012, and Southernmost (June 2018)–as well as a book of creative nonfiction–Something’s Rising, co-authored with Jason Howard, 2009; and three plays. His new novel, Lark Ascending, will be published on September 27, 2022.
House is one of the most visible Queer Appalachians and is using his platform to uplift unaccounted voices, mainly in rural areas.
“I’ve been a published writer for about 20 years now and if I have done anything worthwhile in that time I hope that I have made another LGBTQ person—especially those living in rural places—feel seen and heard the way previous winners of this prize…made me feel seen and heard as a young gay man living in a rural place,” House said in his acceptance speech, filmed for the Lambda Literary Awards, which will happen virtually this year due to the Covid pandemic.
Are there any LGBTQ writers or books that you count as formative influences to you as a writer? How did you discover them?
Dorothy Allison was the first writer I ever read who was exploring issues of class and queerness and her work completely transformed me and made me feel like my story was valid, too. Jim Grimsley’s Dream Boy is foundational to me, and is a story I could relate to on many layers. I grew up devouring Tennessee Williams’ plays and James Baldwin’s novels–the fact that they lived so openly as gay men in that era meant a lot to me. Alice Walker’s The Color Purpleblew my mind wide open in every way possible–about sexuality, race, gender, religion, history. I found these books and writers by constantly studying bookstore and library shelves, hoping for an occasional gay story to show up.
What does a writing day look like for you?
I am always writing in my head and a big part of my process is thinking about my characters and really getting to know them and often walking through the world in their mindsets. My best writing happens when I am taking walks. As far as getting words down on the page, I don’t have any kind of schedule for that. I just write when the spirit moves me, except when I’m finishing a novel. When that happens I’m writing in a kind of fever for hours at a time.
Are there other LGBTQ writers working today whose work you particularly admire?
Carter Sickels’ The Prettiest Star is a beautiful and important novel about the rural queer experience. The poetry of Jericho Brown. Jeanette Winterson’s writing is a touchstone for me. Colm Toibín’s work, especially The Blackship Lighthouse. I think Robert Jones Jr.’s The Prophets is one of the most important novels of this century so far. It is magnificent. And in my opinion Helen Humphries is one of the most underrated novelists of our time. The lovely novels of Rachel Harper. I recently read Douglas Stuart’s Young Mungo and it gutted me in all the best ways.
What’s next for you?
My new novel, Lark Ascending, comes out this September. It’s a novel that centers on deep grief, which I think most of have been experiencing on an epic scale for the past few years, whether it be about witnessing environmental devastation, the pandemic, or the increasingly vitriolic and bigoted politicians who have been doing so much grandstanding. But I wanted to shoot that through with light, and hope, and its core is a very tender love story between two young men set against a near-future backdrop where love, relationships and sex between queer people have been outlawed.