When Steve Weddle’s novel “Country Hardball” hit the bookstands on Monday, Nov. 18, it was a date that served a dual purpose. It marked the beginning of Weddle’s career as a published novelist, but the end of a long journey of reflection and perspiration.
“People ask me how long it took to write, and I tell them that we sold the book when I was 42, so it took me 42 years to write,” Weddle said.
Weddle, who currently serves as publisher of The Central Virginian, took inspiration from the tales he heard as a youngster growing up on the Arkansas/Louisiana border to create his latest novel.
Set in a location at the heart of rural America that closely resembles that of Weddle’s own childhood hometown, “Country Hardball” is a collection of 20 short stories that interweave to tell the struggles of the story’s main character, Roy Alison.
After Alison’s transgressions cause a car accident that leaves his parents dead, the book’s proceeding narratives describe Alison’s feelings of growth, guilt and remorse as he interacts with a variety of characters who have been weathered by hard times and tumultuous lives.
The conglomeration of short stories is a contrasting style to that of three previous unpublished novels Weddle completed in the past six years, and he felt that the change in approach may be part of the reason for the book’s success at connecting with readers.
“The other three are straightforward novels, but this one is more of a collection of stories that kind of comes together,” Weddle said. “I could handle it in pieces … In that sense this was a much smaller, more intimate undertaking because it was done in fragments.”
Judging by reactions from critics, Weddle’s newfound approach worked. Publishers Weekly called the novel a “suspenseful series of interrelated stories of tragedy, despair, and hopelessness in a rural Southern town.” A review from The New York Times labeled Weddle’s writing as “downright dazzling.”
“I think surreal is a fine way to describe it,” Weddle said of seeing his name in the pages of The New York Times. “To say it was a little weird would be an understatement. It was a very nice surprise.”
Looking back at the road to critical acclaim reveals its fair share of bumps and bruises along the way for Weddle. Rising at 4 a.m. on some days just to get in a few hours of writing, Weddle said the process to go from outgoing daydreamer to published author is a daunting challenge filled with conflicting emotions.
Many times, the line between the ambition that fills the first 10,000 words of writing and the frustration in the next 10,000 is a thin one that is frequently crossed.
To read the entire story, see the Dec. 5 edition of The Central Virginian.