Bio: Billy Coffey's critically-acclaimed books combine rural Southern charm with a vision far beyond the ordinary. He is a regular contributor to several publications, where he writes about faith and life. Billy lives with his wife and two children in
Welcome, Billy. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I try not to write a whole lot of myself, and then I’ll finish a book and think, Sheesh, that’s me all over the place. I don’t think there’s any way around it for a lot of fiction writers. Especially for me. Most times, I’ll start a story because I’m trying to work out something that’s been bugging me. I guess in that light, a lot of my own personality is bound to leak through.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
You do some quirky things when you become a parent. A lot of that strangeness has to do with being so dog tired all the time. What’s left over is usually reserved for those times when the kids are bawling so hard or throwing a tantrum so much that your only option is to do something ridiculous. Shaving only half of my face and leaving it for an entire weekend comes to mind—the kids loved that one. And there was that afternoon when the only way I could cure my son’s despair over a broken toy was to let him shoot me repeatedly with his Nerf gun.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
It took me twenty years to get published. About halfway through that long and deep valley, I decided to build my platform by pitching the idea of a weekly column to an editor at the local newspaper. I sent five of my best samples. A week later, he emailed back and said there was no way he could even entertain the idea because I was simply a bad writer. I did what I swore I never would and quit. Didn’t write a word for nearly four months. And those four months were so horrible, so heartrending, that I finally picked up my pen again. I realized that rejection hurt, but not writing hurt a whole lot more. That’s when I discovered I was a writer.
That’s so true. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I tend to read just about everything. I love the classics—Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Hemmingway. Lately I’ve discovered Henry James. Flannery O’Conner is my hero. Stephen King is a close second. Tolkien a close third. But I read a lot of nonfiction as well—history and psychology and especially philosophy. There’s always a C.S. Lewis book on my nightstand, right beside something by Neil Gaiman.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
It helps when you live in a place where cows outnumber the people and there are four times as many churches as stoplights. Our town is a pretty quiet place; it’s easy here to shut the world out. I make it a point to put the smartphone and the tablet away once I get home from work so I can focus on family. And Sunday is always honored.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
My books are set in the South, and Southern people have some of the most exotic names out there, and also some of the most traditional. Most of my characters’ names are names of people I’ve known throughout my life. The rest are simply names of people I wish I’d known.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I have two of the best kids in the world. I don’t think any accomplishment is greater.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I’ve always been drawn to wolves. They’re loyal to their pack, they’re a little mysterious, and they generally prefer keeping to themselves. I’d count the first two of those attributes as positive when it comes to people. I will admit the third also applies to me. Writers tend to be introspective. They live in their heads.
What is your favorite food?
Give me pasta any day, and you’ll make me a happy man.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
It’s always tough starting a new book, because that nagging question of whether I can do it again always pops up. Can I really sit down and write another story? Can it be a good one? Is this when everyone realizes that I can’t do this anymore? So much of calling yourself an author is mental. You can say that time is your greatest enemy, or the gatekeepers who hold the keys to the literary kingdom, or the guy who gave you a one-star review on Amazon because he just didn’t understand your story, but the real enemy is yourself. Your doubts. And the best way to beat back those doubts is to write a single page. That’s it, that’s the secret. Write one page today, then another tomorrow. A page a day is a book a year.
Tell us about the featured book.
The Devil Walks in Mattingly is about the death of a boy named Phillip McBride, whose body was found twenty years ago along the riverbank in a wilderness area known as Happy Hollow. Phillip’s death was ruled a suicide. But for two decades, three people have suffered under the burden of knowing the truth: Phillip didn’t kill himself that day. He was murdered, and they were the ones responsible. That secret has haunted each of them, drawing them to an inevitable reckoning, one that comes to a head when Phillip McBride comes back for them all.
Please give us the first page of the book.
None but my wife know of my trips beyond the rusty gate; none but my wife ever will. Kate understands why I must endure this long walk through the forest, miles of bearing up under a heavy feeling of being watched.
“Go, Jake,” she will tell me. She will say, “Mind the woods” and “See if someone’s come” and “Be home with Zach and me soon.” And even though the fear in her eyes begs me stay, Kate never asks me to keep away from the Hollow. She knows I must come to this place. It is my duty both as sheriff and as a Barnett.
And yet even as I hold my name and station in the highest regard, that is not why I dare enter this wood and strike east and north for the grove. I come to this place of darkness because it is where the light of heaven once touched. I come here for the ones who were saved on a night long ago and for the ones lost.
I come because heaven is not without the past.
I walk here now just as I walked here on the night of my salvation—uniformed and holding Bessie at my side. The blood on my old tomahawk was wet then, and a color like deep crimson. Now it is no more than a thin line of dulled brown that glimmers in this struggling sun.
Aside from that—from me—I find all is as it has always been in this wild and mountainous place. Change may come beyond this wide span of gnarled trees and gray soil, but the Hollow clings to its past and will not yield to the passing of time. It endures. That is why I both loathe this land beyond the rusty gate and give thanks for it as well. It is an anchor to hold the world in place.
How can readers find you on the Internet?You can keep up with all my goings on at my website—www.billycoffey.com. I blog there twice a week. I also have a fan page on Facebook, and my twitter name is @billycoffey.
Billy Coffey is celebrating his new book, The Devil Walks in Mattingly, with a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway.
One winner will receive:
- A Kindle Fire HDX
- The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey
Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Billy's blog on April 7th to see if you won.
Thank you, Billy, for sharing your life and new book with us today. I've been wanting to feature you on my blog for a while.
Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.The Devil Walks in Mattingly - Christianbook.com
The Devil Walks in Mattingly - Amazon
The Devil Walks in Mattingly - Kindle
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