I found Steve Yarbrough’s novel, The Realm of Last Chances, by serendipity.
His was the only book in the Y’s and I loved the title and the first paragraph:
They were both fifty when they moved to Massachusetts, settling in a small town a few miles north of Boston. Like a lot of people around the country over the last few years, they’d recently experienced a run of bad luck.
Being in my fifties and seldom finding novels with middle-aged protagonists, I bought this book and rushed home and read it in one sitting. It is powerful and moving, my favorite novel of the year.
And Steve Yarbrough, an award-winning novelist and a Professor of the Department of Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson College, generously agreed to be interviewed here.
Mirabile Dictu: Your stunning new novel, The Realm of Last Chances, addresses the issue of dislocation in middle age. Did you set out to explore this theme? Or did it just come together?
Steve Yarbrough: I consciously wanted to explore dislocation. My wife and I had moved from one coast to the other twice: from east to west in 1988 and from west to east in 2009. Both times, we wanted to make the move, and this last move in particular has led to great happiness, because we love New England. But during the economic downturn a lot of people were uprooted against their will, and I wanted to see what it might be like for a couple like that. The other themes, though, came to me during the writing process. It’s always that way for me. I find my path by groping in the darkness.
Mirabile Dictu: How long did it take you to write the book?
Steve Yarbrough: Well, from start to finish, about eighteen months. But before I figured out what I wanted to write, I floundered for about a year. That happens to me again and again.
Mirabile Dictu: Which of your books is your favorite (besides Realm)?
Steve Yarbrough: I guess I’d have to say my other favorite is probably Safe from the Neighbors–though, truly, I am fond of all my books, to varying degrees. They represented the best I had in me when I wrote them.
Mirabile Dictu: Do you write on paper or a computer?
Steve Yarbrough: I wrote my first book on paper and then typed it. All the others have been written on the computer.
Mirabile: Who are your favorite authors?
Steve Yarbrough: The list is long. Here are a few names: James Salter, William Trevor, Alice Munro, Richard Yates, Elizabeth Spencer, Milan Kundera, Sandor Marai, Tolstoy, Faulkner, Chekhov, Austen, Graham Greene.
Mirabile Dictu: Thank you for the fabulous interview!
And here are a few facts about Steve Yarbrough.
He is the son of Mississippi Delta farmers.
He is a Professor of Department of Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson College.
His novel Prisoners of War was a finalist for the 2005 PEN/Faulkner Award, his 1999 novel The Oxygen Man won the California Book Award, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction, and the Mississippi Authors Award. In 2010, he won the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence.
His website is http://steveyarbrough.net/
And you can read my review of The Realm of Last Chances here.