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SunLit Interviews

As author David Hicks wrote “White Plains,” the narrative got uncomfortably personal

In a story with autobiographical underpinnings, imagine writing a chapter -- honestly -- from the point of view of your ex-wife

David Hicks is a professor at Regis University in Denver, where he also co-directs the Mile-High MFA program.

Excerpts from his book “White Plains” have been published as short stories in “Glimmer Train,” “Colorado Review,” “Specs,” “Saranac Review,” and “South Dakota Review,” along with other journals.

White Plains was a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards, one of Westword’s “Best Books of 2017” and the Arapahoe Libraries’ 2018 “Village Read.”

The follow is an interview with Hicks about “WhitePlains”:

Author David Hicks. (Handout)

What inspired you to write this book?

I had published a bunch of autobiographical stories and was thinking of putting together a collection; but when I arranged them chronologically, I saw that the book had a novel arc. I then needed to fill the gaps between stories, so I did so with stories from the ancillary characters’ points of view.

Who are your favorite authors and/or characters?

I’m a professor of early American literature, so I’m a big fan of Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, and Dickenson, and of the character of Ahab in Moby-Dick. Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” is my favorite novel, and I love everything Ron Carlson writes.

Why did you choose this excerpt to feature in SunLit?

It’s a key moment of the book, the turning point, when Flynn has bottomed out and needs to figure out what he’s doing.

“White Plains” by David Hicks. (Handout)

What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?

The most fun was asking my children, Stephen and Caitlin, to write the chapters told by Flynn’s children, about an event in their lives that I didn’t know about. They did a wonderful job, and I find those two chapters quite touching. I just can’t read them in public—I get too emotional.

What was the most difficult section to write in this book? Why?

Probably the chapters from the ex-wife’s point of view. Since the book is autobiographical, I had to suspend my own biases about my divorce and embody what it was like for my ex-wife. It wasn’t very flattering, but I think those scenes make the book better.

What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book?

That the earth moves at roughly 1,000 miles per hour. It didn’t make it into the book—it almost did, in the section excerpted here—and I know most people learn this in school, but man, that just blows me away, that the planet is plummeting through space at that speed while we’re going about our everyday lives.

What project are you working on next?

I’m finishing up a novel about the demise of America, as told by a waiter in Yonkers. It’s really long—about 160,000 words—but it’s kind of a big topic, so I’m trying to decide whether to cut it down or let it be as big as it wants to be.


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Buy: “White Plains” at BookBar

Excerpt: “White Plains” by David Hicks

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