The Grass Sweeper God
by Doug Howery
GENRE: Historical Fiction
Sixteen-year-old Smiley Hanlon is a young woman tethered to a young man’s body. In the 1950’s Appalachia coal fields of Solitude, Virginia, Smiley is placed in the “Mentally Retarded Class” because he is effeminate and wears a blouse and saddle shoes to school.
Smiley is backed by his best friend, Lee Moore who protects Smiley from a father and many townspeople who hate him. Smiley has dreams of becoming an entertainer. Raised by his aunt in a juke joint, as a child Smiley sings and dances on the Formica bar top into the wee hours. Chosen as the female lead, Dorothy, in a new town production called Dorothy of Oz Coal Camp, his dream is being realized. The triumph of the play and his dream is sabotaged by his father and classmate bullies culminating in a tragic and horrific moment that changes both Smiley and Lee, forever.
Smiley and Lee flee to NYC. They learn that prejudice is prejudice whether in the coal fields of Virginia or on the streets of NYC. Smiley suffers at the hands of his real mother who is a religious zealot. She tries to change who Smiley is because he is a boil on the body of Christ. Lee suffers at the hands of psychologists who practice Aversion Therapy-electric shock treatment to cure his homosexuality.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Both Smiley and Lee become forces of change as do countless others. In 1969, Smiley Hanlon and his friend, Lee emerge as leaders of a gay revolution, the historical Stonewall Riots. The riots are vicious but the real battle will be won or lost on another continent: Solitude, Virginia.
The Grass Sweeper God is a force of nature that flows through all things…straightens out that which is bent…which is sick…
This godforsaken place was the backwoods of Appalachia coal mining country. And being sixteen meant a cultured age of about ten or twelve, really. Especially if you were retarded and rode the short bus. This meant riding a school bus designated specifically as the retarded kids’ bus, but it also meant boarding normal kids alongside retards at each bus stop. The only real specificity: If you were trapped inside the wrong body—if you were a young man who wanted to be a young woman—you were the bull’s eye in the kids’ cross-hairs because you were the biggest, retarded mongoloid excrement of ‘em all, really. Excrement being too proper of a word: Specifically you got the ‘cultured’ and ‘godforsaken’ shit kicked outtaya every school day by retards and rednecks. Proper language left this place along with any civility once branded as a retarded freak, really. Indifference to proper language and civility ruled the day, and brutality beat the night.
Welcome! Please start off by telling us a little about yourself.
Is the Grass Sweeper God a single title, or part of a series?
A single title.
What were your inspirations for the story?
My family life while growing up in the mountains of Appalachia.
Please share your setting for The Grass Sweeper God. Have you ever lived or visited there? If so, what did you like most?
The setting is the Appalachian Mountains of Southwest Virginia; coal country. I grew up there. I loved the country life with all the farms and farm animals. I loved the woods, the sweeping valleys. It was a truly beautiful and solitude place; hence the name of the fictious town in the book: Solitude.
Who are you favorite authors, book/series?
Stephen King. He has a prose range him that I don’t see in other authors. By that, I mean he can write a home spun story like, “Dolores Claiborne” and turn around and write something as fantastical as, “It” etc.
If you could have an author roundtable discussion with any authors, who would you invite?
Stephen King. John Grisham. Steinbeck. Truman Capote. Harper Lee. Alice Walker.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve heard or seen?
The GOP 2016 convention.
What is the one thing that you would tell an inspiring writer to do?
Study the craft.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
DOUG HOWERY has been writing both fiction and essays since 1990. His essays and familial stories have appeared in The Blue Ridge Lambda Press.
In many of his stories, as in “The Grass Sweeper God,” Mr. Howery’s true lode, his font of inspiration is in the passion and suffering he has experienced.
Author, Doug Howery penned the novel with insight into his own struggle for sexual identity and personal tragedy. His mother committed suicide in 1982, blaming her two sons’ sexual identity in a letter and declaring herself a martyr for intolerance and social bigotry. She referred to her own sons as “Gutter Rats that Could Rot in Hell” and represents the hate and mistrust that have plagued society.
Suspense author, Maggie Grace, with the North Carolina Writers’ Network writes about her cohort Mr. Howery: “What I like is the riskiness, the cutting edge of the narrative voice we hear. The moments when he lapses into descriptions of the moon, of the horse, etc. are true poetry that offers some relief from the coarseness of the story, and he places them well. He has an ear for the rhythm of the story, a natural sense of when to end–hangs fire with a new way of looking at someone or something, turning the entire chapter on its ear. I like the way he makes it impossible for the reader to stop reading at the end of the chapter.”
Mr. Howery lives in Virginia with his partner of 34 years where he is at work on his next novel.
Book Video Trailer:
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Doug Howery will be awarding a $25.00 Amazon GC and an autographed copy of the book to one randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please note geographical restrictions apply. United States only for the physical prize.
a Rafflecopter giveaway “>Rafflecopter Link