Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne's "Holding On To Nothing"

Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne grew up reading, writing, and shooting in East Tennessee. After graduating from Amherst College, she worked at The Atlantic Monthly. Her nonfiction work has been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Boston Globe, and Globalpost, among others and her short fiction has appeared in The Broad River Review and Barren Magazine. Her essay on how killing a deer made her a feminist was published in Click! When We Knew We Were Feminists, edited by Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan. She is a graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator. She lives outside Boston with her husband and four children.

Shelburne applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Holding On To Nothing, and reported the following:
I have never written with a cast in my head as I work. My characters exist only in my mind. In fact, I often don’t describe their physical traits at all for the first two or three drafts until one of my readers says, “So, um, I have no idea what they look like?” And I realize that I have once again created characters with invisible bodies. So imagining real people who might play those characters has a little of that dissonant effect of seeing a movie made from a book, and thinking “I didn’t imagine them like that!”

Judy: Cherry Jones. It feels wrong to make a Tennessee actress play the one New Englander in this whole book, but Judy, the bartender, has seen it all and doesn’t mind telling people what she thinks. Cherry Jones has the same thin-lipped smile I always imagined on Judy. There is love there, but maybe not so much warmth.

LouEllen: Kathy Bates. LouEllen is a fierce woman: she loves fiercely and fights fiercely too. Lucy often feels like she’s been “waterboarded by love” around her. Bates is such a rock star: I could just see her sitting in the gardening center at Walmart treating it like her own porch.

Jeptha: Although he’s not Southern, I thought Wilson Bethel did a pretty great job as Wade Kinsella on Hart of Dixie, especially the last two seasons when he got to pull back on the clichés and have some more heart. (I’m a little embarrassed to tell y’all I watched this show, but I did and it made me laugh. Judge me how you will.) Or a young, scruffy Paul Newman. Also, Garrett Hedlund would be great. He grew up on a farm and has a face that can be both boyishly cute and full of heartbreaking regret.

Lucy: I know it’s cliché, but damn, Jennifer Lawrence was amazing in Winter’s Bone, and I think she’d pull of Lucy with aplomb. Lucy is both delicate and strong as nails, and her face carries a ton of the action in a scene. Actors are amazing at what they do, so I’m not saying it has to be a Southerner, but I’d love it to be. There’s an emotional connection there, plus a better chance of getting the accent right!

Cody: Danny McBride. One hundred percent. He is hilarious, looks just like I imagine Cody looks, and would carry off the funny lines and being stranded by Jeptha on the side of the road perfectly, while also able to pull off Cody’s real concern and love for Jeptha.
Visit Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne's website.

The Page 69 Test: Holding On To Nothing.

--Marshal Zeringue