Author shares insight into No Strange Fire
Laurinburg, N.C. – “As I was writing every page it generated six or seven questions that I would go back to ask my Amish hosts. It took a lot of research and I would go through the daily life and come back to the bed and breakfast to write it down each night.”
This was just one of the writing process insights author Ted Wojtasik shared regarding the writing of his novel No Strange Fire during the One Book, One Community event held Thursday evening in the Morris Morgan Theatre at St. Andrews Presbyterian College.
No Strange Fire focuses on the Nebraska Amish and a series of barn fires that result in the death of a young member of the community. Loosely based on historical events in 1992, Wojtasik lived among the Amish for several months to accurately portray the lives of the characters in the book.
When asked of how he selected the narrative form used in the book, Wojtasik shared, “ It is multiple flashbacks, with the initial flashback as a hook to bring the reader into the story. When I started writing the narrative, I was 120 pages in when I realized I hadn’t introduced the protagonist yet. At that point I realized I needed to do flashbacks to explain Jacob’s path.”
Wojtasik admitted that prior to the book being selected for the 2010 One Book One Community program he had not reread it.
“I don’t read my work after it is published because I’m concerned that I will start reediting,” he said. “In this case, I was afraid I would not enjoy my own work but I got through it and realized it was a pretty good read.”
Audience members asked about the use of Biblical background and Dante’s Inferno throughout the book.
“In a way it was a challenge and in a way it was fun,” he said. “It allows the reader to get extra out of it without necessarily realizing, and at the same time it isn’t necessary to have the background to enjoy this work. As I reread it I realized how the pieces worked together really well.”
When asked about the reaction of the Amish community to the book, Wojtasik got a bit of a grin.
“It was banned,” he said. “No Amish bookstore would sell it. Part of it is that because it is fiction, it is considered lies. Although, I do know of one member of the Amish community who got the book specifically to find what was wrong with it and he didn’t find anything. Part of it was also because the community had forgiven the event and gone past the fires and it was bringing up the old wounds.”
A Connecticut native, Wojtasik is a visiting instructor in English and creative writing at St. Andrews. He holds an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in 20th century American literature from the University of South Carolina. In addition to No Strange Fire, he has published two novels - Collage and Wild Animal Nation. His short stories have been included in numerous publications, including Cairn 45:The St. Andrews Review.
For those who missed the talk Thursday, there will be a second opportunity to hear Wojtasik share his insights. A book talk will be given on Tuesday, Oct. 19 beginning at 7 p.m. in the Scotland County Memorial Library.
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