#VaReads Writer of the Week: Charles McRaven

Welcome back to a new blog series from the Virginia Center for the Book, in which we highlight the work of one Virginia writer each week. This week’s spotlight is on Charles McRaven, author of Winter RageMcRaven is also a skilled workman who has written informational books on his specialized crafts.

How did you get your start as a writer?

I’ve always liked to tell stories. During college I wrote and submitted short stories to magazines, which resulted in a pile of rejection slips. However, I did write features for local and state newspapers and regional magazines, which were accepted, and the payments helped with expenses. I was editor and writer for the campus newspaper and later a small-town weekly, which led to graduate school in journalism. Many years later I wrote my first novel, as a departure from several how-to books I’d had published on crafts I practiced.

Describe your work in three sentences or less.

I write about people: our ambitions, setbacks, triumphs, betrayals, and usually include work and experiences I’ve had. I spent many years in construction (stonework, log work, post and beam), and am now a minister, so those worlds find themselves in my writing (people who work with their hands have the same layers as others). Action is my forte, sometimes gritty, sometimes misguided, often to right wrongs.

How does living in Virginia influence your writing?

I’ve lived here for almost 40 years, and the places, character-models, experiences in my stories are mostly local. I love history, and several of my manuscripts are set here. My ancestors were also in Virginia from the late 1600s.

What’s your favorite part of your most recent book?

Winter Rage is about a 1950s mountain feud, between an impoverished, orphaned barely-teenager who with his divorced young aunt, manage to survive the persecutions and violence of their rich and unscrupulous oppressors. It’s something of a mystery and my favorite parts are their ingenious escapes from the law, and their building lives from less than nothing. I guess my favorite part is when the crazed, pampered scion of the rich lawyer is violently interrupted in his beating and attempted rape of the aunt, by the boy’s crippled, aging grandfather, a backwoods preacher, who almost kills him with his crutch.

What are you working on next?

Actually, three novels in progress. One is a prequel about a witty girl construction worker (quick with a literary quip or a saw) who’s managed to compete with the sexist system, but finds herself unwittingly caught up in an illegal drug and human smuggling operation. Another is about a traumatized Civil War veteran trying to fit back into the ravaged society of the defeated South. The third is the destructive journey of a gifted but thrice-divorced, crippled alcoholic carpenter who finally cracks, vows and acts revenge on the arrogant customers who didn’t pay, who put him and others down, who he sees as leeches out there continuing to cheat, abuse others. You can’t possibly like him, but you do.

To learn more about Charles McRaven, visit his website at charlesmcraven.com.

Through this series, we hope to showcase the depth and breadth of our state-wide literary community while also encouraging readers in the Commonwealth and elsewhere to challenge themselves to read more books by Virginia writers. If you have an author you’d like to suggest for this series, please email sdlawson@virginia.edu with details. Our focus is on writers with books that have been published in the past two years (self-published is welcome as long as the writer’s most recent book is held in at least one public library in the state).