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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

An Evening With Philip Gulley
Last evening, the Limbaugh Friends of the Library hosted an evening with author Philip Gulley.. I was introduced to his books a couple of years ago by Mom, when she recommended his Front Porch Tales and Hometown Tales, both of which are excellent. Since then, I've avidly read all of his other published works--including his fictional series about the town of Harmony and the long-suffering pastor of his Quaker church, Sam Gardner. So I have to admit I was pretty eager for a chance to get to meet him in person and hear him read from his stories.

Gulley read a previously published story and then gave us a sneak peak at his new Harmony novel, which is coming out sometime later this year or early next year. It's always interesting to sit back and hear someone read from his or her own work. Just to hear the story told in their own voice with their own vocal inflections and maybe how they "do" the voices of certain characters. I admit the only thing that disappointed me was neither story features Dale Hinshaw and so we didn't get to hear Gulley's voice for that character (guess I'll just have to make do with the one I've got in my head then!)

But beyond the readings, the thing that was most interesting was Gulley talking about the publishing world. He spoke about his first publisher, who was a Christian publisher and how they put a lot more restrictions on what he could and could not write about than the one he has now, which is a "secular" publisher. He summed it up by saying that if you restrict an author too much or tell them what to write, the books don't become by the author any longer but instead a long advertisment for the publisher. He also spoke of his conflict with the Quaker church (he is a Quaker minister) over a book he published about grace called If Grace Is True. Apparently a lot of people in his denomination took exception with his arguement that God's grace extends to everyone, not just those who are "saved." In fact, he spent two years being put under review to see if his preaching credentials might be revoked and in the end, four churches left his "district" in protest of his being allowed to continue following his calling.

Of course, the first thing this did was ingnite interet in me to read the book, which I already have checked out of the library. The second thing that struck me was how close to some of the events in the latest Harmony novel, Life Goes On. In the course of the story, Sam faces a faction within the local congregation that wants his ouster for taking a controversial stand and a good deal of the last half of the novel is spent on the struggle Sam faces as he answers the charges against him and the slander campaign that comes up. Interesting to hear how echoes of Gulley's real life trickle into his fictional world.

Of course, since it's a book tour, the stop wasn't complete without his trying to drum up interest for his web site the Harmony newspaper, The Harmony Herald. I looked at the sight and it's a treat--especially if you've read the book.

After his talk, he signed books and spoke to those who gathered. I had to ask him one burning question--is Dale Hinshaw based on a real person and does that person recongnize himself in the books? His answer was yes, he's based on a real person and that person thinks the character is based on someone else. Which is exactly how Dale would react, so that just makes it all the more perfect.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/19/2004 10:26:00 AM | |
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