Interview with Jamie Kornegay
by Marian Kaufman
Recently, Bayou spoke with Jamie Kornegay about his debut novel, SOIL. The novel was an Indie Next selection, an ABA Indies, and an OKRA Pick. In addition to being a writer, Kornegay also owns Turnrow Book Co., an independent bookstore in Greenwood, Mississippi. His novel, SOIL, is a modern tragedy that weaves together traces of rural noir, dark comedy and domestic dysfunction.
SOIL is a dark comedic work about a farmer who moves his family to Mississippi, faces financial ruin, and then worries he’s being framed for murder. Could you tell us more about how you came to write this particular book?
I started the novel many years ago, when I became intrigued by the idea of a man who finds a dead body on his land and seeks to hide the evidence of a perceived crime. I worked on it for many years, alongside other life projects, including raising a family and opening an independent bookstore in the Mississippi Delta. The novel evolved as my own thinking and attitudes evolved, and when I finally seized the moment and finished the book, it had become a story of a family man’s redemption. In the process, it had become more mature, more focused, and funnier.
Do you procrastinate instead of writing?
I’m guilty of exhaustive research. Whether it’s reading or actually going out and stepping off the paces of my character, it’s fun to get out and live and collect details. It’s not all procrastination. I find it gives me intriguing ideas and new perspectives. Details make the story come alive. But in the end, and as much fun as it is dreaming up these scenarios, you have to sit down and actually write if the story is ever going to be read.
As a Southern writer, do you feel there are some stereotypes of Southern literature you have to overcome or would like to see overcome in contemporary fiction?
Sometimes, especially when trying to capture the way people talk in the South, or how certain people behave, writers get accused of stereotyping. Generally it’s by people who aren’t from here and don’t realize it’s all true. But when I’m through creating and start the editing process, I do make a conscious effort to weed out clichés and stereotypes. I want to keep it as authentic as possible. I met some students in Baton Rouge who read SOIL and complimented me on my main character, a soil scientist. They said it was great to read about a young Southern male character who wasn’t backwoods, wasn’t a rube, but was educated and progressive. I hadn’t done that consciously, but at the same time, it’s exactly what I wanted to depict, so I was very pleased to hear that.
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