For several years, two Virginia writers have been working on a collection of short stories about guns. This week, Lock & Load was published – on the very day that the nation recorded its worst mass shooting ever.
Charlottesville author Betty-Joyce Nash first thought of compiling a book of short stories dealing with guns when she was a graduate student writing a tale of her own. A firearm turned up in the narrative, and she was surprised to find it there, but her academic adviser was not.
“He said, 'You know this is a great topic, because I always tell my students that if you’re an American writer sooner or later there’s going to be a gun in one of your stories, and they never believe me, but it’s really true,'” she recalls.
Her friend and Richmond author Deirdra McAfee also liked the idea of compiling gun-related stories, noting firearms have always been part of this country’s culture.
“I’m old enough to remember that Davy Crockett’s flintlock had a name, which was Betsy, and we know what happened to Bambi’s father, and we know what happened to Old Yeller," she explains. "A great many things that are good have also depended on the ability of guns to provide and secure safety and freedom.”
Shortly after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, she and Nash began work on the book.
“We started looking at some of the ones we liked by well-known writers like Annie Proulx, and then we put out an open call,” Nash says.
More than a hundred writers submitted stories – including one from each editor. They chose 19 of them.
As they began editing and searching for a publisher, the nation suffered another psychic blow with the shootings in Sandy Hook, and on publication day they got word of what had happened in Las Vegas. Nash and McAfee hope their book of fiction with help Americans to explore the facts about guns and the ways this county can prevent gun-related violence.
Nash will read from the book at Charlottesville's Writer House on October 11 from 5-6:30 p.m. McAfee will be at the Visual Arts Center in Richmond on October 19th from 5:30-6:30 to celebrate the release of Lock & Load. In the full interview, Betty-Joyce Nash begins by explaining how she got the idea for the book while writing a short story of her own.