The year 2011 was a very good one for writer Kevin Wilson, BA’00. His first novel, The Family Fang, was published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins, in August to glowing reviews, and he was the subject of an admiring profile in The New York Times. He did a 12-city promotional tour and looks forward to seeing the book—a wildly funny tale about a family of performance artists—published in Europe and Asia in the coming months.
Wilson, whose 2009 short-story collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, received more critical praise than commercial success, lives quietly with his wife, poet Leigh Anne Couch, and their 3-year-old son in Sewanee, Tenn. He admits to finding all the attention disruptive and overwhelming at times, but is nevertheless grateful for it. “You want your book to be received in the larger world,” he says.
Wilson grew up in tiny Winchester, Tenn., the son of an insurance salesman and a homemaker who, he says, “loved imagination” and encouraged their children to indulge their creativity. “My parents put a lot of stock in narrative and stories, so we were constantly making stuff up,” he recalls. He arrived at Vanderbilt with a love of books but no plans to be a writer. That soon changed.
“My sophomore year, I took a fiction writing workshop with Tony Earley,” he says. “The minute I met him and the minute I started writing my own stuff, I knew what I wanted to do.”
He went on to earn an M.F.A. degree in creative writing at the University of Florida and joined the staff of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference in 2005. Though the job was demanding, he says it “kept me connected to the work. It was good to be around people devoted to writing.” Wilson left the conference this year to assume a full-time faculty position at the University of the South.
Wilson’s second novel is still in the incubation stage, but is likely to explore some of the same concerns as his first. “My interest in writing is always talking about family,” he says. His short-term plans include devoting more time to his young son, freeing his wife to focus on her creative work—a move that’s in keeping with their shared vision for their own family.
“When I met my wife, we were both writing,” he says. “I think that’s an essential part of who we are.”