Dewberry 89PhD was in the throes of studying
for her oral exams at Emory when she first started tinkering with
the makings of a novel. Reading for her doctorate in literature
required weeks of intense work, and she recalls that she allowed
herself one candy M&M per page studied. She also allowed herself
to begin developing her own voice as a writer, which felt like
an indulgent study break at the time.
novels and several plays later, Dewberry says the experience
of immersing herself in literature at Emory helped drive and
shape her fiction. The more conventional route to becoming
a writer is to get an MFA where you actually study writing,
but for me the act of studying the literature itself was much
more valuable, she says. Teaching myself from the
inside out how novels are structured and how writers work is
what I consider my writing training. The best thing about Emory
for me was that it was a really nurturing place. . . . Its
not a coincidence that my first novel came out of that.
recently published third novel, Sacrament of Lies, draws
on a rich amalgam of influences, with underpinnings of a murder
mystery, Southern family drama, and psychological thriller.
Set against the backdrop of politically corrupt Louisiana, the
book takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride inside the head
of Grayson Guillory, the governors daughter, who suspects
that her father may have murdered her mother. More than anything,
Sacrament of Lies is a deeply intimate character study,
closely interwoven with a good yarn.
idea for the novel, says Dewberry, stemmed from a conversation
with a theatre friend who was preparing to direct Hamlet.
Dewberry was immediately intrigued by the thought of a gender-flipped
Hamlet, and as the story of political decay, dark family secrets,
and possible madness began to take shape, she knew Louisiana
was the perfect setting.
her previous novels, Break the Heart of Me and Many
Things Have Happened Since He Died, Dewberry says Sacrament
of Lies is a tale of redemption and of women who are
shaking personal and spiritual truths. The book is her
first in eight years, a span during which she divorced her husband,
quit her job, sold her house, and married writer Robert Olen
did everything you can do to start your life completely over,
she says. This book has been a redemptive process for
me personally, a healing thing and a joyful thing to write fiction
has taught creative writing and American literature at universities
including Emory, the University of the South, and Ohio State
University. She has authored many academic articles on Hemingwaythe
subject of her Emory dissertationand other American fiction
writers. Originally from Birmingham, Dewberry now lives in Tallahassee,
where she is playwright-in-resident at Florida State University.
writing, Dewberry says she spends a lot of time cultivating
empathy with her characters, a mental exercise that helps her
convey their tangled emotions in her own clear, distinctive
voice. When youre writing, what youre trying
to do is get it right, not make it up, she told her audience
during a reading at Atlantas Margaret Mitchell House this
spring. Its like picking out a piece of music that