I Will Cop to One “Writerly” Idea Before the Razor of "The Heretic of Cooke County"

Click here to read “The Heretic of Cooke County” by Gary Reddin.

The last thing I want to do is sound like one of those writers. You know the ones. My story flowed through me. I didn’t write it, it wrote me. This piece was born in a throbbing cosmic womb of creativity. No. I’m not going to tell you that because, frankly, it is bullshit. I didn’t sit down to write Heretic and think “This story needs to be told.” It didn’t. I suppose that maybe, maybe, I wanted to tell it. But even that isn’t entirely true. The story itself is vaguely autobiographical. I did grow up in a small town, and my parents did develop a religious bent very quickly. Unlike with Casey’s parents, it wasn’t for any particular reason. We just started going to church one day and never stopped.

Heretic was an idea that bounced around inside my head whenever I was in the shower, or trying to fall asleep. Eventually I wrote it down. I remember at the time I was listening to Darkness on the Edge of Town a lot. Which is how it found its way into the story. I’ve revised the story since submitting it for publication, the version here isn’t the version I have now. It is close, of course. I am always revising. It is 90% of writing.

I will cop to one “writerly” idea. Heretic is important to me. It is important because it was the first time I wrote something and thought that it was good. Good enough for publication. I remember finishing Heretic and thinking I’ve actually written something that other people might care to read. Then it one my university’s top fiction award and I knew I had something.

Heretic is an important story. It is important to me creatively and, I hope, important to the people that read it. But I hold no pretensions about it. It wasn’t some crowning epic produced under the weight of suffering and despair, born out of angst or some intense personal realization. It was simply a story that I wanted to tell. I told it. I am happy.

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