Jessica Hooten Wilson Signs New Book Deal
Jessica Hooten Wilson, the inaugural Seaver College Visiting Scholar of Liberal Arts,
recently signed with Brazos Press to publish her newest book, The Making of Flannery O’Connor’s ‘Why Do the Heathen Rage?.’ This text introduces readers to O’Connor’s third, final, and unfinished novel, which
she was busy writing prior to her death. Hooten Wilson brings to light the final chapters
of this seminal writer’s canon, divulging the story behind the story.
Included, here, is a Q&A Hooten Wilson granted the Seaver Newsroom regarding her new book:
Q: How excited are you to have this book under contract and to bring the text to a reading audience?
Hooten Wilson: I first started working on this project in 2010 when I visited the Flannery O’Connor Archives and read all of the unpublished pages of the incomplete novel. In 2015 the Estate asked me to put these pages into a publishable form, but it is impossible to tell the story without ghost-writing or making a scholarly edition. This version that I’ve composed is the story of this unfinished material, the best way to share it with Flannery’s readers. I cannot wait for people to see how much talent Flannery continued to have and why we need more people like her to continue writing great fiction, such as hers.
Q: Why is this story about O’Connor’s unfinished, final novel an important one to tell?
Hooten Wilson: She was writing in the early years of the Civil Rights Movement, wrestling with her theology in which people are God’s image bearers and incongruous racial prejudices of her Southern, white surroundings. This unfinished novel was not to be propaganda, but Flannery wanted to tell a story that cut to the heart of things. We have the benefit of reading these pages over fifty years later and seeing how far we’ve come and how far we have to go towards looking like God’s people.
Q: What do you hope readers are eventually able to glean from the work?
Hooten Wilson: People are unfinished, even in this lifetime, and we all bring unfinished work to God. But the Lord can do marvelous things through our infinitesimal efforts. In Flannery’s unfinished novel, I hope we see what it looks like to give your talents to God, to try and tell true and beautiful stories, and how we must work with each other to tell the whole story.
Q: What about Flannery O’Connor makes her so compelling to you?
Hooten Wilson: I first read Flannery when I was fifteen years old, and I won a national short story contest by imitating her style. From that point on, I’ve dedicated much of my work to uplifting her genius and passing her on to new readers. She is America’s only canonical, orthodox Christian writer. Her sacramental imagination teaches us how to read the Bible, how to see God in all things, how to participate in the divine life. Without Flannery O’Connor, I would not know and love Christ the way that I do. She has been the loudest and most persuasive apostle in my life.