Writing about famous Winston-Salemites and local difference makers has been a great experience. Now I am ready to expand to the great state of North Carolina to talk to some North Carolinians who have gone on to do extraordinary things. Notable North Carolinians will focus on these individuals favorite parts of the Tar Heel State.
John Hart (website) is releasing his fifth novel, Redemption Road, this week and is starting a nationwide book tour in Greensboro at Barnes & Noble on May 3rd at 7:00. Hart is the only author in history to win the Edgar Award for consecutive novels. Along with being an award winning, brilliant author, Hart is also a North Carolinian who has lived in Salisbury, Durham, and Greensboro. All five of his novels have taken place in North Carolina.
Hart was born in Durham and moved to Salisbury and Rowan County when he was seven in 1972. He attended Woodberry Forest in Virginia for high school, before heading back to North Carolina to attend Davidson for college. His two sisters followed their grandmother’s, Mary Hart, high school path at Salem Academy. Hart spent a year in France during his undergraduate studies, where he learned French (his mom was a French teacher) and went on to major in the subject when returning from his time abroad.
After graduating from Davidson, Hart kicked around doing odd jobs and wrote his first novel, which was never published. He received a Masters in Accounting from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1993. He deferred from law school to go live in Juneau, Alaska with his sisters, before returning to attend the University of New Hampshire for law school. He spent four years in New Hampshire, and also wrote his second novel, which was also never published.
In 1997, Hart married Katie, who was also from Salisbury, on a mountaintop in Alaska. After two more years in New Hampshire, the two moved back to Salisbury in 1999, where he studied for the bar and passed it. He worked for a law firm in Salisbury for two and a half years before realizing he wanted to pursue his dream of writing full-time. “I had my first major case defending a child murderer, and the judge told me not to be squeamish, and I realized being a lawyer wasn’t right for me,” said Hart.
Hart spent eleven and a half months writing in a library in Salisbury, and finished his first published novel, The King of Lies. The novel was rejected several times after he finished. Hart and Katie moved to Greensboro, where he worked for Merrill Lynch. He went back to the novel with fresh eyes and revamped it and he found a publisher right away the second time. The publisher was so excited that they offered him a contract for a second novel. Fellow Southerner, Pat Conroy, said The King of Lies “moves and reads like a book on fire.”
He went on to write, Down River, The Last Child, and Iron House while living in Greensboro. Hart and Katie moved to Charlottesville in 2011. He wrote three hundred pages of another book while living in Virginia, before writing Redemption Road, which is getting rave reviews including Publisher’s Weekly calling it a must-read for 2016.
Hart lives with Katie, their two daughters (high school and middle school), and their three dogs (Lab, Lhasa Apso, and a rescue dog). They have a farm a mile and a half from the house, where John takes the dogs to write in the morning. His farm overlooks a beautiful house that President John Monroe built in 1794. After lunch, he takes a nap and then works on editing with the help of Katie. He is currently working on his seventh novel, which is a follow-up on the characters from The Last Child.
North Carolina Questions:
Do you prefer Eastern NC barbecue or Western NC barbecue?
Eastern, definitely. I grew up in Salisbury/Lexington, which is a central hub for Eastern North Carolina barbecue.
Do you have a favorite museum in North Carolina?
I was on the board of The Children’s Museum in Greensboro, and I used to love taking my kids there when they were young.
What is your favorite beach of North Carolina?
We have a place near Wilmington at Figure Eight Island. I miss being able to get their frequently.
What about a favorite place in the mountains of NC?
My favorite place in the mountains is Roaring Gap in Alamance County. My grandparents built a place there in the 1920s, and we go there whenever we can. We are having a family reunion there this summer. I have a large family with two sisters, a half sister, three stepsisters and three stepbrothers.
What do you miss most about living in North Carolina?
One specific thing I miss is being able to go to the Green Valley Grill at the O.Henry Hotel whenever I want.
Do you have a favorite concert you saw in North Carolina?
When I was a kid in 1981, I went and saw the Jimmy Buffet Coconut Telegraph tour in Raleigh.
If you could only have one for the rest of your life, which would you prefer: a Bojangles biscuit or a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
Bojangles, definitely. I love Krispy Kreme, and the second one ever was in Salisbury, but Bojangles.
What about sweet NC iced tea or Cheerwine?
Cheerwine, absolutely. It was born in Salisbury, and I knew the Peeler family really well. It was hard to grow up in Salisbury and not know somebody associated with Cheerwine or Food Lion.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Patricia Cornwell graduated from Davidson ten years before I did, and she is a favorite. I loved anything science fiction as a kid. Pat Conroy was pretty influential, especially how he wrote about small towns and family. I live near John Grisham in Charlottesville, and we see each other frequently. He has always been purpose driven in his writing.