Seven Questions for Cary Holladay

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today we welcome Cary Holladay to the blog. Her story “Horse People” first appeared in Ecotone’s evolution issue and was reprinted in New Stories from the South 2009. It now has a home in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.


What books are open on your desk right now?

American Hipster: A Life of Herbert Huncke, The Times Square Hustler Who Inspired the Beat Movement, by Hilary Holladay, my younger sister.

Where did the idea for “Horse People,” your story in Astoria to Zion, come from?

A story my father told when he was old, or as he put it, “way up in years.” He kept saying, “When I was about eight, my father took me to get a cook. We rode on horses, way back in the woods.” The cook, Philip, was a young black man from a big family. He cooked for my father’s family for fifty years. That recollection, together with what I knew of my father’s life, Philip’s life, and of the place—Rapidan, Virginia—became “Horse People.”

If you could change one thing about a classic work of literature, what would it be?

Barren Ground, a novel by Ellen Glasgow, published in 1925, is a wonderful story of a woman’s triumph over failed love and rejection. Hardworking protagonist Dorinda Oakley becomes a successful dairy farmer. However, she ossifies into a joyless Lady Bountiful. I’d change the ending so she finally falls in love again and has fun.

Which fictional character would you choose to go on a road trip with, and where would you go?

A walk around Altamont, NC (which is actually Asheville), with Eugene Gant of Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe. The tour would include a stop at the stonecutter’s workshop.

What emerging author or first book are you most excited about?

Does it count if he’s dead? Breece Pancake is ever emerging, and I remain as excited about his work as when I first discovered it.

If you could spend a year writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Prince Rupert, British Columbia, a fishing village with lots of cats. My husband, John Bensko, and I spent our honeymoon there. For a small town, the grocery store was amazingly well-stocked with fancy teas, olive oil, and chocolate. Eagles perched in the trees, singing. I didn’t know they could sing.


Lightning round

Typing or longhand? typing

Silence or music? both

Morning or night? night

E-reader or print? print

Vowel or consonant? vowel

Train or plane? train

Bookmark or dog-ear? My elementary school librarian said, “Fairies live in books. Every time you dog ear a page, you break a little arm or leg. Regretfully, I break little limbs. However, a friend of mine just gave me beautiful handmade bookmarks, so now there’s no excuse.

Cake or pie? English apple pie with orange peel and raisins, a recipe from an old cookbook. Add cranberries.

Mountains or sea? Oh! Too hard to choose.

Dog or cat? I bought a Snugli to hold my tiny, feral cat while I write.

Cary Holladay grew up in Virginia. Her seven volumes of fiction include Horse People: Stories and The Deer in the Mirror. Her work has appeared in The  O. Henry Prize Stories, and she received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches at the University of Memphis.