Wright State professor nominated for prestigious literary award

Erin Flanagan’s debut novel is up for an Edgar Allan Poe award.

Erin Flanagan was napping when it was announced that her debut novel, “Deer Season,” had been nominated for a prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award. Though Flanagan’s debut novel is certainly a triumph in many respects, she was still surprised to learn that, despite the book’s limited exposure, it had reached enough readers to receive a nomination for such a distinguished prize.

The Edgar Allan Poe Awards honor the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced each year. The 2022 winners will be revealed at New York’s Marriott Marquis Times Square on April 28.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Flanagan, a professor of English language and literatures at Wright State University, first released “Deer Season” in September 2021 through the University of Nebraska Press. In the novel, a girl goes missing during the opening weekend of deer season in rural Nebraska. The first suspect thought to be involved in the girl’s death is Bullard, a mentally-challenged farmhand who has only a flimsy story of why his truck is now sporting fresh blood and a dent near the headlight. Throughout the novel, a series of characters will give the reader a clear picture of what lengths some people would go to in order to fight for those they love.

Flanagan’s own hometown gave her inspiration for the novel’s setting. When she was young, her family moved from a bustling Chicago suburb to live on a farm in the small town of Sanborn, Iowa. Similar to the characters in “Deer Season,” her parents moved to a rural farm where her father worked on the farm and her mother drove a school bus.

The novel is set in the 1980s, mostly because Flanagan grew up on the farm during that decade.

“I can’t imagine how much rural life has changed in that time with cell phones, Amazon Prime, and all these things that were just unimaginable when I was a kid,” Flanagan said. “We were so insulated. I really wanted to capture that sense of community and how you existed in a bit of a bubble. A lot of information came through gossip and over backyard fences. I wanted to capture that in the novel.”

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As a self-labeled misfit and introvert, Flanagan found her voice and purpose in creative writing in the fourth-grade when she was invited to read something that she wrote to the fifth-grade class.

“I was scared to death,” Flanagan says of reading her first written work out loud. “But I got a little taste of what it was like to have an audience and I was hooked. In undergraduate studies, I took some classes and really loved it. Then, when I ended up going to graduate school, that’s what I focused on.”

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Flanagan also used her personal experience as a misfit of sorts to inform one of the dominant themes in the novel — what it means to be an outsider or outcast in a small town. In every community — especially rural towns — Flanagan hypothesizes that people’s instincts will always be to ostracize those who they view as different from themselves.

“I think part of it was feeling like I didn’t quite fit in, in Sanborn,” Flanagan said. “So, it was partly a little bit my experience, but also the sense that, no matter what, I think communities find a way to ‘other’ people. No matter the lack of diversity, there would always be a way to find outsiders. I think that’s true of all communities.”

It took Flanagan around four years to write “Deer Season,” and, though she doesn’t think that her writing process is relatively “sexy” (her process is far less Ernest Hemingway-esque and more analytical), Flanagan seems to have found a rhythm that suits her well. Shortly after crafting her first novel, Flanagan began work on a second novel, called “Blackout,” that is set to be released on July 1. Flanagan proudly boasts that this novel will be set in Dayton.

“It takes place in Dayton, which I’m very excited about,” Flanagan said. “It’s about a woman who has quit drinking about seven months ago, and then starts having these mysterious blackouts where she’ll lose like an hour of her life. She’s concerned this is somehow related to her drinking. She’s also concerned her family is going to think she’s secretly started drinking again. She ends up having a blackout and crashing her car, ending up in the ER. Then, she finds out there’s a network of other women this is happening to as well, so they have to solve what’s happening and hope it doesn’t get worse.”

Flanagan is also the author of short stories contained in two collections: “It’s Not Going to Kill You, and Other Stories,” published in 2013, and “The Usual Mistakes,” published in 2005.

When she’s not shaping young minds at Wright State or crafting works of fiction, Flanagan writes book reviews and other pieces related to the art of the written word. With this in mind, she is nearly bursting at the seams with book recommendations.

Looking to write your own novel but don’t know where to start? Flanagan recommends reading “The Half-Known World: On Writing Fiction” by Robert Boswell and “Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing” by Tiffany Yates Martin. Those who want to pick up another thriller after devouring “Deer Season” should dig into works by Layne Fargo, Chandler Baker, Andrea Bartz, and Dayton-based crime writer Meredith Doench.

Learn more about Flanagan by heading to https://erinflanagan.net.

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