William Eakin grew up traveling and living abroad in more than one dozen different countries. Through these experiences, he was shaped by wonder and awe, which as a successful author, he applied to create his book, Welcome to Redgunk: Tales from One Weird Mississippi Town. In this work, Eakin expertly blends various genres within one book to create a masterpiece.
Today, Eakin resides in Arkansas where he draws inspiration for his work by writing on his cliff overlooking a river. He also enjoys great friends and wine. He still continues to travel to visit his children, who reside in cities spanning the country, and he counts being a Dad as the most important thing in his life.
Behind every successful person is a thriving support team. Who are your biggest supporters?
My daughter Hannah is an actress and award-winning filmmaker, my son Dylan is a successful creative visual artist, who has innovated some unique photorealist techniques of drawing, and my oldest son Benjamin works in a residence center as an activities co-director where his own creative music compositions and love of heart touch and help the lives of a lot of people. (Come and see them on YouTube or Patreon or TikTok!) The operative word for all of them is “creative” and I find in each a part of myself. They are my biggest supporters and I theirs. But more than that, not knowing who came first the chicken or the egg, I find they are the people who make me up.
As an author, you probably have a keen eye for a great book. In your opinion, what is the greatest underappreciated book you ever read and why?
I recently ran across an antique collection of the complete works of Victor Hugo: including Toilers of the Sea, The Man Who Laughs and 93. I already knew the incredible power of Les Misérables and the Hunchback. But all of these more or less obscure texts bring tears to my eyes each time I read them. That and a dose of Melville’s Moby Dick can cure illiteracy—they need to come back to us. They remind me that the greatest writing, the greatest minds we meet in literature, make us wake up and grow in our sense of real wonder. Nothing else matters as much, I think.
Which story in your book, Welcome to Redgunk: Tales from One Weird Mississippi Town, did you have the most fun writing?
I love “The Secret of the Mummy’s Brain.” It set the standard of all my other Redgunk stories, starting with a trope from horror or science fiction or fantasy and turning it on its head. This one exemplifies stories that play with what it is to be a story narrator—in this case a mummy who is actually a manikin from Macy’s New York, wrapped up in knee bandages and living on a shelf at Uncle Joe’s Corner Liquor Store and Gas, who falls in love with the young woman who works behind the counter. Another story that plays with the narrator is “A Theology of Lichen”. It is in fact the lichen on a cemetery stone in Redgunk Cemetery that tells the story. Against the stone, a woman was attacked. Against this same stone Orpheus Ledbetter, the lead singer of the Beergoozers (a very famous rock group from down Redgunk way), got wasted and threw up all the psychochemicals he’d been doing at their midnight cemetery party. And as we all know, lichen is a fusion of living environment with minerals and is highly sensitive to changes in the air and water and stone. This tombstone with its conscious lichen was brought by Maura and Dub from some ancient Gaelic home to settle in the kudzu-covered land of Blake County. It is the history, and as a fusion of mineral, plant and human consciousness, points to what I think is most precious in us all. If something in the writing makes us turn from silliness to something that makes our heart grow, the story does its job. One editor once wrote of Redgunk tales that “the rhythms, the heat, the mud, the cicadas and the kudzu” can touch your heart and maybe tamper with your DNA. More to the point, I think, one critic once wrote to me that he felt Redgunk changed not only his mind but also his soul.
If your favorite story in your book were to be made into a movie, what actor would star in it? Where in the world would the filming take place?
Actually, indeed, a playwright is currently composing a Broadway-aimed musical adaption of some of the stories. Actors? I guess a fusion (confusion) of Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant (or Hugh Jackman if someone wants to ask him) for the few good-looking parts. Like the alien that comes to earth perfectly made for a doctor in town, only to be thrown away. Some really coarse and very aged John Candy type might work for old Uncle Joe. A few big and burly guys for Burly Bob’s Bar and Biker Grill and for Lawnmower Moe who spends his time drinking and cutting back the wild wooliness of his yard. I’d vote for my own daughter as well. Of course.
There are countless places to film all this, driving through Mississippi and Alabama and points south. There you find old cement gas stations suffocating with kudzu and swamps and cemeteries surrounded by moon silhouettes of what once were trees. There you find the skeletons of such a place among the still green.
What do you enjoy most when you’re not busy writing?
I live in a place with a broad wrap-around porch above a spectacular view of river, woods, mountains, earth. Sit with me there (with a glass of wine) or on the ocean, and I will be satisfied. I think y’all will be, too. Though if in motion, as I have said elsewhere, I walk, drive, travel everywhere I can, hike, read, love. Come do that, too. Welcome to Redgunk writ large.