“Outstanding…Pisarcik is a writer to watch.”
—Publishers Weekly starred review
What is your book about?
Before Familiar Woods is set in a small Vermont town that’s plagued by the heroin epidemic. At the heart of the novel is a reclusive middle-aged woman, Ruth Fenn, whose teenage son was involved in a bizarre murder case that still haunts the town, and an Iraq war veteran, Milk Raymond, who’s trying to figure out how to be a father to his son, Daniel, who has been traumatized by his mother’s addiction. When Ruth’s husband goes missing, these seemingly disconnected stories collide.
Can you tell us about your path to publication?
I began writing in earnest 11 years ago. Toward the beginning, I wrote lots of terrible short stories and a couple of terrible novels. But I was deeply committed to the craft and I wanted more than anything to get better. So I continued to write before and after my day job, and I studied the writers I admire—people like Kent Haruf, Annie Proulx, and Daniel Woodrell. Eventually, I started to publish some short stories and these small victories motivated me to finish the manuscript of Before Familiar Woods.
When the manuscript was finished, I sent it off to agents and was fortunate enough to get two offers of representation. I picked Alec Shane of Writer’s House and he found a home for Before Familiar Woods with Crooked Lane Books.
Where were you when you heard your book tour and/or launch party was cancelled and what did you do?
I cried. No, I’m just kidding. I was extremely disappointed but I have a wife, six-month-old daughter, and parents in their seventies, so mostly I was concerned about the well-being of the people around me. Launch parties and book tours are fun and important, but during times like this, I’m reminded of what’s really important. I’ll always write, whether I have an audience or not, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that there will be reason for another launch party and tour in the future.
Are you and your publisher doing anything special/ different instead of a book tour to promote your novel?
I’m appearing on some podcasts (shout out to Writer’s Bone and Inkheist), but mostly we’re just trying to spread the word via social media. I’m worried about book sales of course, but I’m hopeful that online stores will thrive. I mean, what’s more valuable during a quarantine than a good book (other than maybe toilet paper)?
On a lighter note, do you have any quirky writing rituals?
I use the same fountain pen when I’m working on a novel and I stubbornly refuse to use any other pen. We form a special bond, the pen and I, and I’m one step away from whispering sweet nothings into its nib.
I also drink coffee out of a stirring straw, which my wife tells me is odd.
What was the toughest cut you had to make from your book, your favorite Dead Darling?
Oh boy, there are many. Before Familiar Woods alternates chapters between two different points of view, but at one point there were three points of view. My editor recommended that I cut Jessica Raymond’s point-of-view chapters and, though I cursed the ceiling and mourned the loss, it was absolutely the right decision.
Where can we buy your book”
You can pick up Before Familiar Woods wherever books are sold. I always recommend that people buy from their local indies if they can. Doing so is particularly important now when independent bookstores are feeling the coronavirus pinch.