Novelist, essayist, and playwright Elizabeth Dewberry writes unflinchingly about the traumas of abuse, betrayal, and manipulation inside marriages and families—but her stories never devolve into self-pity or preachy, moralizing pabulum. Her protagonists struggle mightily to escape from bad situations, not merely on the strength of an abstract notion that our purpose in life is to avoid pain; they're being drawn toward something as much as they're running away. Her debut novel Many Things Have Happened Since He Died explores what would have happened “If Holly Golightly had stayed in the South” (wrote Publisher's Weekly ). Ann Patchett calls her follow-up, Sacrament of Lies, a “riveting...a literary thriller that will keep us up all night.” Christian Century calls her work “Horrifying, funny and wise.” Her current projects include a novel about a woman's fascination and sympathy with the death of Princess Diana, and another about a woman who becomes obsessed with Stephen Hawking after giving him a lap dance. Given Dewberry's track record, we can expect both these books to push past the surface of the merely wacky and into the psychic and metaphysical territory beyond.
Since 2001, I've been working on my next novel, His Lovely Wife, about a woman on vacation in Paris with her physicist husband on the weekend that Princess Diana died. She has been living something of a parallel life to Diana, though on a much smaller scale—marrying an older, emotionally unavailable man while she was very young, raising a child, trying to find meaningful work though she has no real marketable skills, dealing with body-image issues and looking for some spiritual direction—and Diana's death, to her surprise, affects her deeply, partly because she hasn't really noticed how much she had in common with Diana. As she tries to deal with her looming identity crisis, she begins hearing Diana's voice and pursuing an attraction to a member of the paparazzi who was in the tunnel right after the crash, and she uses what she knows about God and physics and the interconnectedness of the cosmos in her attempt to find peace for Diana and herself. I'm just finishing up the final edits on it, feeling a little reluctant to let it go.
My third novel, Sacrament of Lies, the story of a woman who is trying to figure out whether her manic-depressive mother killed herself or if her father, the governor of Louisiana, murdered her to increase his chances of getting a bid for the White House, comes out in French translation this year, so I'm trying to learn French. I'll be going to total-immersion language school in Paris for three weeks before it comes out, and hoping I can help that book find a readership over there.
I've also begun preliminary research on my next novel, Stalking Stephen Hawking, the story of a former Bourbon Street stripper who becomes obsessed with the author of A Brief History of Time after giving him a lap dance. She grew up in Baton Rouge, and her parents were deeply involved with Jimmy Swaggart's ministry, and when that scandal broke, her parents' faith was destroyed because they believed more in Swaggart than God. It was the beginning of the end of their marriage, and she turned to stripping in New Orleans when she'd just started college and her father killed her mother in a jealous rage, thinking she'd cheated on him. When she reads in Vanity Fair that Stephen Hawking's daughter and ex-wife believe he's being abused by his current wife, she goes to Cambridge to try to rescue him, and I'm hoping that in the process, she'll find her own salvation. A big part of her attraction to Hawking is based on the last line in A Brief History of Time , something to the effect that when we know all that we're on the verge of knowing, we will know the mind of God. She wants to know the mind that can know the mind of God. It's really a spiritual quest that has a lot to do with healing her childhood wounds.
Elizabeth Dewberry, 42, was born and raised in Birmingham, AL. She received her BS in English from Vanderbilt and her PhD in American literature from Emory, where she wrote her dissertation on Hemingway. She is the author of four novels, Many Things Have Happened since He Died, Break the Heart of Me, Sacrament of Lies, and His Lovely Wife, which is forthcoming from Harcourt in 2006. Her first full-length play Flesh and Blood premiered at the Humana Festival of New American Plays, and her second, Four Joans and a Fire-Eater, premiered at Swine Palace Theatre. Both went on to have other regional productions. Her one-acts have been produced in New York, Los Angeles, and places in between. Her work has appeared in Zoetrope: Allstory, Southern Living, Modern Fiction Studies, The Cambridge Hemingway Companion, and of course Image, among other places. She lives outside Tallahasse, Florida, with her husband, author Robert Olen Butler, their three bichons, Sophie, Sadie, and Susie Q, and their two cats, Maggie and Eddie.