Author Holly Goddard Jones Makes an Impression with 'Girl Trouble'
Posted on Sunday, April 10, 2011 [9:22 PM]
Holly Goddard Jones' Girl Trouble was
published in 2009.
COLUMBIA, Ky. -- One of the South's exciting
new authors will give a reading and speak on April 12 at Lindsey
Holly Goddard Jones will read from her recently published
collection of short stories, Girl Trouble, at 7 p.m. CT on
Tuesday April 12, in the W.W. Slider Humanities Center Recital
Hall. The reading -- which is part of the 2010-11 Lindsey Wilson
Cultural Affairs Series -- is free and open to the public.
A native of Russellville, Ky., Jones' Girl Trouble was
published in September 2099 by Harper Perennial. Most of the eight stories in
Girl Trouble are set in the fictional Western Kentucky
town of Roma, which has led some critics to compare Jones to
Kentucky author Bobbie Ann Mason.
"I'll take a comparison to her any day," Jones said in a phone interview from her
office at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she
teaches in the school's master of fine arts in creative writing.
"It's not something I worry about at all. If I'm going to be
compared to a writer, to be compared to someone who inspired me
from an early age and inspired me so much, is pretty nice."
Jones and Mason are similar in that their stories are often set
in their native Western Kentucky, and they both write about mainly
working-class people coping with everyday problems. But their
styles are quite different, both in the pacing of their stories and
the language they employ.
Jones and Mason also share a similar academic background -- both
wrote for their college papers. As an English major, Mason wrote
for the University of Kentucky's Kernel; Jones wrote for Western
Kentucky University's College Heights Herald before transferring to
UK to major in English.
Although she only studied journalism for a
year, Jones' stories often display a journalist's eye for detail.
Her short stories contain details and fragments of characters'
lives that are woven into a rich expository style.
Jones often tells her stories in third person -- six of them in
Girl Trouble are told from a third-person point of view --
which allows readers to achieve a great deal of intimacy with the
"I actually think that third person can be more intimate than
first (person) because I feel like with first person you're always
questioning the character, you're always feeling as though maybe
the character isn't always being wholly truthful with you," Jones
said. "Whereas with third person you can get in their heart, write
about them with the same level of intimacy that you can with first,
but you can do it in a way that makes it seem as though you are
spying on the character. They're not confessing to you -- you're
just sort of reading what's in their head and heart without their
permission, which seems like a different kind of truth."
Many of Jones' stories are informed by events,
people and places in and around her native Russellville.
"I definitely use material -- things I've heard, things I've
heard about happening," she said. "But generally when I incorporate
things that are real I don't even realize it. … It's happening on a
pretty subconscious level. And so this embarrassing thing happens
when the story is coming to fruition and I realize, 'OK, there's
this thing in it that so-and-so might read and take literally.'
"In general people have been pretty kind about it, and I think
they realize too that when I take stuff like that it's generally in
a context that is so distinct from reality that you might recognize
the detail, but it's coming out of a familiar context so it's
rendered alien in that way."
Two stories in Girl Trouble were
inspired by a real event many readers will recognize -- the murder
of college student Melissa "Katie" Autry.
In May 2003, the 18-year-old Autry was found raped, stabbed and
set on fire in her Western Kentucky University residence hall room.
She died four days later.
Stephen Soules and Lucas Goodrum were charged in connection with
Autry's death. Soules eventually pleaded guilty to murder and six
other charges, which allowed him to avoid a death penalty. Goodrum
was acquitted by a jury on all charges.
The sensational nature of the case and its strange circumstances
led to a great deal of national media coverage, including a
nonfiction book that sought to explain the murder.
In Girl Trouble, Jones tells the story of a
fictionalized murder case in the short stories "Parts" and "Proof
of God." "Parts" is told from the point of view of the mother of
Felicia, the murdered college girl who resembles Autry; "Proof of
God" is told from the point of view of a man named Simon, who
appears to parallel Goodrum.
"I definitely followed the case. … I was pretty haunted by it,
couldn't get it out of my head," Jones said. "I was inspired by the
idea of it."
Unlike the Autry case, there is less class disparity between the
murdered college student and one of the alleged perpetrators in
"What's interesting about the Katie Autry case is that there's
definitely class issues there … so my decision to make the young
woman who dies upper-middle class was purposeful because I didn't
want it to be just a kind of class story where this kid from
privilege hurts this poor young woman and have that be too
distinctly the point of things" Jones said.
Although "Parts" and "Proof of God" are both stories about a
fictional murder case, they will deepen the reader's understanding
of the seemingly senselessness Autry murder case.
"I don't know what the truth is, and that's not the point of the
stories -- they are just getting at a different truth," Jones said.
"It was incredibly complex, and I don't think a fiction could get
at all the layers of complexity."
Up next for Jones is her first novel. Also set
in Roma, she hopes to have the three-year project finished by the
end of summer and then hopefully picked up by a publisher.
"I'm really just figuring out how to write a novel as I go," she
said. "One of the things ironically I've learned is that although I
have these long short stories that cover long periods of time … the
novel I'm working on is only covering about a month of time."
Her novel is going to be at least the temporary farewell to
Roma. At least for now.
"I feel like the short story collection and the novel I'm
working on very much go together," she said. "And I think I'm
moving beyond that place as a writer. … There might be a point
where I realize that I have more stories to tell there. But I do
feel that for now the characters I'm writing about are kind of on
the move, so next phase of whatever my life is as a writer the
characters are not going to be rooted in that central
Click here to read a Q&A interview with
here to read Jones' blog.