Author Scott Blackwood on Appreciating The Beauty Between Life and Death
Questions that lead to no answers. Wounds that never quite heal. The unhinged time of tragedy and grief. The soft, relentless whispering of the abused, the murdered, the lost. This is the world of Scott Blackwood.
Scott Blackwood is one of the most lyrical of modern American writers. His prose rings with poetry. His work explores community, grief, and the secrets that run through our lives.
In this edition of The Write Up, Blackwood talks about his new novel See How Small and explains why he is drawn to this story and the harrowing task of researching it. With a careful balance of compassion and curiosity, Blackwood reached out to many of the people connected to the actual murders including family members and first responders. Blackwood’s goal in this novel, and in all his work, is to recover lost voices.
See How Small is based in part on the yogurt shop murders that shook the Austin community in 1991 and remain unsolved to this day. The novel begins with the murders of three teenage girls in an Austin ice cream shop and continues over the years that follow. Blackwood’s novel doesn’t aim to explain the tragedy or propose an answer to the many open questions, instead he explores the lives of those left in the wake of the murders – parents, reporters, suspects, and Austin residents. The novel also gives a voice to the victims, allowing the three girls to comment on the ongoing struggles of the other characters.
This same vision inspired him to take his brother Dean Blackwood's, founder of Relevant Records, suggestion to write the liner notes for a collection of an obscure record company from the early days of audio recording. His work on The Rise and Fall of Paramount Record Volumes I & II earned him a 2015 Grammy Award Nomination. Here too, in the stories of marginalized musicians, Blackwood thrives by championing voices that have long gone unheard.
Blackwood is soft-spoken with bright eyes and a dry, ever-ready wit. Speaking with him, you are aware that his thoughts run deep and that he has done not only the craft work necessary to be an excellent novelist, but also the emotional work. He descends to the darker feelings and frightening places, and returns to the surface with stories and beauty.
Blackwood is also the author of the Austin-based novel We Agreed to Meet Just Here, which won the Whiting Writer’s Award in 2011 and the AWP Novel Prize. He’s also the author of the short story collection In the Shadow of our House. Blackwood now lives in Chicago and teaches writing at the MFA program at Southern Illinois University.