Meet Dikkon Eberhart. The novelist and memoirist recently moved from Maine to Roanoke to be near his grandchildren. He quickly settled into a writing community. We learned a little more about him. Check out the interview below, and even better: meet him Saturday at READ LOCAL and pick up a signed copy of The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I Heard the Greatest Story Ever Told.
BOOK CITY ★ Roanoke: That’s an intriguing title for your memoir. What’s the background?
Dikkon Eberhart: My father was US Poet Laureate. He won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He knew most other prominent writers of the middle 70 years of the 20th century, which means I grew up with them, too. I share stories of these men and women, many of whom were literary icons but, to me, were family friends whom I knew around our dinner table. Some I took sailing. Some helped me with English homework.
In the book, the literary stories are interwoven with the overall story of my religious search, which culminated in my wife’s and my conversion in our late 50s from Judaism to Christianity, along with two of our four children. It’s a lighthearted account of many years in search of literary and religious wisdom, which led us in our late 60s to Roanoke from our decades of life on the coast of Maine.
BCR: You’ve been in Roanoke about a year now. Is this new home inspiring your writing?
DE: I am inspired in Roanoke, first, by the proximity of our four grandchildren, ages 6, 5, almost 2, and one born April 10. This level of our family used to be 812 miles distant; now we interact with them almost daily.
Second, I am inspired by the existence of scores of churches of all types in Roanoke, very different from the coast of Maine. Also different–the Roanoke community accepts casual Christian talk in almost any circumstance–in a grocery line, for example, or when talking with an audiologist about buying a new hearing aid.
Third,our family has been generously included into the community of St. John Lutheran. We are very grateful, for we had been an integral part of a smaller religious community in Maine, and we hoped this condition would only improve in the Blue Ridge region. It has!
Fourth, I mentioned the Blue Ridge. In Maine we lived on the ocean, which was glorious. Here, everywhere we look, there are the beautiful hills, succeeding one another into the distance in every direction. And there’s a Parkway through it all, along which it is bliss to drive.
I’m a novelist, too, and the natural environment is a powerful element in my novels as it impacts my characters and the plot that keeps them moving. What a world we have come into for a writer such as me!
BCR: What else fuels your creativity?
DE: Retired, I love to assist other writers or to-be writers as they make their ways through non-fiction writing particularly, and most especially through memoir as a genre of non-fiction. As a member of Roanoke Valley Christian Writers, I have a platform from which I can meet some of them and provide encouragement and also specific suggestions.
But outside of writing: walking in the woods. Exploring southern Appalachian history, by reading about it and by going there to see what’s there now. Being an engaged grandfather, so that my wife and I, as grandparents, can assist to raise four young sprouts so that they will have the character to grow into strong and reliable trees, who are themselves a credit to the forest.
BCR: What challenge are you currently addressing in your writing?
DE: I’m writing a new memoir. Readers of Mom/Hitler have asked for more detail and also more theological reflection about the conversion itself. More specifics about the several conversations I have had with God; more about the miracles. A challenge, as any writer will know, it to accomplish this task in a readable, literate way that is glorifying of God and is not self-aggrandizement.
Furthermore, another challenge is to become consistent at the business of building a readership, which is an entirely different business than the act of writing. I’m new in Virginia. There are a lot of readers in Virginia. I know relatively few. I have a book table at the Salem Museum’s READ LOCAL. If you are a reader, come on by! I’d love to meet you!
BCR: How is a favorite fictional character a model for how we might live today?
DE: I am drawn to the character of Sam Gamgee, the servant/follower of Frodo Baggins in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
Sam is an ordinary hobbit. He is admirable for his loyalty, his persistence, his love of his country and his fellow hobbits. Because of his loyalty, and because of his excitement about stories of derring-do, he finds himself part of an adventure of much greater scope than he ever expected.
Gradually, because of the burden carried by Sam’s leader, Frodo, Frodo takes on a different consciousness than that of an ordinary hobbit. Frodo becomes more elf-like. As this happens, Sam’s consciousness emerges as the story’s narrative consciousness. We readers see the world more through Sam than, as we had before, through Frodo.
After the climax, when Frodo disappears in his elf-like way, Sam is left at home, content, but weathered by his close experience with greatness of character, of soul, and of adventure. Sam has participated in the formation of truth, for the new world. He has seen miracles. He has learned what happens in the end. Yet after all this, he is humble, domestic.
I believe that, all of us, when called to a noble adventure, we should go- carrying with us the decency of the ordinary hobbit. We should live completely within the climax of our story. And, when we know what happens at the end in our story, we should accept our place, now, as story-tellers of what glory happened before, and we should be domestic and humble and place our grandchildren on our knee and make sure they remember our story, too.
Meet Dikkon Eberhart on Saturday, May 20, from 10 AM to 3 PM at READ LOCAL: A Celebration of Local Authors at the Salem Museum.★