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Artists flock to Bald Head Island, seeking inspiration in the natural beauty and the peace of the place. Painters, photographers, sculptors, and more come to the island for the No Boundaries Art Colony (held at Captain Charlie’s in November), but even more artists live on and visit the island throughout the year. We decided to speak to a few of these artists to learn how they see Bald Head Island.
For this inaugural post, we spoke with Taylor Brown, a
novelist and short story writer from Wilmington, N.C. You can learn more about
Taylor and his fiction at http://www.taylorbrownfiction.com,
but to find out what he thought about Bald Head Island, read on.
You just had your first visit to Bald Head Island; how'd you like it?
It was pretty darn amazing. I grew up on an island—St. Simons Island, Georgia, located an hour south of Charleston—but Bald Head Island is so very different. It isn't just the lack of cars. There's something in the air out there. It has a quiet majesty.
What brought you over?
I'm lucky enough to have a friend whose aunt is a full-time resident, and we went over for the weekend.
You’re a writer with a short story collection (In the Season of Blood and Gold) out now, and a debut novel, Fallen Land, due out in January 2016. When you looked at Bald Head Island through your writer’s eye, what did you see?
Well, the first thing I noticed was the wind. It's an ever-present voice out there, skirling over the dunes, rustling through the trees, playing against the walls of the house—a comforting sound. Usually that's drowned out by cars. And there's a real mystery to the place too. There are all these houses lining the dunes and tucked up in the trees—each with their own memories. The island is so small that when you find a local, you can hear all kinds of tales, some more wild than you might expect for so seemingly quiet a place.
Your novel, Fallen
Land, is set against this rich, history-laced backdrop, and that's a sort of signature in your work. What sort of historic elements or stories did you find interesting on Bald Head Island? Did anything make its way into your writer's notebook of ideas?
Well, I was lucky enough to climb up Old Baldy, my boots clopping up the wooden stairs, and the view from up there—the ability to see the whole island in one slow spin—had me thinking of how so much history is concentrated into such a small space. Islands have always fascinated me in that way. We live in a big country, and our history is relatively well spread out—at least compared to Europe, I think. But islands concentrate history, compress it. After all, space is limited.
I was interested in the Civil War history of the island as well. I've used the gun batteries at Fort Fisher in my work before—in Fallen
Land, actually—and Bald Head definitely has me thinking of returning to the blockade-running days of the Cape Fear region.
At the same time, I'm really excited to check out Pirate's Weekend. Who doesn't want to see a bunch of retired guys dressed up as marauders, invading the harbor? There are certainly some good stories
bound up in all that!
Every artist has a different process. What's your writing process? Do you follow a regular schedule? How did Bald Head Island play into that schedule?
I keep a pretty darn strict schedule, actually. I typically write twice per day, before and after my day job, at the same tables at the same locations. But that doesn't mean I don't like to get out and write away from home. On a porch on BHI...what better place? There's a privacy you feel out there that's pretty rare.
After just one visit, do you have a favorite place? Care
to reveal what it is?
I do, actually. It's the dock at the village creek access. We went down there to go crabbing. Though we were largely unsuccessful in that endeavor, we had fun.
It goes without saying that you'll be coming back. What's one thing you're looking forward to doing on that next trip?
Federal Road at night. It's so dark under the trees—truly a spooky ride. I can't wait to do it again.
Any advice to pass along to first-time visitors?
Check out the Common at Cape Fear Station, down by the Shoals Club. It's a beautiful little maritime park, perfect for a picnic.
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