Writing professors, George Williams and Jonathan Rabb, stepped onto the SCAD Museum of Art theater stage, both ready and eager to discuss their latest novels, “Zoë,” and “Among the Living,” respectively. On Wednesday, Jan. 25, at 5 p.m., the two were introduced by writing professor, Lee Griffith, while students and professors filled the auditorium’s seats.
Williams–blue eyes peeking out from behind wire-framed glasses–read his first chapter and a piece from his second, revealing the plot; Zoë, a 15-year-old girl, plays hooky from high school and hops in a truck with an elderly man, venturing on a road trip across the country. Her teenage angst is justified by her mother’s recent death, step-father’s abusive nature and her own heartbreak.
She says in his novel, “So I fell in love twice with the same jerk and got f**ked three times. But made love only once.” While the language falls under the NSFW category, the book seems to offer an adventurous spirit and a hint of humorous cynicism.
Before reading an excerpt of “Among the Living,” Rabb spoke on a reoccurring theme within his books. His previous novels, all set in Europe, revolved around forms of uncertainty; he argued the same can be said for his latest, set in Savannah, Ga. As a historical fiction writer, Rabb said he’s “always been drawn to the past,” and as a Jewish man, he found himself connecting to his main character, Yitzhak Goldah, through his faith.
“Among the Living” begins with Goldah arriving to Savannah, via train. While the character was inspired by Rabb’s cousin, he found a parallel between the fictional character and himself; while Goldah was discovering what it was like to live in Savannah, so was Rabb.
Both authors mention it took years to complete their novels, Rabb even stating his hardest day was when he thought he couldn’t finish the book. He stopped working on “Among the Living” for a year, but thanks teaching for the motivation to return to it. “Everyday I’m going to students, going ‘you’ve got to do this,’ and I think somehow that came back to me and I said, ‘c’mon, you can’t keep on telling them to do this. You’ve got to do it, too,’” Rabb said.
And when inspiration came, it raged. Williams said he had a road trip novel in mind that was provoked when he traveled to the south of France, a prominent location in his text, and Rabb attributes his genius to his personal, family background.
When asked if he is working on anything currently, Williams said, “always.” He has finished another text, in which he describes his main character as a “wicked son of a b*tch” who causes chaos everywhere he goes, set to publish next year. Rabb returns to the backdrop of Europe with his next project, working on something set in early 17–century Venice.
The night concluded with a Q&A and book signing. The authors sat behind a red-clothed table to chat with attendees and give out their John Hancock’s. Both Rabb and Williams’ advice to young writers is persistence and in Williams’ words, those who get published are those who don’t give up. “Every day, every day, write. You have to,” Rabb said. “Staring at the wall is writing, staring at Facebook is not.”
Both of their novels are available for purchase on amazon.