Watson takes novel approach
HIS INSPIRATION – The main character of Birdie Wells in Brad Watson's book was loosely based on his grandmother, Maggie Mae Watson, along with other family stories. She was known to her grandchildren as "Mimi." This photo of Maggie Watson was taken in the 1920s. Submitted photo
By Elizabeth Hall / special to The Star
Sept. 1, 2002
Meridian native Brad Watson has already received fervent critical praise for his first novel, "The Heaven of Mercury."
The novel, released Aug. 12, is a follow-up to his 1996 collection of short stories, "Last Days of the Dog-Men" which received the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Watson has taught creative writing at the University of Alabama and Harvard, and received rave reviews from critics, who compared his work to the likes of William Faulkner and Eudora Welty.
However, he didn't always want to become a writer. His first passion, in fact, was acting.
Pursuing his dream
Watson moved to Hollywood just after graduating from high school. But work was difficult to find, so after one year he was back in his hometown for a fresh start.
After spending two years at MJC, Watson transferred to Mississippi State University, where he received a bachelor's degree in English. It was then that he began to write stories.
While in graduate school at the University of Alabama, his first published short story, "Are You Mister Lonolee?," appeared in a national anthology of student writing.
Getting stories published
But Watson is quick to add that getting published was not always easy.
Watson said his work has evolved over the years.
Watson stopped writing in the mid 1980s to pursue jobs in newspaper reporting and ad-writing on the Gulf Coast.
Returning to writing
By 1990, Watson was anxious to write again.
Watson's newest work, "The Heaven of Mercury," is showing promise equal to "Last Days of the Dog Men."
Watson's book is set in the small fictional town of Mercury, which is based on Meridian, but "with many liberties taken."
Meridianites will recognize the names of several local landmarks, including Loeb's, Rose Hill Cemetery and Marks-Rothenberg. Mercury's 15-story Dreyfus Building was modeled after Meridian's Threefoot Building.
Filled with morbid humor and eccentric characters, the novel has the same kind of Southern Gothic tinge that made Eudora Welty great.
Though Watson is flattered by comparisons to famous Southern writers, he remains modest.