The Gone Dead by Chanelle Benz follows Billie James and her return to her childhood home in the Mississippi Delta. She’s coming back to claim her inheritance, which includes the shack her father–a celebrated black poet–used to live in. Her father died when Billie was only four years old, and when she speaks to locals, Billie finds out that she went missing the night of his death. As she learns more and more, Billie begins to doubt that the official story of how her father died is the truth.
This debut novel about race, justice, and memory is both gritty and openhearted. NPR calls Chanelle Benz “an author who writes with real grace and a wisdom beyond her years.” Chanelle answered our questions about her inspiration, The Gone Dead audiobook–narrated by Bahni Turpin–and her love of independent bookstores!
Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.
While I was living in Mississippi, I started exploring the Mississippi Delta and became fascinated by its history, what was visible and what was not. In particular, I was haunted by the civil rights era cold cases, not just as examples of gross injustice, but I found myself wondering what it meant now to those families of both the victims and the perpetrators.
In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise Libro.fm listeners about your audiobook?
There’s a lot of medieval references.
Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?
I’ve listened to the beginning. Bahni is spellbinding, of course, and she is so good at conjuring images.
What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?
For me, they are these sustaining little havens where I go to feel inspired. Professionally, they’ve been so supportive and really made my debuts feel special. I’ve really had wonderful relationships with Brazos Bookstore, Square Books, and I practically live at Novel bookstore here in Memphis.