It’s late night on Wednesday, and Robert Gipe is hanging out in New Orleans.
He’s partying with some friends — including Travis Milton, the acclaimed chef from Castlewood, Virginia.
Yet Gipe also makes time on the telephone to chat about “Weedeater,” the illustrated novel that he recently released through Ohio University Press.
“Weedeater” follows the character of Dawn Jewell, who is searching for seemingly all things lost — family members, her youth, her community and her heart.
“It’s a follow-up to my first novel, ‘Trampoline,’” said Gipe, 55. “It’s set in the coalfields — the Kentucky coalfields — and it’s a sequel to my first one.”
And — oh, yes — it is illustrated.
“It’s like a lazyman’s graphic novel,” Gipe quipped.
Gipe spoke about that book in Abingdon, Virginia, this weekend during a "Sunday with Friends" event at the Washington County Public Library.
“Weedeater” features about 200 line drawings, all done by the author.
“The title character is a guy who mows lawns for a living,” Gipe said.
And the various themes ask such questions as, “Once people get in trouble, can they get out of trouble?”
Gipe says the newest book grew out of his experiences of working at a community college near his home in Harlan, Kentucky. There, this Kingsport native served in a community engagement position.
Now semiretired, Gipe still works with the college on some community development projects — that is, whenever he’s not writing.
“The world of my novel ‘Weedeater’ is as steep as the hillside out the window,” Gipe said. “I tried to make that world as vivid as the world I live in.”
“Weedeater” possesses a slight retro vibe; it’s set in 2004.
And, you might say, it has a tough act to follow, considering “Trampoline” won the Weatherford Prize in 2015 for the best Appalachian novel of the year.