The Hammerhead Chronicles by Scott Gould
IPPY award-winning author and former Writer of the Week Scott Gould is about to release his latest novel, The Hammerhead Chronicles from resounidng praise of reviewers. "This ensemble of quirky, narrative voices dovetail for a fast-moving, comic story of longing and redemption, while flipping a number of Southern clichés on their ears," and I am sure our followers will agree. We welcome him to our blog and hope you enjoy his Author Q&A.
Tell us about your latest book, The Hammerhead Chronicles.
The Hammerhead Chronicles had its beginnings with a couple of selfish desires. (Maybe all
novels begin that way, right?) So, selfishly, I wanted to write a book that featured cycling,
because in a not-so-distant past, I was an avid cyclist. (A couple of ankle fusions have pressed
pause on my cycling, but that’s another story for another time.) Selfish desire #2: I wanted to
write a story narrated by alternating voices.
If you were to sit me down on the therapist’s couch, you’d probably discover that I have a deep fold in my brain for novels with alternating points of view. Probably started when I read As I Lay Dying in Dr. Dennis Dooley’s Faulkner seminar at Wofford College and hasn’t let up since. I wanted to see—again, selfishly—if I could tell a story that wove a complicated narrative through several points of view. THC has seven different voices telling the story—eight, depending on how you count the racist twins, Wallace and Wade.
Claude, the cyclist, is one of the narrators. His daughter tells some of the story. His best friend,
Samuel, relates part of it. Claude’s recently deceased, almost-ex-wife is another. Maybe having a
dead narrator is an oddly selfish desire, too. Anyway, THC didn’t begin with some Muse-
induced lightning strike of inspiration. I was just being selfish.
When I finally gathered all these narrators together in one place, I decided to write a novel that
took a somewhat satirical look at the South, a story that covers a lot of thematic territory. So
THC examines grief and racism and homophobia and revenge and love and loss…and how these
somewhat weighty issues affect the world of the character-narrators. And I was determined to
keep it funny, too. So when folks read it, I want them to laugh. I want them to take a new look at
this weird, wonderful place called the South. And I want to flip a few Southern clichés on their
ears. (And funny. Did I mention funny?)
The other day, a lady asked me about this new novel, and suddenly I found myself talking about
connections between people you wouldn’t think occupy common ground. Of course, all of these
characters are connected by their setting, by the world I built in the novel. But they are connected
by so much more. Their needs and desires, their histories, their hope and fears, their
discoveries—all of these bind them together. The things they have in common are so much more
valuable and so much stronger and so much more lasting than their differences. I hope the idea of
human connections bubbles to the surface in this novel. While you’re laughing.
How did you come up with the title for this book?
I have to confess, I’m not good at conjuring up titles. Let me rephrase: I’m not real good at
conjuring up good titles. I’ll think I’ve got a perfectly wonderful title, and I’ll let the book wear it
around for a while, then I’ll realize it ain’t so hot.
I titled my previous books (Strangers to
Temptation, Whereabouts, Things That Crash, Things That Fly) very late in the revision process.
This novel was different. The Hammerhead Chronicles has been the title since draft #1, probably
because I knew this was going to be a novel that contained cycling. In the cycling world, a
‘hammerhead’ is a term for the type of cyclist that defines insufferable.
They always pedal as fast as they can, trying to torch the other riders. They never like someone’s wheel ahead of theirs.
They look down their noses at beginning cyclists and automobiles and pedestrians.
Hammerheads sincerely believe they own the road, so stop signs and lane lines and basic
politeness don’t apply to them. Claude isn’t a hammerhead, but he encounters quite a few on the
road. And his desire to do some of the things that hammerheads get away with leads him into
Okay, that’s the grad-school, cocktail party explanation of the title. But here’s another
confession: I thought it sounded cool. Probably not the worst reason to put a title on your book.
This book has a variety of supporting characters from all walks of life. How do they each
have an impact on Claude?
Well, this circles back to that idea of ties that bind us, the idea of human connection. I mean, if
you want to put a visual metaphor on it (one that dovetails nicely with the cycling motif),
imagine a bicycle wheel. Claude is the center hub, and all the other characters tend to “spoke”
off of him. When he spins, they all spin.
Likewise, if one of the spokes gets out of true, Claude’s
world starts to wobble a bit. At times, it’s crystal clear how Claude is connected to another
character in his world, and vice versa. At other times, the connection isn’t apparent until the
story finally unfolds. Mapping the connections between Claude and the other characters and
trying to draw tight those threads by the end of the book was—and I know it’s not cool to say
this about writing, but I can’t lie—fun.
What do you feel is your MC’s main strength and weakness?
I thought a long time about this answer. Here’s what I think: Claude’s main strength and
weakness are the same thing. Let me explain. I believe his weakness is the fact that he is always
just sort of there in his world. He doesn’t shake things up. He doesn’t move the needle much.
He wasn’t a good husband. (Wasn’t bad, just wasn’t good.) He hasn’t been much of a father to his
daughter, Marlene. He’s a decent enough friend to Samuel, but nothing outstanding. At one
point, Cheryl, his sister-in-law, says to him, “Why were you around for so long? You wasted
everyone’s time.” Like I said, Claude is always just sort of there.
But in a weird way, his always being there is his strength, as well. He was there for his wife
during her illness, despite the fact most people thought he’d abandoned her. He’s there for
LeJeune, the bartender, when she needs an ear. He’s loyal friend to Samuel. Claude is nothing if
not steady. You can depend on him to show up for you. Now, admittedly, once he arrives, he
may not do a whole lot, but dammit, he’ll show up. Maybe the best way to describe Claude is
that he’ll keep pedaling, not matter what.
Of course, this strange weakness-as-strength equation changes after Claude duels
(unsuccessfully) with the BMW on the mountain switchback. But you’ll have to read the book to
see how that turns out.
You tell this story from the viewpoint of the MC’s deceased wife, which I enjoyed. When
did you decide she would be the narrator instead of the MC, Claude?
Claude’s deceased wife, Peg, narrates part of the story. She shares that task with the other six
narrative voices. But Peg is, however, different from the others, because she can be omniscient.
She’s not hindered by the first-person status of the other narrators. Because she sits (or floats or
exists or whatever) in the Great Beyond, wherever that is, she is able to watch the story unfold,
and she comments on it, often in an odd play-by-play style. (She also spends a lot of time trying
to figure out where she is, exactly.)
Having a character that possesses some omniscience is
valuable tool to provide not only comments on the on-going story, but on the backstory as well.
In addition, Peg isn’t hindered by the events happening in the world she left behind. In other
words, she’s dead. However things turn out with Claude or their daughter or her sister’s marriage
or Samuel’s rat-fueled revenge, it no longer directly affects her…because she’s no longer among
the living. As a writer, I loved having this detached, omniscient point of view to play with. It
was—here comes that word again—fun.
What message do you hope readers take away after having read The Hammerhead
My first hope is that readers have an enjoyable time in the world of the novel. If they take away
anything lasting, I hope it’s the idea that, no matter what our differences are, we might be closer
connected than we imagine. Rebecca Lee (a writer I admire so much, who wrote Bobcat and
Other Stories) said The Hammerhead Chronicles is a “book made with a constellation of
powerful and intimate voices.” I love that word, constellation. It suggests separate identity, but
an undeniable proximity, a closeness that becomes something magical when the pinpricks of
light are connected. I hope we always look for ways to make those connections.
Where can readers find your books and follow you?
Before Nov. 15 (the publication date for THC), you can pre-order the book through
bookshop.org or IndieBound.org or Barnes & Noble online, or that place the billionaire rocket
enthusiast owns, Amazon. After Nov. 15, those same places apply, as well as your local,
independent bookstore. (If they don’t have it, ask them to order it.) My other books are available
the same way—online or at your local indie.
Here are some ways to keep in touch:
Website – www.scottgouldwriter.com
Instagram – @scottgould
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/scott.gould.56
Scott Gould is the author of the novels, The Hammerhead Chronicles and Whereabouts, a memoir, Things That Crash, Things That Fly, as well as the story collection, Strangers to Temptation. He is a multiple winner of the S.C. Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship in Prose and a recipient of the S.C. Academy of Authors Fiction Fellowship. Other honors include a 2022 Memoir Prize for Books, an Independent Press Award, an IPPY Award for Southern Fiction and the Larry Brown Short Story Award. His work has appeared in Kenyon Review, Black Warrior Review, New Madrid Journal, New Ohio Review, Crazyhorse, Pithead Chapel, BULL, Garden & Gun, New Stories from the South, and others. He lives in Sans Souci, South Carolina and teaches creative writing at the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities.