- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Being named as a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize in fiction came to no one’s greater surprise than to Lexington author Margaret Verble, who didn’t even know she had been nominated for her novel “Maud’s Line” that is being released in paperback on Sunday.

Verble tells the Lexington Herald-Leader (https://bit.ly/28TauJO) that being named a finalist has resulted in strong sales for the book - and media attention for herself that she describes as “disorienting.”

“It’s sort of like being sprinkled with pixie dust,” she said. “I suddenly am a lot smarter than I was before, and the book’s a lot better than it was before.”

Verble, who was raised in Nashville, Tennessee, moved to Lexington to earn her undergraduate degree at the University of Kentucky. After returning to Nashville to teach high school for four years, Verble went back to UK in the 1970s to earn her master’s degree in English and a doctorate in education.

The novel set in 1928 is about Maud Neil, a young woman of mixed Cherokee and white heritage living in Indian country in rural eastern Oklahoma. Her life is set on a new course when a school teacher from the city turns up at her house on one of the “section line” roads that divide up the landscape.

The setting is based on the author’s own family history. Verble is a voting citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma whose family was removed to Oklahoma in 1838 from a prosperous farm in what is now a northeastern suburb of Atlanta.

“My mother got out of there, mainly because they didn’t have indoor plumbing and electricity and she wanted a better life,” she said. “I grew up in Nashville, but we were in Oklahoma all the time, I’ve been up and down that section line a million times.”

Many of the characters in the novel are based on Verble’s own relatives, with the protagonist being a major exception.

“Maud’s totally fictional, because basically what a novelist has to do with a main character is put them through hell and abuse them in every possible way imaginable,” she said. “I couldn’t do that to anybody that I knew and loved.”

While writing has always been Verble’s passion, she wasn’t able to get her first two novels published. She then focused on getting short stories published in literary journals before she finally landed publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for “Maud’s Line.”

Verble is on the eighth draft of her newest novel, set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1930.

“We’ll find out what happens to Maud in this book,” she said.

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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, https://www.kentucky.com

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