Inside CAS

College of Arts and Sciences


UNCW professor releases new novel

Friday, May 13, 2016

Photo Credit: Ashley Leahman

Written by Hallie Criste '16; Photo by Ashley Leahman

How do you write about a writer? Talk about his writing, of course! UNCW Creative Writing Professor Philip Gerard released his new novel The Dark of the Island on March 8. The book serves as the second in a soon-to-be trilogy, following Hatteras Light.

The Dark of the Island builds on the first book in the series, Hatteras Light, by continuing to follow the families’ of the main characters. For those who have read Hatteras Light, Gerard explained that his new novel “continues with the sage of the Royals, Littlejohns, Lords, Dants and Patchetts through several more generations.” He even revealed a glimpse of the next novel, stating that readers can expect to focus on the fortunes of the Lord family, descended from the legendary African American lifesaver in the first book.

With a student body so focused on coastal preservation, Gerard’s new book makes a real life connection to “how fragile some coastal places are and how easily ruined.” Gerard says, “We are a campus very rooted in the mission of being stewards of the coastal community we are a part of.”

Gerard earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Arizona State University, and taught for a brief time at Lake Forest College in Illinois before moving to Wilmington. While at UNCW, Gerard has won the Faculty Scholarship Award, the College of Arts and Sciences Teaching Award, the Chancellor’s Medal for Excellence in Teaching, and a Distinguished Teaching Professorship.

Gerard shared some of his trials and secrets on the process of writing such successful works. He explained the difficulty stating that the portion he seems to struggle with most is inventing the through-line of a story that is not only exciting, but also logical. However, he also says that “inventing a scene, just letting it unfold, and watching and listening to the characters do, say, and feel things,” is the segment of the writing process that fills him with the most satisfaction.

The Dark of the Island is not necessarily written around a particular message, however, Gerard explained that he uses his novels as a medium, bringing attention to life themes such as loyalty, family, belonging, and the nature of mystery. “It’s the kind of book that helped me navigate that difficult terrain between childhood and adulthood, just as my summer camping on the island before going off to college helped me become confident and independent,” he says.

So in the words of Philip Gerard, “Enjoy the book. Embrace the mystery. Live in the moment and feel the salty wind on your cheek and the water lapping at your knees.”