“Deer Season,” the debut novel by Erin Flanagan, Ph.D., professor of English language and literatures at Wright State University, won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel by an American Author.
The prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Awards celebrate the best mystery fiction, nonfiction and television published or produced each year. The awards are judged by volunteer committees of professional writers and are presented by the Mystery Writers of America, the premier organization for writers and fans of the mystery and crime genre.
Flanagan received the award at the 76th annual Edgard Awards ceremony on April 28 in New York City. She was one of five authors nominated in the Best First Novel category.
“It was such a wonderful and surreal moment when it was announced,” Flanagan said. “I turned to my husband and said, ‘did they call my name?’ I was convinced I’d get to the stage and be promptly escorted off. He confirmed they had and said, ‘go!’”
“Deer Season” was also named a finalist for the Midwest Book Award in Fiction in the Literary/Contemporary/Historical category. The contest is sponsored by the Midwest Independent Publishers Association.
In “Deer Season,” Flanagan examines what happens in a small town when tragedy strikes and whether the town’s residents would protect each other or turn on their own.
Set in a small rural community in Nebraska in 1985, “Deer Season” focuses on a teenage girl who has gone missing. At the same time, a mentally challenged farmhand returns from his first hunting trip with blood in his truck and a somewhat flimsy excuse for what happened over the weekend.
Flanagan grew up in a small town similar to where “Deer Season” takes place. “It was one of those places where everyone knows everyone else’s business and was a safe place to grow up,” she said.
Although the town had little racial or class diversity, some residents were “still on the outskirts in their own ways,” Flanagan said. “I started asking myself who might not feel so safe in such a town, and how would the residents react if that safety was in danger?”
Flanagan has released two collections of her short stories: “It’s Not Going to Kill You, and Other Stories” in 2013 and “The Usual Mistakes” in 2005.
In July, she will release her second novel, “Blackout.” The thriller centers on a woman in Dayton who is a recovering alcoholic and starts experiencing mysterious blackouts. After discovering that other women in the city are experiencing the same fate, she attempts to learn more about who is causing the blackouts and how she can stop them.
Flanagan’s stories have appeared in The Missouri Review, Colorado Review, The Southern Review and Prairie Schooner. She has held fellowships with Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, UCross, and the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences.
Flanagan teaches Introduction to Fiction Writing and Advanced Fiction Writing and special topic courses that include novel writing, narrative time and fiction, and creative nonfiction.
She uses her own writing experience to help inform her classroom lessons while being mindful that every writer approaches their craft differently.
“I try to help my students stay open to whatever their process might be and nudge them along with some tips that are tried and true,” she said. “I think I’m much more open about the difficulties of writing, and I feel much more in the same boat as them the longer I’ve done it. I hope that’s encouraging to them.”
Flanagan received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and her Ph.D. in English with a specialization in creative writing from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.