Murray native and Murray State University alumna Angie Hoke has come a long way since her first stint in the newspaper business.
Of course, that’s not much said, when she was producing a neighborhood newspaper at the age of 8. Yes, Hoke, who published her first full-length novel this month, believes she was born to be a writer.
“I always wanted to write,” she said. “I tried from early on.”
She hopes that her most recent success in the business will last a bit longer.
After only three editions of “The Woodsend Times,” Hoke found herself amidst a bit of neighborhood controversy.
“I wrote an exposé on a theft from down the street,” she remembered, laughing, fondly. “I implicated the wrong person and the parents shut me down.”
Today, after a bit more practice, Hoke has her own published novel, “A Whisper of Smoke,” which she describes as an “up-market” fiction tale tailored to a cross-gender base.
Hoke was born in Louisville, but her parents moved her to the Murray area a few years after her early-age newspaper scandal. She graduated from Calloway County High School and enrolled in accounting classes at MSU. While writing was still on her mind, she said she was decided her degree should reflect a more stable field of expertise.
“I wanted to be a writer but I was worried I wouldn’t make much money with it,” she said.
With a college degree in hand, Hoke moved to Nashville and took an accounting job, but she didn’t let up on her writing career dream. It was what to write about, though, that plagued her, she said. Save for a few novellas over the years, she felt like her creativity had encountered a dry spell ... until a random visit with friends brought it to an end.
“About 10 years ago, I was talking to friends, and we were talking about family secrets,” she said. “I started thinking, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I guess I was just waiting for inspiration.”
Hoke wrote here and there for the next 10 years. She said she wasn’t in any hurry and she wasn’t holding herself to any standards. Sometimes she would write thousands of words in a day; then again, she could just as well go weeks without a word.
“I went 18 months once without writing at all,” she said. “But then again, I cut out 35,000 words at one point from my first draft five years ago.”
“A Whisper of Smoke” takes place in the 1960s in Kentucky, following a teenage girl who uncovers family secrets and whose life experiences shape how she deals with them. At the same time, the story captures the fictional Susanna’s love for friend off to war in Vietnam.
“I wanted it to be set in the ‘60s at the point when family secrets weren’t discussed,” she said. “My main character loses her innocence while the nation is losing its innocence. I liked those parallels. I think it’s a universal theme.”
Hoke said the most difficult part of writing her novel was not the creative side. Once she found her inspiration, it never really ran dry. Instead, she said, the expansive research into cultural and military history proved a daunting task.
“I really underestimated getting everything right,” she said.
There wasn’t much in her book that she said she brings from her own teenage years, but she thinks part of the appeal of her work is the little bit of Susanna she said is in everyone.
“Every family has their share of skeletons in the closet,” she said. “So, from that perspective, I can relate to the character. I got in Susanna’s head and tried to see what she would see.”
Hoke is bringing her novel with her back to Murray on March 1 at Fidalgo Bay coffee shop, where she will be hosting a book signing from 2-4 p.m. A limited number of books will be available for sale at the shop, but she said she encourages interested readers to purchase the book online at Amazon or Books-A-Million.