Our first project as Flyman Partners has been to create a new website for Denise Giardina, an American writer promoting her new book Emily’s Ghost.
Denise has made a career out of writing politically informed, socially conscious and theologically probing historical fiction, taking events and people from real life and constructing novels around them, from Henry V to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and now the Brontë sisters.
Denise is a pretty fascinating character herself: an ordained Episcopalian deacon who once turned away from the church when her level of community activism was questioned.
Here’s some of what we wrote for Denise’s biographical notes, although we ended up going with her own first person version on the website in the end.
Giardina’s background, as the child of a West Virginian coal-mining family in the tiny company township of Black Wolf, framed her world view. Well into the 20th Century, life for the miners in the Appalachian mountain range was almost feudal. For Giardina, born in 1951, questions of human rights, self-determination and environmental exploitation weren’t theoretical: she lived them from the earliest age.
Her life experience is varied, and her interests as an author are wide ranging, but running through all her work is a deeply held belief in the power of individuals to make the world a better place.
Giardina studied at West Virginia Wesleyan College, graduating with a history degree in 1973. Initially intending to become a lawyer, she worked as a hospital clerk to fund further studies. But rather than law school, she was drawn to the church and gained a Masters in Divinity at Virginia Theological Seminary. She was ordained as an Episcopal deacon in 1979.
But the strictures placed on her outspokenness about methods used by enormously powerful coal companies chafed, and Giardina turned her considerable energies to writing.
Her first book, Good King Harry, was published in 1984. Four more novels followed, bringing critical acclaim and international literary awards. Her sixth, Emily’s Ghost, will be published in July 2009.
As well as her successful writing career, Giardina remains a committed social activist and ran as an independent candidate for Governor of West Virginia in 2000. As a direct result of the number of votes she attracted, the Mountain Party (now affiliated with the Green Party) was established in her home state.
An inspiring teacher, Giardina is presently Assistant Professor in the Department of English at West Virginia State University, and in 2007 was reinstated as an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church.