By Hannah Lester
Sean Dietrich released his newest fiction novel, The Incredible Winston Browne, on March 2.
Those of you who read the Opelika Observer regularly will recognize Dietrich as weekly columnist Sean of the South.
Stories of eating casseroles while driving with his knees, colonies of butterflies, red hair, fruitcake, letters from strangers and food and so many beautiful depictions of southern life are found on page A4 of our paper.
Although he writes columns daily, Dietrich said that he’s been cultivating a love for fiction since he was little.
The Incredible Winston Browne is set in Moab, Florida, and follows the story of a small-town sheriff dealing with the inevitability of death.
“I’ve written a lot of columns, so they’re based on a lot of these stories I’ve heard from other people about what it’s like to die. I’ve written about death a lot anyway. I was writing the columns about people’s cancers, children’s cancers or people who pass on. I was coming across these, for me, profound discoveries these people were making in their own daily lives. And they would say a sentence or something and it would hit me so far beneath the ribs that I would think, ‘Wow, there’s just, a beauty to life that I wish I could write about.’ And sometimes you can’t write about that unless you put death in the scenario.”
So although yes, the book discusses death, it is also meant to discuss life. And don’t worry, it’s not supposed to be a downer. Dietrich said the book is meant to be charming.
Small-town life is dying out in many parts of the United States, but not in Dietrich’s writing.
“I wanted to create, for the people who might read this book, I wanted to create something that felt like that, that felt good, that was a small-town feel,” he said.
A small-town setting also gave the author a chance to focus on human struggles and conditions, he said.
“I felt that there was maybe no better way to make a commentary on small-town South as a small town set in the south,” Dietrich said.
After receiving the book proof back in the mail, Dietrich said he actually sat down and tried to read his own work as though looking at it from an outsider’s perspective.
“I got over the first two pages and I was blushing,” he said. “Because I felt so ridiculous. But after those first two pages, I just kind of laid into it like I was [not the author] … I actually enjoyed the process of reading it. I actually found myself going through it as a third person and giving the little boy in me a wink and saying, ‘Hey, that was a good effort. I mean, I see what you were trying to do there. You’re growing. You might be better next year. I hope you are.’”
Dietrich has written several other books in the past, both fiction and non-fiction, including: Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Stars of Alabama, The Absolute Worst Christmas of All Time, The South’s Okayest Writer, Caution This Vehicle Makes Frequent Stops for Boiled Peanuts, Small Towns Labradors Barbecue Biscuits Beer and Bibles and more.
“I’ve gotten a lot better at figuring out what I want to say,” he said.
Dietrich said that when he took his first steps in writing, although he knew what he was passionate about, putting pen to paper was a little more difficult.
“I identified some of my own feelings with more clear terminology, which has helped me immensely figure out how I actually feel and why I feel that way and why I grew up the way I did and it explains a lot about me,” Dietrich said.
Things are virtual now, and instead of book tours after the release in March, Dietrich will share his work virtually.
“I’m going to miss meeting people and hearing their stories because I hear a lot of stories,” he said.
The book is available for purchase here: www.amazon.com/Incredible-Winston-Browne-Sean-Dietrich/dp/0785226400.