CHARLOTTE – Imagine a place where the line between reality and fantasy frays. One moment you feel grounded, but the next you suspect a place more enchanted.
This is the late-1990s Charlotte landscape Bill Becker wanders through in George Hovis’ debut novel, “The Skin Artist.” Atlanta-based publisher SFK Press will release the novel this month.
“I grew up in rural North Carolina and then left home to work in the ‘big city’ of Charlotte. That dislocation was both exciting and worrisome to me,” Hovis said. “Deep down I feared I was doing irrevocable damage to my ‘soul,’ and yet I felt helpless to resist modernity’s charms.”
With explosive city growth and the rising popularity of tattoo culture as a backdrop, ‘The Skin Artist’ has a canvas to dance characters across.
“Bill’s journey is one that grapples with grief, addiction, displacement and a lost sense of self – the times when we feel the fabric of reality begin to tear,” Publisher Steve McCondichie said. “There’s no map to stitch life back together when that happens. And sometimes we find ourselves moving to darker places before we can find any hope to lift us up.”
The morning Bill Becker awakes to find the butterfly tattoo bleeding on his chest, his life begins spiraling downward. Exiled from a corporate career and failed marriage he left behind in a gated community, Bill becomes obsessed with Lucy, a tattooed dancer running from past trauma. Lucy and Bill wrap themselves in new skins of ink, wrought by the same artist, who convinces them every design will alter their future. They must leave the city for the Carolina countryside to confront the skins they shed many years ago.
Hovis lives in Upstate New York. He teaches English literature and creative writing at SUNY Oneonta.