Cold Mountain: Biography: Charles Frazier


Biography

Born in Asheville, North Carolina, on November 4, 1950, Charles Frazier was reared in the mountains of North Carolina, where he still lives. Frazier earned a B.A. from the University of North Carolina in 1973 and an M.A. from Appalachian State University in 1975. In 1986 he was awarded a Ph.D. in English from the University of South Carolina. During his early career, Frazier taught at the University of Colorado, published both academic and creative writings, and wrote a travel guide to Peru based on his travels in South America.

Cold Mountain, his first novel, was published by Atlantic Monthly Press in 1997. It tells the story of a wounded Civil War soldier as he decides to desert and makes his way back to Cold Mountain, North Carolina, and to the woman who waits for him. In November 1997, Frazier was awarded the National Book Award for Cold Mountain.

Frazier spent almost seven years working on Cold Mountain. At first, he knew only that he wanted to write about the people and folkways of North Carolina in the nineteenth century, so he roamed the mountains, learning the natural history of the area and exploring old grave sites. One of those grave sites in the Smoky Mountains held the remains of two men, a fiddler and a mentally challenged boy, both shot and killed by Teague’s Confederate Home Guard.

Frazier finally found the focus for his novel when his father told him of his great great uncle, W.P. Inman, who was wounded during the Civil War, deserted his post, and walked home to North Carolina, only to be shot and killed by Teague and his men. Frazier based his main character, Inman, on this uncle and on stories told by his great grandfather, also a Civil War veteran. He was fascinated by the real Inman’s journey through a South on the cusp of losing the old folkways that had once defined not just Southern life, but American life. To get a feel for this setting, Frazier collected folk music recordings, researched agricultural tools, practices, and terms, and read letters and journals describing nineteenth century farm life in the mountains. From these letters and journals he gleaned information about women’s lives in the mountains and was able to formulate his other main character, Inman’s true love Ada Monroe, and her companion, Ruby Thewes. Many of the folk tales and Indian legends that Frazier also read at the time help create the overall “lost world” feel of Cold Mountain.

Frazier published his second novel, Thirteen Moons, in 2006. He resides near Raleigh, North Carolina, with his wife, Catherine, and his daughter, Annie.

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