Professor Spotlight: Phillip Gardner “Professor sheds light on love in new book”

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Gardner's lastest novel explores the importance of love in a person's life

Robyn McNeil, Managing Editor

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Phillip Gardner, author and professor of English, explores the ways in which “love
complicates our actions” and individual world view in his latest book, “Available Light.”
“Available Light,” which debuted Nov. 1, is a collection of 18 stories that highlight the trials
which occur in love relationships.
“This book is not a romance,” Gardner said.  “It’s about a wide range of kinds of love: adults
for their children, children for their parents, husbands and wives.”
Gardner said “Available Light” differs from his previous publications, “Someone To Crawl
Back To” and “Somebody Wants Somebody Dead,” because it has more sentimentality and is
emotionally broader.
The stories that constitute “Available Light” were written in a span of five to 10 years.  Most
of them have been published in journals and magazines.  However, Gardner said, the book is
unified through its theme and characters.
He explained that the intent of “Available Light” was to outline the importance of love in a
person’s life and how their experiences affect the pursuit and maintenance of love.
“The characters in this book are flawed, and they are trying to understand the world and the
relationships that they are in,” he said.  “What they all have in common is they all have a
conscious desire to love.”
According to Gardner, love complicates an individual’s actions because love, or the notion
of love, often presents him or her with difficult choices.
“How often in our lives do we have to decide whether to hold on or to move on?” he said.
“That describes a lot of the complication in love relationships.”
In terms of the title Gardner chose for the book, he said “Available Light” refers to a person’s
world view, or a set of assumptions that are rooted in his or her values and experiences.  He
added that these set of assumptions are “the light by which an individual sees the world.”
Gardner said his love of stories began in his youth, and he comes from a family of
storytellers.
“Both of my parents came from large families, and anytime we got together, they were
always telling stories,” he said. “We have to tell stories to make meaning out of mystery. It’s
through the stories that we tell that we come to know who we are.”
It was during his time in college, Gardner said, that he began reading the works of authors
such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemmingway and became interested in writing fiction.
“As a young writer, I was most influenced by Fitzgerald and Hemmingway,” he said.  “It has
to do with the time in my life when I read them.  Hemmingway and Fitzgerald were both young
writers; there’s kind of a youthful vitality.”
He began teaching at Francis Marion University (FMU) in 1980 but left FMU in 1983 to
teach at Lincoln Memorial University in Cumberland, Tenn.  When he returned to FMU in 1986,
he co-created the Writing Center and became its first director within a year.
His favorite aspect of teaching creative writing, he explained, is being able to incite his
students’ intellectual interest and to awaken their hearts.
“Available Light” can be purchased online at Amazon or in stores at Barnes and Noble.
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