Get to Know Eli Cranor, Six Bridges Featured Author

Tell us briefly about your book.
It features a high school football player with an explosively troubled home life, an idealistic coach who thinks he can save him, and a murder that threatens to tear their Arkansas town apart on the eve of the playoffs.

What motivated you to write it?
By age twenty-six, I was the head football coach for a small high school in Arkansas. I wasn’t ready for it. Not by a long shot. Something about that experience—something about my players’ stories, their scars, their fury—stuck with me, and the result was Don’t Know Tough.

What kind of research went into your book?
A twenty-year playing career and five years of coaching high school football.

What was your favorite part of writing this book?
Finding Billy’s voice. Billy Lowe narrates half this book. I was sitting in my English classroom during a lunch break and the first few lines just came to me. “Still feel the burn on my neck. Told coach it was a ringworm this morning when he pick me up, but it ain’t.” I wrote the whole first chapter during that lunch break.

What are you reading now?
Five Decembers by James Kestrel
Everybody Knows by Jordan Harper
The Hustler by Walter Tevis
Deliverance by James Dickey
Fruit Punch by Kendra Allen

What does it mean to you to be promoting your book as a local author?
In the words of MMA fighter Bryce Mitchel, “Every time you put a mic in my face, I’m gonna say Arkansas!”

Are you excited to see any other authors at the Fest? Who/why?
I’ve long been a fan of Kevin Brockmeier. I was thrilled when he reached out, inviting me to this festival. I actually met him once, in passing, at a book event at my hometown bookstore (Dog Ear Books) for fellow Arkansas author Andy Davidson. I look forward to continuing our conversation about absolute phrases.

What’s harder: writing or playing football?
They’re both hard on the brain.

Eli Cranor sponsored in part by Boyette Strategic Advisors