Kent Wascom’s debut novel, The Blood of Heaven (Grove Press, June), is set in West Florida, the area between Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Pensacola, Florida, where the 27-year-old author has lived for most of his life. Today, Wascom resides in Tallahassee, as he puts it, “down the street from the most unpopular governor in the nation.” The story takes place, however, not in the present, but in the 19th century, when American settlers were fighting with the Spaniards and the French in the area. Wascom says, “The fact that my region was once a distinct and separate entity, battled over and conflicted, seemed like a memory sorely in need of reclamation.”

While Wascom was working on the book, which Grove Atlantic publisher Morgan Entrekin describes as the coming-of-age story of the “silver-tongued son of an itinerant preacher” and “a love story and a dramatic epic of the American frontier,” he taught at a school for at-risk and special needs students. For three and a half years, he got up between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. and wrote until it was time to leave for work.

Wascom—who is represented by Gail Hochman of Brandt & Hochman—counts Barry Hannah, Harry Crews, and Carlos Fuentes among the authors he admires. He also reports that the multiple sources of inspiration for the novel include “a family history of outlawry, a lifelong dueling fascination, and disgust with reactionary Christianity—but one of the more interesting incitements was the discovery of an ancestor of mine named Aaron Burr Patterson, born in Natchez, Mississippi in the year following his namesake’s first visit to that city. This curious relation led me to the man himself and moreover to the tumultuous time and place in which his schemes played out.”