CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Scott McClanahan doesn't like to talk too much about why he writes the way he writes -- or why he writes at all.
"I don't really think about it too much, honestly. It's like breaking down your religion or if your girlfriend loves you or not," said McClanahan, whose fourth book, "Crapalachia: A Biography of Place," is out.
The 35-year-old Beckley man suspects most people have no idea why they take up the occupations they do.
"Probably if you asked a thoracic surgeon why he does what he does, he doesn't know -- which is kind of scary when it's someone who can open up your body cavity," he said. "I guess you're trying to do the same thing when you're a writer. It's just the words of it get in the way."
"Crapalachia" is the author's sometimes embellished accounts of his youth. The book is full of strange, or possibly familiar, characters, some of whom are totally real, while others are at least partly fictional or composites of several people.
"We're calling the book nonfiction lite," he joked. "It's better for sales."
The book, which careens from heartache to hilarity, has been lauded by The Paris Review, Paste and Vice magazines and The Washington Post.
McClanahan doesn't precisely know what to make of the attention, but he seems somewhat amused by it all.
"They're always mentioning my accent in interviews," he said.
It doesn't sound that strange to him, of course. He's lived in West Virginia his whole life.
McClanahan grew up in Greenbrier County, went to Concord College in 1996 and eventually earned a master's degree from Marshall University.
"Now I teach at New River Community Technology College. It used to be Bluefield State or a branch of Bluefield State College before the Legislature took all the two-year programs from the four-year schools and turned them into universities."
He sounded baffled that they bothered.
McClanahan teaches English, but he said he'd taught history and speech classes over the years.
"Now, it's just English."
He likes what he does and takes a certain amount of wicked pride in being part of a profession with a very distinguished list of celebrities.
"All the great madmen of the 20th century were teachers," he said. "Stalin was a teacher. Woodrow Wilson, Pol Pot, LBJ ... Chairman Mao, he was a librarian."
They also were ambitious, wanting to rule the world or parts of it, which seems not to interest McClanahan, though he acknowledged he talked to his agent about getting groupies and money.
McClanahan has been writing most of his life, starting sometime during middle school. How and when it began was sort of a mystery.
"I used to get these feelings," he said. "And I know this is going to sound weird, but it was like when you first start going to see great films, you know? Like the movies your mom watched. I'd watch and have these emotions, and the only way I could get a handle on them was to write."