We are so delighted to have Michelle Hoover as a guest on The Debutante Ball for the 2nd time this year. Last fall she spoke with us about writing conflict. Today she takes the Deb interview! Be sure to check out her latest novel BOTTOMLAND. Here is what The Boston Globe had to say about it.
“There are many compelling things about Michelle Hoover’s potent new novel, “Bottomland,” not least of all her austere style and its visceral punch. Seriously, you might feel a few chills run up your spine while reading, as Hoover delivers stark passages about the frigid desolation on an Iowa farm in winter….
But what struck me repeatedly is the way Hoover’s story, set largely in the immediate wake of World War I, has so much contemporary resonance….
Part of the great pleasure of “Bottomland” is discovering where the story goes, always knowing that you’re in the hands of a writer who won’t disappoint.” — Matthew Gilbert, The Boston Globe
Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
Woolf’s TO THE LIGHTHOUSE was the first novel in which I witnessed true craft. To my mind, it’s still the only perfect novel I’ve read. The sentence style is flawless, of course, but also the way that style bends to character, the impeccable sense of detail and psychological complexity, and the substance of its ideas—the problems inherent in our search for truth and objectivity, the understanding of genius, the merging of male and female. I read this book hundreds of times and taught this book a dozen times over. I never tire of it. It’s such a triumph. So ahead of its time that it still often feels ahead of ours.
Which talent do you wish you had?
I wish I could be a musician. I can actually sing a bit, and at one time or another I learned to play piano, clarinet, violin, and guitar. I’ve lost my abilities with nearly all of them though, because I can’t keep up with them. There’s something about music, about that instant pleasure, both in listening and performing, that you can’t get with writing, not in the same shared way.
Share something that’s always guaranteed to make you laugh.
I have to admit my sense of humor veers toward the Three Stooges. People tripping, slipping, falling headfirst in a vat of marshmallow pudding. People’s bodies somehow betraying them in the most unexpected and absurd ways. I’m a complete klutz, so maybe I just enjoy others joining the party. I like a dry wit, of course. I like smart humor. But there’s something very basic and downright hilarious in watching someone do an accidental split on an icy patch and come out all the better for it. Puzzled animals with bizarre expressions are always good too. (Yes, I sometimes watch YouTube.)
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Study the craft, find good readers, stay in your chair until you ache, and read, read, read…. Oh, and if you’re expecting to make a million dollars out of it, let alone make a living, you might want to try something else instead. To me, that’s not what writing is about anyway.
What are the hardest and easiest things about your job?
Time and energy. That’s the hardest thing about teaching and writing. I don’t have enough of it, and I always wish I were ten times smarter, ten times quicker, ten times more nuanced in both. The easiest? I get to choose when and where I spent my time and energy, for the most part. Yes, I’m basically working all the time, but I also get to work at home quite a bit, and in the last few years, I’ve gotten to choose my students as well as my own book projects, so I’m choosing the kind of work I put my energy into. I have a lot of autonomy, and that can be good and bad. For my kind of personality, though, it’s generally a life saver.
Michelle Hoover is the Fannie Hurst Writer-in-Residence at Brandeis University and teaches at GrubStreet, where she leads the Novel Incubator program. She is a 2014 NEA Fellow and has been a Writer-in-Residence at Bucknell University, a MacDowell Fellow, and a winner of the PEN/New England Discovery Award. Her second novel BOTTOMLAND was just published by Grove Press on March 1, 2016. For more information about Michelle and her books, please visit her website. You can also follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook.