Thursday, May 8, 2014

Michelle Huneven

Michelle Huneven's first two books, Round Rock and Jamesland, were both New York Times notable books and also finalists for the LA Times Book Award. Her third novel, Blame, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and also a finalist for the LA Times Book Award.

Huneven's latest novel is Off Course. From the author's Q & A at Rosemary & Reading Glasses:

How would you describe the inception of Off Course? What was the writing process like?

MH: As often happens with me, I started out with one book in mind, but another one happened. I had wanted to write a novel that charted a woman’s life from childhood to a version of stable adulthood with some years en route spent lost to trouble. Well, that book didn’t happen. In Off Course, I started right where my heroine, Cressida Hartley, at age 28, turns off the beaten path. She’s at a perilous, vulnerable stage, when she’s done with school and about to set forth in life. She should be settling into a career and making at least general decisions about marriage and family. But first, she has to write her dissertation. For whatever reason, she can’t get going on it. She just can’t. She makes herself ever-available to distraction and gets lured away from her friends, family, and self. Or, to quote the epigraph, “demons arrive singly and in droves, often taking the form of men.”

In terms of process, I tried something new with Off Course, which was to write a certain number of words a day. 1000, I think, which is a lot. Too many. This was not an effective method for me. To meet my daily goal, I wrote a lot of dreck, some of which stuck to the book for a long time and interfered with plot and shaping. Also, I had to go back and fix every damn sentence. Did forcing myself to produce at such a rate prove a worthwhile exercise for my imagination? No.

The setting for much of the novel sometimes seems like another character in Off Course. How did you decide to set the novel in the Sierras?

MH: My parents had a cabin high up in the Southern Sierras, so it was a geography and community with which I was deeply familiar. I went up to the cabin as a kid, although not...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Michelle Huneven's website.

The Page 69 Test: Blame.

The Page 69 Test: Off Course.

--Marshal Zeringue