Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hannah Nordhaus

Hannah Nordhaus's latest book, American Ghost: A Family's Haunted Past in the Desert Southwest, attempts to uncover the truth about her great-great-grandmother, Julia--whose ghost is said to haunt an elegant hotel in Santa Fe.

From the author's Q & A with Kelly Faircloth for Jezebel:

It’s always interesting to me what projects pan out. What pushed you to write about Julie and your family’s history? What tipped you over?

I was trying to think about my next project after my last book, which was about honeybees and the beekeeping crisis that’s been affecting honeybee populations worldwide. Julia wasn’t the first thing that came to mind. My dog died right before my last book came out, so I thought about writing a dog memoir. And that did not pan out! Not every idea does.

Julia Staab is someone I’ve thought about my whole life and known about her. I had written about her before, as I mention in the book when I was a younger woman. At the time, I think I was really writing about myself more than I was writing about Julia. It was about Julia as a young bride coming from Germany to New Mexico with her horrible husband and being kept down by men. I think at that point in my life that’s how I felt I was being kept down. So I wrote that article when I was 24 and just moved on with my life and became a journalist and wrote about science and the environment and stayed away from ghosts. Then, sometime after I realized the dog memoir was not something I wanted to spend two years writing, I remembered I had found this book that my great-aunt Lizzie had written about our family history, and I realized that there was a lot more to my family than just these ghost stories. And I suddenly was at a point in my life where I wanted to learn more and in a place where I had the opportunity to do so, as a writer.

One of the things that fascinated me was how well you were able to flesh out Julia’s family and her world and get so close to her, but at the same time, it was hard to get final, definitive answers to many of the big questions. You still end up wondering about the core of Julia. Did you learn what you wanted to learn?

About Julia, no. But I learned so much more about...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Hannah Nordhaus's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Beekeeper's Lament.

--Marshal Zeringue