In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing
victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer! Beth Hoffman’s new novel, Looking for Me tells the story of a woman trying to find herself in the wake of a difficult childhood and the reappearance of a brother long thought missing or dead. Here is what she had to say about reading, writing, and being a nature girl.
Would you give us a bit of an introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?
In childhood I loved to create stories and draw. By the time I was a teenager I was selling paintings, which ultimately led me to study art and interior design. Eventually I became co-owner and president of an interior design studio, and though I loved my work, I always dreamed of writing. Then, when I nearly died from the same infection that took puppeteer Jim Henson’s life, my priorities began to shift and I wrestled with the big question: How do I want to spend the remainder of my life? Eventually I decided that worrying about fabric delays and broken lamps just wasn’t feeding my soul, so I sold my portion of the business and went after my dream of writing a novel. It was the gutsiest decision I’ve ever made.
As for the inspiration for my writing, that comes from my lifelong fascination with the lives of seemingly ordinary people who, upon closer inspection, have experienced extraordinary events.
I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?
Each morning, after loving up my kitties and giving them breakfast, I go outside to the back porch. While watching the birds come to the feeders and breathing in the fresh air, I sit on the steps and think about my place within this world and what I want to write about. I’m an introvert and need lots of quiet time. Starting my day surrounded by nature and animals helps me feel grounded. Before bed, I pop a CD into the player and listen to recordings of rainstorms while I read.
Write the question you would most like to answer in an interview, and then answer it.
That question would be: Tell us about the research for the farm and nature scenes.
Few people know that I spent my youth living on my grandparents’ farm. We didn’t have all that much in the material sense, but what we had reached far beyond anything money could buy. Besides a big old farmhouse where homemade bread was pulled from the oven each day and supper plates were filled with fresh produce from land that was lovingly tended, we had something that very few children experience. We had land populated by an amazing assortment of wildlife.
The crop fields backed up to hundreds of acres of dense woodlands that I explored with endless curiosity. Fox, white-tailed deer, raccoons, beavers, rabbits, woodchucks and countless birds (from raptors to tiny chickadees) were frequent visitors to our farm. Though my grandma tried her best to interest me with paper dolls, it was the animals and birds that held my fascination. Wildlife was (and always will be) a big part of my life so the scenes in my new novel were easy to create because, in one form or another, I lived them.
Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working on your own book(s)?
Yes, whether it’s for research or pure enjoyment, I always read when I’m working on my own project. I think it’s accurate to say that I’m addicted to novels. I also read quite a bit of poetry. Not only because I enjoy poems, but also because poets have so much to teach novel writers. While an ill-chosen word in a full-length novel can go unnoticed, in a poem it would be disastrous.
Do you ever look back at your early work? How do you feel your writing style or approach to writing has evolved since you first began?
Whenever I look back on my earlier works, I’m struck by how much my writing has evolved. While distinct characteristics are as permanent as my fingerprints, I can see that I have, albeit subconsciously, embraced the idea that less is more.
As a published author, what’s been the biggest surprise about life after the publication of your first book?
Several things have surprised me, and at the top of the list would be how grateful I feel. Though becoming a New York Times bestselling author was an achievement beyond my dreams, nothing can compare to the countless kindnesses I’ve received. From as close as across the street to as far away as Russia, book bloggers, librarians, booksellers, and readers have had a positive impact on my life. It’s sobering to know that my work is being read by people across the globe.