|Cara Hoffman, photo by Constance Faulk|
Cara Hoffman is the author of the new novel Running. She also has written the novels So Much Pretty and Be Safe I Love You. She lives in New York City.
Q: You note that Running was inspired by your own time in Athens in the late 1980s. Did you plan for a long time to write a novel with that setting, and how did you come up with your three main characters?
A: Running is a novel that's gone through many drafts. I began taking notes for the novel when I was 19 years old living in a hotel in the red light district of Athens and working as a runner.
The three main characters are based on people I knew. Running is illegal work--basically hustling tourists to stay in low-end hotels in exchange for a free room and a small commission. It was a good way to live for free if you wanted to travel for long periods of time.
I love Athens--it's gorgeous, gritty, and complex and I always knew I would write about it. Athens is the city where I became myself.
Q: The novel jumps around in time--did you write it in the order in which it appears, or did you move things around as you wrote?
A: There are three different timelines in the novel, but I wrote them in a linear fashion. Some of the scenes from Milo's perspective--which take place 25 years after the terrorist events in the novel--I wrote last.
Q: Some of the sections are written in first person while others are in third person. Why did you choose to write it that way?
A: I had originally written the novel with two different narrative perspectives in first person. One that takes place in the present and one in the 1980s.
But I changed the contemporary storyline to close third because there was greater flexibility in describing things from the outside. The reader is still largely in Milo's head--but we get to see the things he does from a distanced perspective and we get to see the extreme things that happened in his past more objectively.
The third person perspective heightens the sense of time having passed.
Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: Running has multiple meanings. It describes the job Milo, Bridey and Jasper have at the hotel. It refers to actual running--as Bridey was brought up by a survivalist Uncle who expected her to run five miles every morning, it refers to passport running--or trafficking, and to running away, running toward freedom.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm working on two different novels. One that takes place in Manhattan and another set in Appalachia.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Yes. Read David Wojnarowicz's Close to the Knives, a Memoir of Disintegration. You will not regret it.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. For a previous Q&A with Cara Hoffman, please click here.