Hannah Pittard is the author of the new novel Listen to Me. She also has written the novels Reunion and The Fates Will Find Their Way, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The American Scholar and McSweeney's. She teaches fiction at the University of Kentucky.
Q: Your new novel, Listen to Me, takes place over the course of 24 hours. Were there particular challenges involved in writing a novel that takes place over a condensed time frame?
A: I wouldn’t call them challenges so much as choices. When you’re working with a deliberately distilled moment in time, the decision between what should be scene and what should be summary becomes an incredibly important one. I wanted this to be a tight, fast novel in which every word and every moment mattered.
Q: You write that the inspiration for the book came from a road trip you and your husband took. What made you decide to write a novel based on that trip, and what role did the ongoing storm play for you?
A: I started the book while waiting for edits on my second novel. It was a way for me to keep my mind occupied so I couldn’t obsess over the project, which at the time was out of my control.
The night we drove through a storm, we stayed at a hotel without power. I didn’t sleep, if at all. In the morning I thought, This would be a pretty good set of circumstances for a novel… My bad luck (storm, hotel without power) turned out to be lucky and obvious inspiration.
Q: The perspective in the book switches around at times. Did you plan that from the beginning?
A: Yes. This is the story of two people. It’s a conscious exploration into the limitations of any relationship, no matter how intimate. We can never truly know another person. Fact.
Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: The title comes from The Iliad, which is the story of the last weeks of the Trojan war, which lasted something like 10 years.
Homer's use of time is relevant to Listen to Me because, by the end of his “song," though the present action is technically concerned only with those final weeks and with the battle between Achilles and Agamemnon, the story of the entire war has been told.
It’s a beautiful narrative technique that, in a very small way, I’ve mimicked. Listen to Me is the story of a single day of a 10-year marriage, but my hope is that—by the end—an entire life together between two people has been evoked.
Q: In our previous interview, you mentioned a historical novel you're working on. How is that project going?
A: What a funny question! What if I were to say, NOT WELL!? But it is going well. It’s going very well. I turned in a first draft (incredibly rough) this summer. I’m working (very happily) on edits now. Houghton Mifflin expects to publish in the summer of 2018.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I appreciate you and your readers!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. For a previous Q&A with Hannah Pittard, please click here.