Sunday, March 12, 2017

Q&A with Cara Hoffman

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.

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