Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Author Snapshot: Edward Hardy

Edward Hardy weaves the sort of fiction that is most often described as “poignant” and “moving,” though as Amanda Heller of The Boston Globe pointed out in a recent review, “Edward Hardy keeps the narrative sufficiently off-center to evade any charges of outright heartstring-tugging.”

The point Heller seems to miss in her review (or perhaps I miss seeing her get it) is the fact that Hardy is an author of the old school. More: in a sense, the path he’s taken to authordom is Ivy League. Hardy has an MFA from Cornell and though there has thus far only been one other novel -- 1996’s Geyser Life -- his short stories have appeared in virtually all the important literary magazines including Ploughshares, Epoch, The New England Review, Witness, Prairie Schooner, Ascent, Boulevard, Yankee and The Quarterly. The some-time journalist and editor has taught creative writing at Cornell and Boston College and currently teaches non-fiction writing at Brown.

The fact that Hardy has spent at least his adult life thinking about words and how they fit together is something that shows in his beautiful and expertly wrought work. You do not merely read a novel like Keeper and Kid, Hardy’s latest. You inhale it. And if you let it, it touches you forever.

A Snapshot of Edward Hardy...

Born: Ithaca, New York
Resides: Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Born: November 25, 1957
Web site: edwardhardy.com

Please tell us about your most recent book.
Keeper and Kid is the story of what happens when a 30-something guy, happily living his antiques dealer/salvage yard life in Providence, inherits a three year-old, is suddenly pulled through the portal of parenthood and the rest of his life nearly falls apart in the process.

What’s on your nightstand?
Really it’s the stack on the floor beside the bed, but right now there’s: Washington’s Crossing, by David Hackett Fischer, Magic For Beginners, by Kelly Link, The Best American Poetry 2006, The Playhouse Near Dark, by Elizabeth Holmes, (poems), Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, by Haruki Murakami and Housekeeping vs. The Dirt, by Nick Hornby.

What inspires you?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly. With stories sometimes an idea or a situation will just pop up and you can go: Oh look, there’s a story. Other times something small will happen and I’ll go through old notebooks looking for other events that might go along with that first one until it feels like there’s a story there. With novels it feels like something of the same process, but slower. And starting a novel is always a much bigger leap than jumping into a story.

What are you working on now?
At the moment I’m collecting scraps for a new novel, which might be about a group of over-extended grown-ups who start an alt-country band with unintended consequences, but that’s all I can say.

Tell us about your process.
I’m a keyboard person all the way and that started back when I was working in newspapers. I used to be a late night writer, but these days once the wheels start turning I can’t get to sleep, so I’m restricted to daylight hours, usually mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Plot-wise it seems to work best if I more or less know where I’m going but not exactly, that way there’s room for a few surprises along the route, and when you’ve signed on for a novel you need a few surprises.

Lift your head and look around. What do you see?

I’m at the kitchen table (old, oval, oak, a little tippy), to my left there’s a foot-tall stack of kids’ library books (The World of Castles and Forts, etc.) and grown-up CDs (Bella Fleck and Alison Krauss) that need to go back, plus my to-do list on a small yellow pad. In front of me is a vase with pale pink roses from Valentine’s day, all gloriously turning brown and falling apart. To the right is my half-full coffee cup, a white clay sculpture our five-year old won’t let us take off his placemat and next to that his blue plastic plate, still holding the remains of a half-eaten, syrup-soaked toaster waffle. The house is very old so the drafts come from all directions, but the radiators are whistling and from the table you can see into the cold and windy backyard and it’s bright out there.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was about eight or nine, my best friend at the time announced to his mom that he was going to be a writer and this voice in the back of my head said: No, that’s what I’m going to do. Little did I know what was involved or that there could be more than one writer in the world.

To date, what moment in your career has made you happiest?
There are lots of them. It’s always a kick to open that envelope from the publisher and see the galley of your book for the first time or to see a magazine with a story of yours in it on an actual newsstand somewhere. With this new book I got an e-mail from a high school friend who said he read it straight through on the plane while on a business trip to Germany and it made him laugh out loud, and I thought: OK, I made my friend’s plane trip a little shorter, that’s worth it.

For you what’s the most difficult thing about being a writer?
These days with kids and teaching, carving out the time and psychic space to get the work done is much more of a challenge than it used to be. That, and I never have all that much fun cranking out a first draft.

What’s the easiest thing?
Revising. I can sand sentences all day long.

What question do you get asked about your writing most often?
Mostly they seem to be how-to questions. How did you start with a certain book or story? Where did it go next? How long did it take?

What’s the question you’d like to be asked?

Where would you like to go to dinner?



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