"You hear what’s important in the reading of a story. You can hear what sounds right. I really care about language, and I hope that comes through in the tapes.”
Though many listeners have discovered the work of Alice Hoffman through her most recent books —TURTLE MOON; LOCAL GIRLS, made into a movie; and HERE ON EARTH, an Oprah selection — she’s no overnight sensation. She’s been writing and publishing for 25 years. A trip to the fiction section of Borders reveals nearly a whole shelf of her work.
Especially popular among book groups, Hoffman senses that many people discover her through other readers. “Friends tell friends,” she says from her home in Massachusetts, “mothers tell daughters. It’s the same way I find the authors I love.”
Hoffman’s latest work, THE RIVER KING, is about a town in Massachusetts that has been separated for about 100 years between the townspeople and the people who go to an exclusive school there. An unexplained death throws the two groups of people together, and secrets are revealed. “It’s a story about the whole town,” she says, “so it was a lot of fun to write—it’s told from the points of view of three women at different stages in life. There are a lot of characters, and what happens in the past resonates in the present action.”
Hoffman is interested in the oral tradition of writing and always reads her work aloud. “You hear what’s important in the reading of a story. You can hear what sounds right. I really care about language, and I hope that’s one of the things that comes through in the tapes.” She likens writing to playing the piano. “The rhythm is very important. It’s like trying to get to some kind of music. I like to really bang on the keyboard of my computer. I’m trying to create a kind of a chanting rhythm that’s almost mystical.”
Very protective of her voice, Hoffman neither reads nor listens to books when she’s writing, which is most of the time. Consequently, she’s never listened to any of her works on audio. “I try not to go back and read my books. When I finish a book, I have to leave it behind in order to go on to the next one. So when I’m done, I’m done. I just walk away from it.”