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Joyce Hinnefeld, author of In Hovering Flight (October 29-November 12)

Author Chat

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Oct 28, 2008, 10:49pm Top

Join us here to talk to Joyce Hinnefeld, author of In Hovering Flight. She'll be on LibraryThing to discuss her work and answer questions through November 12th.

Oct 29, 2008, 12:42pm Top

Joyce, would you think it make sense to think of your book as principally the story of Scarlet watching and hearing the stories of her parents and their group of friends? When I started the book I was reading it as "the story of Addie and Tom" but not really getting it -- I am loving it as "the story of Scarlet".

-- Jeremy

Oct 29, 2008, 1:15pm Top

Sorry, that was me -- I've been blogging reading In Hovering Flight at READIN.

Oct 29, 2008, 1:15pm Top

Joyce, I read your book and reviewed it for the bookstore I used to work for. It's a wonderful story, and very well written.

My question has to do with literary lineage.

Who were your influences? What writers, artists, musicians, or, perhaps, scientists even, influence your work and provide you with inspiration, lessons, most importantly, solutions to writing quandaries?

Oct 29, 2008, 8:34pm Top

Hi Jeremy.
I'll be sure to see what you say at your blog. I think you're right that the novel "works" best when read/seen through Scarlet's eyes; hers is definitely the controlling consciousness--she's the "close to consciousness" character. I struggled a bit with point of view at various stages of writing the book. Originally, the sections that are clearly Scarlet's were in first person. I like the existing version much better, and I have my editor Fred Ramey to thank for guiding me toward this. I still don't know how to label IHF's point of view; it's not exactly third omniscient, though we are privy to the thoughts of more than just Scarlet.

I think the shift from first to third felt so right to me because I found myself watching and learning from Scarlet, not exactly "being" her as I was writing, if this makes any sense. I've talked sometimes about being right in the middle--right between Addie and Scarlet in age. And so I was learning to know both of them as I wrote.

Oct 29, 2008, 8:53pm Top

Hi Quinn.
Thanks for reviewing IHF for the bookstore! And thanks for your kind words.
Influences . . . . Well, in terms of artists, I guess it's obvious I was influenced by the things I read about Kathe Kollwitz; also about Audubon, Roger Tory Peterson, other bird artists. I don't know that I can make a direct link to musicians for this book, but you can find the "play list" (called Book Notes) I created to go along with IHF at a terrific site: www.largeheartedboy.com.

I'm glad you asked about scientists. At the urging of Dan Klem, the ornithologist who graciously advised me throughout the writing of IHF, I read a great New Yorker article about Alfred Russel Wallace by Jonathan Rosen, from 2007. Wallace actually got to the theory of natural selection before Darwin did; he's really fascinating. I don't know that I can say that learning about him helped me solve any writing quandaries, but I did find his life and work inspiring.

And now, sigh, the question of literary influences. Of course you know it's an impossible question to answer; as soon as you name five you realize you've left out ten. I always list Alice Munro, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Joanna Scott, Ursula Hegi. Ursula has been a wonderful, supportive friend; she's helped me solve many writing quandaries, as has my graduate advisor and another wonderful writer, Gene Garber. I read Maureen Howard's Big as Life while I was working on IHF and just felt exhilarated by the way she wrote about Audubon. And finally, I have to admit that very early in the process of writing IHF I had a picture of somehow trying to imitate Virginia Woolf in The Waves. That faded eventually, but I'm aware of that book's influence still, subtly, in the way IHF is structured--the way the book keeps returning to these characters on a May morning in 2002, on Cora's sun porch.


Oct 29, 2008, 9:21pm Top

It's hard to know for sure (since obviously I am only reading one version) but not putting Scarlet's sections in first person seems like a really good idea. There's a kind of passivity to her relations with other people (at least in the first half of the book) that makes third-person seem like a really natural choice.

Oct 30, 2008, 12:57pm Top

Thank you, Joyce. I loved Toni Morrison's little book of essays "Playing in the Dark." Although I've only read Tar Baby, I've had Jazz and Beloved on my never-diminishing reading list.

thanks for the playlist and the link to Large Hearted Boy. I'll have to keep that in mind as a place to check out when Unbridled releases my book next fall. ;o)

Oct 31, 2008, 12:23pm Top

Now I'm curious about your book, Quinn! And Jeremy: I love all your questions and insights about IHF at your blog, and I just love the way you throw yourself wholeheartedly into everything you read (I know this about you already, of course).

I've seen remarks from a few other bloggers who plan to read IHF and join this discussion; looking forward to hearing from you all.

One thing I'm curious about is readers' reactions to the generational differences between Scarlet and her parents. If we develop a "land ethic," a sense of responsibility toward the environment, when and how does this happen? And do people express that ethic differently at different ages?


Oct 31, 2008, 9:51pm Top

The differences (that I'm noticing) between Scarlet and her parents seem pretty natural to me. I've known a lot of kids of vocally activist parents who are much quieter in their affect, but who have internalized the cause their parents advocate in such a way for it to be a second nature.

Nov 2, 2008, 2:21pm Top

I'm struck by the beautiful cover art of *In Hovering Flight*, which led me to contact Fred Ramey about the cover art selection process at Unbridled Books.

I understand the IHF image is from an Audubon print ... what input did you have in choosing the cover art for you novel?

Also, I see on your blog that you'll be in NY and PA later this year? Is there a chance you're coming further up into the northeast corner (the Boston area)?

Nov 3, 2008, 1:38pm Top

Isn't the cover of IHF beautiful? Fred Ramey and Greg Michalson at Unbridled Books do gorgeous covers; it's a clear priority for them. Actually, at one point Fred told me about the work of a photographer named Terry Evans (there's a link to her web site on mine, under "Art" at http://www.inhoveringflight.com/resources.html). For a while, Fred and I were intrigued by the idea of one of Evans' photographs of bird specimens at the Field Museum. But then, as I like to say, "wiser heads" (that, is marketing and publicity people at Unbridled) prevailed and convinced us that maybe a dead bird on the cover wasn't the best idea.

The cover image is an Audubon image, yes; it's the Cuvier's kinglet, a bird that is introduced in the novel's opening and plays a key role later on, from Audubon's BIRDS OF AMERICA. Audubuon's images are now in the public domain; you can find them all over online. Here the cover artist adjusted the image just a bit, eliminating some of the leaves to make the bird more prominent. I got to see and consider the cover in advance. I'll admit that at first I had to adjust my thinking (I was still picturing a stark, arresting photo of a dead specimen, remember). But I quickly came around, and I now love the cover--as do many people who've spoken to me about it.

I'd love to come to Boston! I was there briefly back in September, for the New England Independent Booksellers Association meeting. But it would be great to try to schedule something else; anyplace in particular that you'd recommend?


Nov 4, 2008, 9:34am Top

Finished the book last night -- a really moving, thoughtful ending. Thanks!

I hadn't really looked at the cover until yesterday. Yes, very pretty. Is the bush behind the kinglet a mountain laurel?

Nov 6, 2008, 10:06pm Top

"Broad-Leaved Kalmia--or Laurel." Good call, Jeremy!

Is it just me, or is it REALLY hard to concentrate on anything other than Tuesday's incredible election?


Nov 7, 2008, 8:45pm Top

I am so distracted by Tuesday's election - I'm reading everything about it that I can get my hands on (and watching all the pundits on TV; I'm usually one to avoid the 'talking heads'). I'd say that I haven't been able to read anything "fun" for a few days, but this is very fun!

Back to IHF ... Joyce, I've posted the article I was working on, about cover art at Unbridled Books. In Hovering Flight with your Cuvier's kinglet at the top of the page:


As far as Boston-area bookstores go, it would be selfish for me to name our local shop, the Concord Book Shop, but it's convenient :) Other great stores are Willow Books (Acton), Newtonville Books (Newton), and the Harvard Bookstore (Cambridge)

Nov 9, 2008, 10:27pm Top

Thanks, Dawn. This piece on Unbridled's covers is really interesting--I learned a few things! I love the fact that Fred and Greg view their books as complete works of art; what appears on the outside needs to be consistent with the voice and mood of the text inside. I'm also just so grateful for their devotion to the books they publish.

I'm gearing up for a couple more bookstore events in the weeks ahead: Politics and Prose in Washington, DC on Nov. 16, McNally Jackson Books in New York on Nov. 24 (details at http://www.inhoveringflight.com/news.html). I'll do a reading at Morvian College in Bethlehem, PA, where I teach, on Dec. 1, and then things quiet down for the holidays. I'm glad to have your bookstore recommendations in the Boston area, Dawn; thank you.

I've been tuning in to the news and obsessively reading newspapers too; it's been a while since I've wanted to do this. Tonight, as I was putting my daughter to bed and refusing to allow her to go on reading past bedtime, I got to hear "I bet Michelle Obama would let me stay up. And then I'd get to live in the White House!" So it goes in our house these days.


Nov 11, 2008, 8:33am Top

Joyce, after reading your question about generational differences, I'm wondering if you've read the Apology to Boomers at Salon.com? http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/11/07/havrilesky/?source=newsletter

Imagine if the internet had been around in the 60s.

Nov 11, 2008, 9:10pm Top

Well, I have to say I just can't quite imagine the 60s with the internet (speaking as what one of the writers of letters in response to the "Apology to Boomers" calls a "late boomer"--that is, as someone who was six during the summer of love).

Thanks for letting me know about this piece. It certainly does speak to the struggles of Scarlet in IHF, her exasperation with her parents and their ideals, her love for them and simultaneous need to set herself apart. Particularly this line: "No, we weren't always ready to get involved and make the world a better place, because the air we breathed was toxic with absurdity and excess."

Really the letter that spoke of being a "late boomer" interested me, with its contention that Barack Obama (who is almost exactly my age!) could be a bridge-builder between these two generations. I certainly don't see myself as a bridge-builder on his scale! But I did feel, in writing about Addie and Scarlet, that I was trying to understand, and articulate, this divide--between, I suppose, my students over the last fifteen years or so on one hand, and my husband, my older siblings, etc., on the other.

At the 2008 AWP conference in New York, I went to a panel on environmental writing, and it left me filled with despair. Not because the speakers weren't interesting; I liked what they had to say very much. But they were all "women of a certain age," and when a couple younger people in the audience (MFA students, I was certain) raised questions afterwards--mainly contending that the language these women used simply wouldn't reach many members of their generation--it really did start to seem like those women up there and these younger folks in the audience couldn't even understand each other. For a moment there I felt pretty hopeless about the potential for environmentally-focused writing to reach anyone under, say, 35.

Lately I've felt a little better. This semester I've had students in one of my classes read some Rachel Carson, some Elizabeth Kolbert, and Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan's graphic novel As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial, among other things. The students, at least the truly engaged ones, have liked all these writers' works (though they do seem fondest of Jensen and McMillan; thanks to my former student Stephanie Anderson for recommending this book to me).

I guess reading Heather Havrilesky's "Apology" at Salon.com makes me hopeful too. Turns out a lot of us, whatever our ages, wanted the same thing. Imagine that.


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