Beth Hoffman, author of Looking for Me, stopped by the blog to talk about antiques, how she creates characters, and the setting for Looking for Me.
She will be back on Wednesday to reveal her #literarycrush, #literaryconfessions, and the books that are on her TBR list (plus where she gets many of her book recommendations!)
*Need more Beth in your life? Twitter chat with Beth Hoffman Friday, July 26th from 2-3pmEST- thanks to Deep South Magazine! Use hashtag #southernlit to join in!
Interview with Beth Hoffman
Beth- thank you for agreeing to be interviewed!
I’m happy to be here, Tamara. Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog.
Beth, what was the inspiration for Looking for Me?
After I returned home from touring with CeeCee, I didn’t know what I’d write next, and quite honestly, I was too exhausted to think about it. One day I was cleaning my writing library and began to organize old photographs. I came across an envelope containing photos of my grandparents’ farm—some dating as far back as 1883.
There were probably close to a hundred photos in all, and I spent a good while reliving my childhood and yearning for those simple days on the farm. I missed the smell of freshly tilled earth and the taste of sweet corn grown on the land that had been in my family for generations. Just as I picked up a photo of my younger brother, something flashed in my periphery. I looked up as a red-tailed hawk landed in the tree outside my window. He settled on a branch and then turned his head and looked in the window. For a long moment we considered each other, and then—wham—I knew I had the soul of my story.
Teddi is a complex character, a very real character. How did you create Teddi?
Like all of my characters, Teddi came to me fully realized. Though I gave her my love of antiques, animals, and nature, she took off with her own persona and quirks. One of the things I’ve learned while crafting a novel is to get out of the way and give my characters freedom to live and speak and think without too much interference from me. Many times they’ve brought me major storyline revelations that I hadn’t even considered. It’s a fascinating process.
Part of the book is set in Charleston and part in Kentucky. What about those two settings made it right for Looking for Me?
The atmosphere of the story I want to create will determine the setting. I need to feel connected to a location’s history and culture. One of my favorite things to do while crafting a novel is to explore opposites. The juxtaposition of Charleston’s refinement to Slade, Kentucky’s rugged wilderness intrigued me. Red River Gorge is wonderfully wild and mysterious while Charleston is known for its gorgeous architecture and gentility. The downtown area of Charleston was the perfect place for Teddi to reach for her dream while Kentucky was ideal to hold her family’s roots.
Antiques are a huge part of Looking for Me. Were you using antiques as a metaphor- even when things look bleak, some tender loving care can make things better?
To be honest, I never thought of antiques as a metaphor while crafting the story, but you have an interesting point. I’ve always had a tender spot for people, animals, and objects that have suffered neglect and need care. Many years ago I drove by a trashcan that had an old teddy bear sticking out. It made me sad to think that he’d once been loved and yet soon would be left to disintegrate in a dump. So I stopped and went back to get him. He was so old that he was stuffed with excelsior. I cleaned him up, stitched one his paws, and made sure he was sanitized. He’s now happily sitting on one of my bookshelves.
Beth- how do you create characters? Are the characters based on people you know?
I don’t mean to sound evasive, but my characters just seem to show up. Long before I begin a manuscript they begin to chatter in my head. I don’t so much create them as acknowledge them. More often than not they’ll appear out of nowhere and surprise me. Certainly some characters will have traits of people I’ve known, heard about, or interacted with, but they always end up being unique unto themselves.
When writing Looking for Me– did you know how it would end? Or did the ending reveal itself as you were writing?
I was well into writing the manuscript before I knew how it would end. The ending came to me late one night, and when I saw it play out in my head, I knew it was absolutely right.
Any ideas as to what the next book will be about, Beth?
I have no clue! Some characters have started to “talk” to me, but I really don’t know what, if anything, will come of what they’re saying. I’m the kind of writer who needs to put some time and distance between novels so I can fully immerse myself in a new story and keep it fresh and separate from those that came before it.
*Special thanks to Beth Hoffman for agreeing to be interviewed!
Beth Hoffman, author of Looking for Me and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, has the honor of being chosen for Deep South Magazine’s 2013 Summer Reading List! When she is not writing, you can find Beth on Twitter– sending encouraging tweets to her writer friends (and fans!) Beth also has a website and a Facebook page.