As the Plot Thins (ATPT): First of all, congratulations on the publishing of your second novel, Reunion. What’s it like for you when your work finally hits the shelves? Is it nerve racking? Relieving? Or isn’t it that big of a deal?
Hannah Pittard (HP):What’s it like? It’s amazing. I sold my first novel in 2009 and it was published in 2011. Before that, I’d been publishing short stories since 2006. So I guess I’ve been in “the business” — which is an awful way of thinking of it, but… — for about ten years. So far, it hasn’t ceased to amaze me that I’m a part of all this. Every book is different. Is it terrifying? A little, but in the best way possible.
ATPT: “In the business” (laughs) I like that. Does that have any effect on how much you write or what you write about?
HP: It doesn’t. No. Not everything I write will get published, though. So there’s that…
ATPT: Reunion tells the story of a family reuniting after the death of their father. Where did the idea for this story come from?
HP: My paternal grandfather killed himself in 2011 and — perhaps as a way to tease out my own understanding of suicide in general and not his death particular — I felt the need to write about it. Or, more truthfully, whenever I sat down to write, it — sudden, unexpected death — was on my mind.
ATPT: I am very sorry to hear about your grandfather. Would you say writing Reunion was a bit therapeutic then or was it difficult to find that understanding?
HP: If writing Reunion was therapeutic — and in some ways it was — it’s because I allowed myself to be less serious; I allowed myself to be (I think?) funny. That was a nice change.
ATPT: When you aren’t writing you are teaching writing. Who or what inspired you to become a writer? And to go along with that, what advice do you give students or writers in general, when they are first beginning? Not to be getting the class for free or anything…(laughs)
HP: My family is a bookish one. My mother in particular always took such care with words. Her respect for reading and writing was something, as a child, I took very seriously. So my mother’s interest, I suspect, very naturally became mine. Faulkner was an eye-opening reading experience, as was Harry Crews. I’m not sure I ever believed I’d make it as far as I have. But when you’re young — or, at least, when I was young — that wasn’t my concern. I had to read. I had to write. It’s how I spent my time. It never seemed, if this makes sense, like a choice. Would this also, maybe, qualify as advice? Put your guts into it. Don’t half-ass anything.
ATPT: Who are some of your biggest influences?
HP: Well, spinning off the above… Faulkner, Harry Crews, Lorrie Moore, Tim O’Brien, Ann Beattie, Donald Antrim, Muriel Spark and, more recently, Elizabeth Taylor and Howard Norman.
ATPT: And finally, I have to ask, what are you currently reading?
HP: Like the rest of the world, I’m absorbed currently by Elena Ferrante’s novels.
Reunion is out now on Grand Central Publishing