Q&A With Hanna Halperin
New Information about Upcoming Book Related News
Q&A With Hanna Halperin
Hanna Halperin is the author of two books which are Something Wild & I Could Live Here Forever. According to Hanna Halperin’s bio Something Wild won the 2021 Edward Lewis Wallant Award and was a finalist for the 2021 National Jewish Book Award for Debut Fiction. Her stories have been published in The Kenyon Review, n+1, New Ohio Review, and Joyland. She has taught fiction workshops at GrubStreet in Boston and worked as a domestic violence counselor. I have the honor of doing this Q&A with her!
Q: Hanna, would you like to talk about Something Wild & I Could Live Here Forever and how you came up with the ideas for both books?
A: I Could Live Here Forever, which is the story of Leah, a young woman who falls in love with Charlie, a young man who is struggling with a heroin addiction, came to me fully formed, structure-wise. I knew I wanted to write about a relationship that didn’t make sense from the outside, but was irresistible to the two people in it. Some of my favorite books to read are those that give you an intimate look into a relationship so that you feel like you know it—the characters and the dynamic—on a cellular, visceral level. I wanted to write Leah and Charlie this way. Through writing, I came to understand that one thing I really wanted to describe was how drug addiction might mirror the feeling of being addicted to a person or a relationship or the feeling of being wanted.
My first novel, Something Wild began as a short story, but I can’t pinpoint how I came up with the idea for the story. The story was about two teenage girls, and I could imagine it being bigger, as I began to wonder about their adult lives and relationships. I continued to write bits and pieces about two sisters, Nessa and Tanya, how they were devoted and protective of one another, but also somewhat cut off, due to unsaid things that had happened between them when they were younger. Eventually things started layering together. The sections about their mother, and the more overt domestic violence piece of the book didn’t come until later. I was working as a domestic violence counselor and I was thinking about how emotional and physical violence shapes and is passed down in families. Themes of sexual violence were already present in the sisters’ story, and it just seemed obvious to me that’s where the novel was heading.
Q: Who were/are your biggest supporters of your writing dream and goal?
A: I had some early formative teachers who were supportive of my writing. After college I took a workshop with Amelia Kahaney at Sackett Street and she encouraged me to apply for MFA programs. I felt supported by my cohort at Wisconsin, as well as my professors, Judith Claire Mitchell, Danielle Evans and Jesse Lee Kercheval. I have a few friends—most who are writers and one who isn’t—who have read drafts and given me honest and thorough feedback. My friend, Kevin Jiang, who is a writer, was the first to read an early draft of my second novel and his feedback meant a lot because I felt the energy to keep going. I’ve also felt lucky working with my editor, Allison Lorentzen on both books and a number of essays. My work always deepens once I talk things over with her. Many people in my life have been supportive to me when it comes to my writing. Even if it’s not directly reading or editing, I feel their support.
Q: What was it like working as a domestic violence counselor? I think you are a wonderful person helping those in a domestic violence situation.
A: It was a mixture of hopeful and heavy work. My favorite part of the job was making connections with clients, whether I spoke with someone just once or over the course of months or years. Domestic violence work often involves collaborating with a whole team. Especially when a case was high-risk, we worked on it together, brainstorming from different angles. This sort of collaboration provided more support for clients, and I found I was always learning. Many of my colleagues have been doing this work for decades and I learned a lot from working with them and watching the calm and compassion with which they did their jobs, especially when things got stressful.
Q: Are you currently writing your third book right now, and if so can you reveal anything about it or is it too early to spill details as of yet?
A: It’s too early to say.
Q: Whether Hollywood has the rights to your books, (and I hope they do) or not, who would be your dream cast to play the characters you created?
A: I don’t have dream casts in mind except for a few actors. For instance, I can see Kathryn Hahn playing Faye in I Could Live Here Forever. I imagine Tanya in Something Wild to have Sonya Walger vibes.
Q: Where is your favorite spot or spots to sit down and plot, write and edit your work?
A: I like being at home or at libraries to write and coffee shops to revise. I tend to need quiet to actually write, but once I’m editing or more involved in a project, I like being surrounded by people and a bit of background noise. I tend to pick a spot that works for me and go back there over and over until it finally gets old and then find a new spot.