Interview with Hannah Pittard

 

Credit: Jeremy Lawson

Credit: Jeremy Lawson

Hannah Pittard is the author of The Fates Will Find Their Way and her forthcoming novel Reunion due out October 2014. A graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago, she is currently teaching fiction and creative writing at DePaul University. Her fiction has won her numerous awards, including the Amanda Davis Highwire Fiction Award in 2006, and appeared in magazines such as McSweeney’s. She is also a consulting editor for Narrative Magazine.

Alyssa Walker: When and how did you decide you wanted to write as a career? What sacrifices, if any, did you make? How did your original path toward criticism influence this choice?

Hannah Pittard: I’ve always liked writing – I liked writing essays, I liked writing stories, I liked writing sentences. Words have always impressed me with the subtlety they allow. When I was a kid, I remember listening to my uncle and grandmother debate – for nearly an hour – whether a particular bird outside the kitchen window had been sauntering or strolling.

AW: How would you describe your writing process—time, medium, aims, brainstorming, etc.? Does it change by genre or style?

HP: I write what comes. And I write what’s bothering me. I write the behaviors that keep reappearing in different circumstances.

I like to get as much house cleaning done as possible before sitting down to write because – if there’s a distraction, if there’s an excuse – then I’ll always take it. So it’s best – for me – to start with a really tidy home. Or, if that’s not possible, maybe just walk to a coffee shop.

AW: Tell me about a childhood memory or life-changing moment that has stuck with you during your writing career.

HP: Every ride in the car that I took with my father. Or with my grandmother. Or with my brother and sister. Especially if John Prine or Willie Nelson was playing. I remember them all and they stick with me.

AW: Nobody talks about titles. What is your philosophy on them? How much value do you put on them? How did The Fates Will Find Their Way come about?

HP: I studied, for a time, at St. John’s College. It’s there I fell in love with the Greeks. I also fell in love with Virgil, from whom the quote comes.

AW: Talk about your process of finding a publisher: Who did you seek out first? Who gave you a chance? Why did you choose the route you did? How did the process change for you when publishing your short stories to when you published your first novel?

HP: With stories, I did everything on my own. I didn’t have an agent. I made contacts. I sent emails. I submitted countless stories. I stayed, as best as possible, in people’s minds. I was polite, but tenacious. When I finished The Fates, I sent it to three agents, whose names I’d been saving since my days of submitting stories. All three wanted the book. I chose the one who sounded the most level-headed: he was excited but cautious. He was optimistic, but realistic. I liked that. He sold the book a week later.

AW: What other jobs do you have? How do they hinder or enhance your career as a writer? Do you consider yourself a writer first?

HP: I waited tables while writing The Fates. I waited tables, in fact, right up until my first day at DePaul. I don’t think waiting tables inhibited me. It helped. I spent my mornings and early afternoons writing. I spent my evenings making the money necessary to pay bills. You have to have a pretty strong will – you have to be determined to get up and do the work (preferably in a clean house).

AW: What tips, quotes, books, tools, etc., have stuck with you as a writer? Do you still refer to them from time to time, such as with writer’s block?

HP: Read. Read. Read. Read. And I’m not talking about re-reading Harry Potter. Read new things. Read old things. Ask you best friends what the best books they’ve ever read are. Read those. Ask your favorite professors what the best books they’ve ever read are. Read those. I dare you not to want to write after reading so much great stuff.

AW: How was The Fates Will Find Their Way born? What was going through your mind when you were writing it? Was it originally an idea made to be published or did it turn into that? How?

HP: It was just there, this idea. I’d thought I’d shrivel up and die if I didn’t write it.

AW: How do you see the role of your mentor, Ann Beattie, playing out in your work—specifically in The Fates Will Find Their Way?

HP: Ann has created an endless number of possibilities for me. From the first day I met he, I thought she was the bee’s knees. When I realized – miraculously – that I had her respect, I vowed to keep it, continue to earn it, and to try to impress her every day.

AW: What is a question you would like to be asked in an interview? The answer?

HP: Other dream career? Comedian.

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Alyssa Walker

Alyssa Walker is currently a second-year student at DePaul University where she is studying English, French and Philosophy, along with dabbling in anything else she can think of. Outside of school, she enjoys attending concerts of all kinds, where she puts her love for event photography to work. Her free time, and time that should be used for school work, is spent reading and finding television series to obsess over. She has most recently hopped on the Game of Thrones and Doctor Who bandwagons. As for her writing, it has appeared in her coveted journals and slips of paper that end up in the bottom of her backpack. She lives in Wrigleyville with two roommates and her cat Toby.

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