Monday, May 20, 2013

Beth Hoffman talks about Looking For Me, being a "card-carrying nut" about antique furniture, writing, and so much more

Want advice, cheer, support, championing and staunch friendship?  Beth Hoffman willingly dispenses all that and more, with ultimate grace and warmth, plus she's a stupendously talented writer. T
welve days after her first novel was published in January 2010, she became aNew York Times bestselling author with foreign rights selling to Italy, Germany, France, Poland, Norway, Hungary, Indonesia, Korea, Israel, and the United Kingdom. She's also an award-winning designer and a painter, whose work is in private and corporate collections in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Her newest novel, Looking For Me, is about family secrets and finding your place in the world, and I am so thrilled and honored to have Beth here to talk about it. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Beth!

So much of this lovely novel is about restoration—of the antique furniture Teddi finds and of the past she must come to grips with. Do you ever think of the past as a messenger to the kind of future we should be living?

I believe the past holds many gifts for us in its hands. The experiences we have and the people we meet (be they positive or negative) have come into our lives for a reason. It’s up to us to figure out why and see what hidden treasures are waiting to be discovered. While positive experiences can be life changing, I find it’s frequently those that are painful that hold the most valuable lessons and offer the greatest opportunity for growth. So often we have to look back and sift through memories with eyes that have been opened by the passage of time before we can truly learn, heal, and move forward. In my case, as well as Teddi’s, this has certainly been true.

You hit the NYT bestseller list with Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. What changed for you after that? Did you feel differently or did you think you should feel differently and you didn't?

As odd as it might seem, besides being thrilled and a bit overwhelmed when I learned the news, I don’t feel that becoming a New York Times bestselling author has changed me. It’s rather like the old Zen saying: “Before Enlightenment: Chop wood, carry water; After Enlightenment: Chop wood, carry water.” Perhaps if I hadn’t nearly died of septicemia before leaving my interior design career I’d feel differently. But coming so close to death’s door is the thing that changed me. I was just so happy to have finally gathered the courage to switch careers and go after my lifelong dream of writing a novel that little else was on my radar.

Sense of place is so important to your characters—is it also crucial to you? Could you imagine living anywhere else, say, as my neighbor in NYC?  

Sense of place is extremely important. Loving what surrounds me is vital to my happiness and directly impacts my creativity. To thrive, I must feel a connection to a home that has a rich sense of history and possesses architectural character, and, I need to have gardens and trees and daily visits from wildlife. I’m a quiet person and a wee bit reclusive, and though I thoroughly enjoy people (in limited doses), I’m at my best physically, emotionally and spiritually when I’m at home. I need my furbabies close by while I write, and I need the solitude of working in the garden when I take a break from the written word. I have no doubt that you’d be a terrific (and fun) neighbor, Caroline! And while I do enjoy visiting NYC for business, I don’t think I could live there.

How much of Teddi's love for furniture is also yours? (I know you owned an interior design store!)

When it comes to finely crafted furniture and antiques, I’m a card-carrying nut. I get weak-kneed at the sight of burled walnut chests, and giant armoires with hand-carved details take my breath away. I have a real thing for certain chairs, and I once squealed out loud when I saw a rare, 1780s Prince of Wales chair offered at auction. Like old homes, antique furnishings and accessories have fascinating histories and a patina that can’t be replicated. There’s nothing quite like smoothing my fingertips over an eighteenth-century chest where the drawers have been dovetailed to perfection and the marquetry inlay is sheer artistic genius. I’ve always been awed by the pride and care that old world craftsmen strived for, and achieved.

What's obsessing you now and why?

I’m obsessed with trying to figure out how I can add a few more peonies in my garden. They’re my favorites and I can’t get enough of them, yet there simply isn’t an inch left.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?
You (blessedly) didn’t ask me what I’m planning to write about next, and I am so grateful! I’m the kind of writer who needs my ideas to marinate for a while. So for now, I’m quite happy to listen to the chatter of possible characters in my head, but I don’t feel compelled to write about them—at least not yet.

Beth Hoffman’s website:

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