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20 Writerly Questions Series: Holly LeCraw

abstract:The "Writerly Questions Series" is brought to you courtesy of Random House Canada who partners with BookBuffet. Look for this feature each Monday. The idea is we ask different authors the same set of questions designed to give readers a glimpse into the lives and writing mechanics of authors. It is fascinating to compare and contrast when you check the list to date at bottom. Today's author is Holly LeCraw. Holly lives outside of Boston with her husband, who is a journalist, and three kids. Her short fiction and book reviews have appeared in a range of publications, including the Edge City Review and the Boston Book Review. Her short fiction was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Though a newcomer as a novelist, she grew up in the book industry. For more information on her newest novel, The Swimming Pool, please visit her website

1. How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
Itís the story of a young man and an older woman who are mourning the same person--his father, who was her lover--and who, to their great surprise, begin an affair of their own, leading to crises and revelations they never could have imagined.
2. How long did it take you to write this book?
I tried not to keep track. Three or four years.
3. Where is your favorite place to write?
Alone on Cape Cod.
4. How do you choose your charactersí names?
They just come to me and I use them as placeholders, because at the beginning I am always in a hurry; later I go back to change them and theyíve affixed themselves to the characters like barnacles, and I canít think of anything better.
5. How many drafts do you go through?
One draft flows into the other, so Iím not sure. They arenít discrete manuscripts. Four? Five? Twenty? I did do an edit/polish for both my agent, before we submitted, and then my editor.
6. If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?
Too many to choose from--but on the other hand, I canít imagine writing any books but my own.
7. If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?
Hmmm...maybe Robert Pattinson for Jed, and Juliette Binoche for Marcella. We could make her French.
[8-20 cont'd]


May 17, 2010
8. Whatís your favourite city in the world?
I would love to spend more time in Florence. I also love London.
9. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask?
Iíd like to be at a dinner party with both T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf. I have no idea what Iíd ask--Iíd just listen. Good Lord, imagine the banter. It would be nice to see old Tom get a little soused and happy.

I think Iíd also like to sit at the feet of Walt Whitman. I have the idea that he would be very generous with his encouragement. Iíd like to watch how someone who wrote that freely and instinctively would move in the world.
10. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind?
11. Who is the first person who gets to read your manuscript?
Probably my husband. Then I have a couple of friends who are very, very smart and whom I completely trust.
12. Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
If I did I wouldnít tell! But I do tend to read things over and over and over. Gatsby, Franny and Zooey, Portrait of a Lady... Thatís my comfort food.
13. Whatís on your nightstand right now?
Things I am reading for inspiration--not subject matter, but just sheer greatness: The Sea, by John Banville; On Chesil Beach and Atonement, by Ian McEwan; Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, etc. etc.; Swannís Way, which I read very quickly and badly the first time, years ago--and hopefully this time I will read all the rest of Proust too; some D.H. Lawrence, whom I am rediscovering; The Moviegoer, which Iím reading for the zillionth time; and Aspects of the Novel, by E.M. Forster. I am reading the chapter on ďProphecyĒ over and over. Itís my current manifesto.

Also the new edition of The Last Tycoon--which, by the way, they are now calling The Love of the Last Tycoon, which is just not an improvement. I donít care what Fitzgerald wanted. He wanted to call Gatsby Trimalchio in West Egg, so I think we can dismiss his opinion on his own titles. Anyway, it is such a tragedy that book wasnít finished. The bits that weíve got are so gorgeous.
14. What is the first book you remember reading?
Jemima Puddle-Duck, in kindergarten. There were probably others before that but I remember that one very clearly. I loved the illustrations. I think I also loved the smallness of the book. It felt good to hold.
15. Did you always want to be a writer?
Off and on, yes. Underneath, always. I just didnít believe I deserved to do something so astounding.
16. What do you drink or eat while you write?
Coffee, tea, water, apples, chocolate. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
17. Typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper?
First pen and paper, then laptop, then back and forth.
18. What did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?
I canít remember--I was in shock. And it was a weeknight, so I probably just made dinner for my kids. I was trying to be as normal as possible and not freak myself out. One funny thing though. I had been on the phone with my husband all day giving him updates from the auction. The last email I sent him--with what I thought was definitive news that I was going with Doubleday--was apparently so addled that he didnít realize it was final, and so when he came home from work soon after, he didnít say congratulations or anything! I gave him a mulligan on that one, and he very wisely left and came back about fifteen minutes later with champagne and flowers, and when he walked through the door he yelled, ďWow! You sold your book!Ē
19. How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
I use whichever one is the most organically interesting to me. If I am feeling sluggish when I am writing a scene, sometimes it means I need to switch the point of view to another characterís. I am trying to experiment with voice a little bit with my new book, The Sweetness of Honey. The Swimming Pool was written in very close third, albeit from multiple points of view, and with my new book I am having the urge to lengthen the lens a little bit. But that might be because itís early yet and I am still getting to know everyone. I do have a recurring ambition to write something from an omniscient point of view, in a sort of nineteenth-century way.
20. What is the best gift someone could give a writer?

Author links

  • Random House's "Author Feature Page" for Holly LeCraw
  • Holly's Twitter Page
  • Holly's Facebook page
  • Publisher links:

  • Twitter Page
  • Book Lounge on Twitter
  • Book Lounge on Facebook
  • Previous Authors Asked 20 Writerly Questions

    Joan Thomas
    Anosh Irani
    Yann Martel
    Joy Fielding
    Andrew Kaufman
    Beth Powning



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