Sunday, November 17, 2019

Olivia Hawker

Through unexpected characters and vivid prose, Olivia Hawker explores the varied landscape of the human spirit. Hawker’s interest in genealogy often informs her writing. Her first two novels from Lake Union Publishing, The Ragged Edge of Night and One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow (2019), are based on true stories found within the author’s family tree.

She lives in the San Juan Islands of Washington State with her husband Paul and several naughty cats.

Recently I asked Hawker about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve been on a huge Joan Didion kick lately. That started this summer while I was working on a new book for Lake Union Publishing. It’s set in the late sixties and early seventies, and it deals with two women in their late twenties who are feeling thoroughly dissatisfied with their lives. I wanted to understand what women of that age were thinking and feeling during that time, which was a strange gray area between the exuberance and optimism of the hippie movement and the cynicism that gripped America once Nixon’s misdeeds were exposed. The peace-and-love thing was just starting to die down and no one was sure yet what kind of culture would grow up out of all the shocking societal changes that happened in the early and mid-sixties. I figured the best way to find the right tone for my book was to read what women in their late twenties and early thirties were writing about during that time, which naturally led me to Joan Didion.

I started with Play It as It Lays, her 1970 novel about a woman struggling to navigate Hollywood culture and a rather grim marriage. It was dark and honest and weird—three things I absolutely love in fiction—and that led me into many of Didion’s other works. I’m still going through them all now. Slouching Towards Bethlehem, her 1968 collection of essays she wrote for various papers and magazines, was another stand-out favorite. I can see why Didion became such a fixture of the letters community early in her career. Her directness and engaging narrative style really pull you in and make you confront the realities of the subjects she chooses.

I’ve also been reading a lot of Virginia Woolf lately. I go on Woolf binges every ten years or so. I think she does the stream-of-consciousness thing superbly—which isn’t surprising, I suppose, since she really pioneered it—and I see a lot of Woolf’s influence in my own writing. I don’t do the stream-of-consciousness thing very often, but it comes up now and then in my work. Currently I’m reading Mrs. Dalloway and it’s always a delight to revisit.
Visit Olivia Hawker's website.

My Book, The Movie: One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow.

The Page 69 Test: One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow.

--Marshal Zeringue