Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing

When Life Gives you Lemons: An Interview with Faculty Member Elizabeth Hand

The impression you get when you meet Liz Hand is that there is something edgy about her. You can see it in the way she walks and talks. When you read her work, you see the inner and intimate workings of an author at the height of their craft. Liz Hand's works include Radiant Days (May 2012) and the critically acclaimed Available Dark (February 2012). Most recently Hand was the Guest of Honor at the World Fantasy Convention held in Toronto, Canada.

As a mentor at Stonecoast, Liz Hand has been described as supportive, challenging, and a joy to work with.  Liz was willing to take some time from her busy schedule to answer a few questions:

Elizabeth Hand

With (according to Wikipedia) a vast empire of stories, novels, novellas, comic books, and essentially every major award in the field--inquiring minds want to know--how did you get where you are today?

It sounds boring, and sometimes it IS boring, but mostly I just work all the time.  Work as in, I bang away at things even when I feel like what I'm writing is terrible.  A lot of times it IS terrible, which means I just work harder to try and get it right.  Malcolm Gladwell developed the notion of the 10,000 hour rule — to be a success at something, you need to work at it for 10,000 hours.  And I do feel as though I might just have put in my 10,000 hours, and finally gotten better at what I do.  Like Robert Frost (or someone) put it, success consists of hanging around till you catch on.  I'm not a disciplined person by nature — I'm disorganized and easily distracted.  But I've trained myself to work even when it's last thing in the world I feel like doing. 

I also think it's incredibly important to read, and read everything.  Read outside your chosen genre, read stuff that's difficult, read stuff that's stood the test of time.   Don't be afraid of influence: write while under the spell of a book or author you love, and then keep writing.   Imitate, assimilate, innovate: Eventually you'll find your own voice.

If you could go back and tell your younger self anything, what would it be?

 Keep a journal.  I always tried to keep a journal, and never succeeded for more than a month or two.  I have dozens of notebooks with only a few pages filled up.  I always think I'll remember everything, but I don't.  Whenever I read one of my journals I'm amazed at the stuff I completely forgot about — important stuff, too.

 What are you currently working on, and could you give us a favorite line or a snippet?

 I'm working on a contemporary gothic novel called Wylding Hall.  It began as a riff on Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca, one of my favorite books (and movies), and (no surprise) has morphed into something very different.  The central character is Rail, a seventeen-year-old girl from rural Texas who's admitted to a highly selective and rather strange acting program in an ancient British manor house.  Just a few months earlier, one of the other students disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and Rail grows increasingly obsessed with the missing girl, to the point where she wonders if she's actually obsessed or, perhaps, possessed.

What's been the coolest part about being a professional writer?

 It's ALL cool.  Truly!  But the best part is the realization that I'm doing the only thing I ever wanted to do, from the time I was four or five years old.  Sometimes I just can't believe it.

If you were a fruit, what fruit would you be, and why?

 A Meyer lemon.  I have a friend in California who has a Meyer lemon tree in his backyard, and every year he sends me a box of them and I share them with my friends here in Lincolnville. So I'd like to be a box of Meyer lemons and share myself, because, you know, when life gives you Meyer lemons...