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This blog was featured on 09/30/2019
Alice Hoffman on How Magic and Literature Flourish Together
Written by
She Writes
September 2019
Written by
She Writes
September 2019

Alice Hoffman is the notorious author of more than 30 works of acclaimed fiction, regarded for her seamless ability to blend historical characters and reality with the fantastical. She is arguably best known for New York Times-bestselling novel Practical Magic, which was made into a movie in 1998 starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. But her work in fiction is vast, publishing in literary, children’s, and young adult markets.

More recently, she released The Rules of Magic, a prequel to Practical Magic, set in New York City in the 1960s. And this month, to her fans’ delight, she released The World That We Knew: A Novel.

“Alice Hoffman’s new novel will break your heart, and then stitch it back together piece by piece. It’s about love and loss, about history and the world today, about what happens when man goes against the laws of nature for good and for evil,” said New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult of Hoffman’s new book.

On Inspiration

Hoffman’s adoration for magic began early in life, as she listed to original stories told by her Russian grandmother.

“In childhood I was reading all the time,” Hoffman said in an interview with The Guardian. “I started reading folklore and fairytales. I read a lot of magic. My favorite writer was Edward Eager – he was a huge fan of E Nesbit and wrote his own magical books. For me, literature and magic have always gone together in terms of subject matter but also in what literature does to a reader – it casts a magic spell.”

When asked what attracted her to witches and magic, Hoffman revealed how she grew up reading fairy tales, folk tales, and myths.

“What you read as a child influences who you become as a writer and who you become as a person. For me, it’s not a choice. Magic and literature are just wound together… braided together… they exist together. I always feel like realism is the new kid on the block and that literature is magic.”

This excerpt was originally published on Bookish. Read the full interview here.

On Process

Hoffman’s approach to writing changes from book to book, and she admits that beginning each new book feels like it’s her first.

“Every time I start a book, I feel like I have to relearn how to do it all over again. I look at all I've written, and I'm like, ‘Who the hell wrote that? It certainly wasn't me!’" 

“One thing I'm better at is cutting things. And knowing that sometimes the writing you love the most is something you've got to get rid of because it doesn't serve the novel.”

This excerpt was originally published on Goodreads. Read the full interview here.  

And just like her process, her routine is also irregular – and somewhat mysterious to her, she jokes.

“I try to write in the early morning if I can, when my sensor isn’t working overtime. I start in ways that are mysterious even to me. I take notes on random information: characters, names, places. And then eventually I get to a point where I have an outline, a mini story that I’m telling.”

This excerpt was originally published on Writer Mag. Read the full interview here.

On Motivation

“I write because I can’t not write,” she says with the conviction of one with a clear passion for her craft.

“You know that fairy-tale idea of turning straw into gold? That’s what it feels like to me. If I didn’t do it, then my existence is straw. But if I can take it and make it into art and make it into a story, then I feel like I’ve accomplished something,” she said in an interview with Writer Mag.

In another interview with Goodreads, Hoffman was reminded that she once said: "The good thing about being a girl in the 1950s and '60s from a working-class family is that there weren't as many expectations of me. I had the freedom I could do something I could fail at, to be a writer." 

“I just got the chills. I forgot I said that. It is so true,” she recalled. “My family had no expectations of me, none. I didn't have to go to college. I could do whatever I wanted, and so I never felt like I had to succeed. But that was kind of the '60s mentality, too – you didn't need to be published, that was mainstream. You just wanted to be an artist and create something.”

What's Next

HBO Max, which launches in Spring 2020, recently greenlit a new prequel series to the cult classic 1998 film Practical Magic, with the spin-off, titled Rules of Magic, based on Hoffman’s novels Rules of Magic and Practical Magic.

Set in 1960s New York City, Rules of Magic will follow three siblings — Franny, Jet, and Vincent Owens — as they struggle to come to terms with the discovery that they are descendants of witches.

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