A Human Experience

I first interviewed Alice Hoffman in 2008 while she was touring to promote her novel The Third Angel. Like a lot of the authors I interviewed, I’d never heard of Hoffman until her book arrived from her publicist. I didn’t know that she’d published close to twenty-five novels or that she’d been a guest on Oprah or that four (now five) of her books had been turned into movies. What I did know is that I loved The Third Angel. I loved it as much as any book I’d read, even those books by Great Dead Writers. This was a little disorienting to me. I was accustomed to loving books written by people I wouldn’t or, in many cases, couldn’t meet. For most of my life I wouldn’t have wanted to meet these writers, really. Keeping them at an unreachable distance allowed my favorite authors to remain in a special category of person as unique and valuable and rare as what I felt when I finished reading the books they had written. Now, I was about to meet one of these people.

Hoffman was easy to interview. She was honest, listened well, and gave very thoughtful answers. In the middle of the interview she thanked me for the questions I’d asked, saying how much she was enjoying our conversation. She was the first author to ever thank me in this way, so I was touched, and it also allowed me the opportunity to do something I had never done in my forty-three years on the planet: thank a writer for what they’d written.

“You’re very welcome,” I said. “But I have to thank you as well. This book is awesome. Honestly, the ending meant as much to me as any ending I’ve ever read.”

“Thank you,” she replied. “That’s so nice of you to say.” I couldn’t help but notice how well she received a compliment. It’s not as easy as you would think.

And that was that. It was a very human experience. From then on, authors – no matter how much I loved what they’d written – no longer occupied a special category of human in my imagination. Of course, it also meant I wouldn’t occupy a special category of human either, but that was a relief. I didn’t know how to be special. On my best days, when I forgot to compare myself to everyone living and dead, when I forget to demand that I do better, I sometimes knew how to be me.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion.

"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com

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