Alice Hoffman Interview

February 14, 2011 interviews
the author of The Red Garden

author Alice HoffmanIt was a special treat to have Alice Hoffman visit the blog on February 14, 2011. Her beautifully written collection of linked short stories The Red Garden forms an intimate history of the generations of fictional residents of Blackwell, Massachusetts, from 1750 into the present.

There really is an Eel River in the Massachusetts. Was the town of Blackwell inspired by a real town, or is it purely fictional?

There is an Eel River, but it's not in the Berkshires, I had passed it many times, and the name stayed with me. The town of Blackwell is invented. I wanted to "found" a town and create its history, blending in the history of the Commonwealth.

Did you write the stories in the same order they appear in The Red Garden?

The stories were written out of sequence -- the last story however was the last story I wrote, and I wasn't aware of how the book would end. As the history of the town was forming, and family history became shared history, I had more of a sense of what the structure of the town was and several times went back and added to the action that took place in the past. Often I was surprised. I had no idea that the drowning of a young girl would figure into the town mythology or that John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) would become so important to the other characters.

There is such an intimate feel to the stories that it's rather surprising to realize they cover more than 250 years. What drew you to write about such a long time span?

I wanted to experience the process of how a town mythology is formed, how stories add to our shared knowledge and how the "ghosts" of the past continue to resonate in our lives long after they're gone. In doing so, I hope to have created a history that is deeply personal, one that feels as though the sorrows and joys of a hundred years ago happened only yesterday.

Review of The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

See listing for The Red Garden at Powell's Books

See listing for The Red Garden at

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