Alice Hoffman overcomes post-9/11 writer’s block

Her latest novel is ‘Faithful,’ about teen who feels broken




The work of Alice Hoffman, a prolific novelist and children’s book author, includes fiction such as “Practical Magic,” “The Dovekeepers” and “The Marriage of Opposites.” Her latest novel is titled “Faithful.”

Hoffman, 64, of Boston, found it difficult to write after terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I had the worst case of writer’s block after 9/11,” Hoffman said during a telephone interview. She decided to reread “Fahrenheit 451,” Ray Bradbury’s classic science-fiction tale about a world in which books are outlawed and burned, but some characters memorize literature.

From “Fahrenheit 451,” she said, “I feel like I learned so much. I remembered why stories are important.”

The protagonist in “Faithful,” Shelby Richmond, is a happy, straight-arrow Long Island teenager until a car accident alters her life forever, and she descends into depression.

“She thinks she’s so broken. By being broken, she’s also given a gift in a strange way,” Hoffman said. “You do learn something from the traumas you experience, not that you wish for them, but they are going to happen anyway.”

The author loves Leonard Cohen’s poetry, a stanza of which appears at the start of the novel.

“If anyone else is going to win the Nobel Prize for literature, it should be Leonard Cohen. He’s such a great poet and such a beautiful writer,” said Hoffman. But her highest praise was for Toni Morrison, who wrote “Beloved” and “Song of Solomon.”

“What I’m looking for as a reader is to feel something. I’m much more interested in an emotional novel than an intellectual novel,” Hoffman said, calling Morrison “the greatest living writer” because of her voice, language, storytelling and ability to combine the emotional with the intellectual.

Her advice to readers: “Find a book you’ve never heard of and just discover it the way you did when you were a kid. It’s the reason I still love to go to independent bookstores. You find books you don’t expect.”

Hoffman believes there always will be readers and writers.

“I help to run and fund a workshop in the summer for juniors in high school at Adelphi University. I’m just really impressed with how much it matters to them.”