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30 May 2002



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Nina Kiriki Hoffman: One Step Away June 2002

Nina Kiriki Hoffman's first solo novel, The Thread That Binds the Bones (1993), won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel; her second novel, The Silent Strength of Stones (1995) was a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. A Red Heart of Memories (1999, part of her "Matt Black" series), nominated for a World Fantasy Award, was followed by sequel Past the Size of Dreaming in 2001. Much of her work to date is short fiction, including “Matt Black” novella “Unmasking” (1992), nominated for a World Fantasy Award; and “Matt Black” novelette “Home for Christmas” (1995), nominated for the Nebula, World Fantasy, and Sturgeon awards. In addition to writing, Hoffman teaches a short story class at a community college, works part-time at a B. Dalton bookstore, and does production work on F&SF. An accomplished fiddle player, she plays regularly at various granges near her home in Eugene, Oregon.
Photo by Beth Gwinn

Excerpts from the interview:

‘‘Early in my career, I wrote a lot of horror. I always wanted to write fantasy, but I wrote horror because I was doing a lot of psychological work at that time, and there’s so much cool scary stuff in that. People are scary! Also, there were issues everybody was thinking about — incest, child abuse, and so on — that it fascinated me to explore in fiction. In the ’80s, when I was writing all that horror, a lot of it was somewhat therapeutic — you see a horrible situation and you want to twist it around so the victim has revenge, or the person who is hurt gets to come out victorious. But I’d rather have happy endings. I love my characters, and I like it when they can have happy endings.’’


‘‘My last two adult novels, Red Heart and Dreaming, are a contained unit. The next one, A Fistful of Sky, is about a different batch of people, who are still magical, but there are different issues. It’s about a large family in Southern California, and has more similarity to my real family than anything else I’ve written. So I don’t know if my family’s going to be mad when they read it. I already talked to my mother about it, and she told me to write a little forenote explaining that the character of the mother is not really based on her.’’


‘‘I think about trying to tackle mainstream, but without the fantastic element, it’s hard for me to think of the story — the fantastic element, the extra twist, is what excites me. Although I really like it to be grounded in here-and-now, I also like considering the world the way it might be. And strange things do happen. Also, from the viewpoint of people who have extra resources, things look different. You have some limits, but you can go in directions that you can’t go if you’re just stuck to the ground. For me, fantasy is about how people relate to each other, in situations that could be lifelike or fantastic.’’


‘‘September 11 was shocking and stunning. For a couple of weeks, I didn’t know what to do, and nothing seemed to matter anymore. A friend of mine said, ‘God, everything I do is so trivial.’ I thought, ‘No, everyone is so hungry after this event to hear stories.’ I wanted to hear from survivors, to hear from people who were there. I wanted to hear the stories of the people on Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania, how they stopped something worse from happening. All the heroism. [...] The first things I wrote afterward were some poems, just trying to figure it out. What does it all mean? We’re not going to know. We just have to invent explanations.’’

The full interview and biographical profile is published in the June 2002 issue of Locus Magazine.


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