CHARLES HOLDEFER will be speaking at the noontime writers and readers series on Friday the 28th.
While this will be the last noontime writer interview, that just means we’re only days away from the start of the Rosemont Writers’ Retreat! We will have more interviews throughout the week for you of the featured writers, so stay tuned.
Charles Holdefer is the author of four novels, most recently Back in the Game. His novel The Contractor was an American Booksellers’ Association “Book Sense Pick.” He attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Sorbonne. His fiction has appeared in the New England Review, North American Review and Slice. He also writes essays and reviews.
He is an essayist, reviewer, and the author of four novels. I hope that Charles is happiest while writing as he claims in the interview below, because it seems he is constantly at work. Philadelphia Stories asked him more about his projects and the inspirations that make him successful.
You have published four novels. How long does writing one novel typically take for you?
It’s taken me anywhere from two to twenty years. To be honest, it’s hard to say what’s typical.
How many different writing projects do you work on at once? Do you focus on a single piece until it is complete, or do you dart from project to project?
I often work on several projects. It’s a way to keep the ball rolling forward during periods of struggle. Even if it’s a short review or a little humor piece, it feels good to be producing something. I’m happiest when working.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
People, books, animals. Not always in that order.
How much of yourself goes into your characters? Have you ever “accidentally” based a character off someone in your own life?
Inevitably there’s plenty of myself in the characters but it’s still filtered through an entirely imaginary story. My books aren’t autobiographical. As for other people in my life, sure, I pilfer details about them. All the time. But no one I know makes a cameo appearance.
“Back in the Game” takes place in Iowa, where you grew up. Was it easier to write this story since you knew the setting so intimately?
No, not easier. It was the first novel I ever started and I wrote and published three other books in the meantime while I was working on it. Parts of Back in the Game came out in some good magazines but in my head they were always pieces of a larger story. The novel kept getting bigger and bigger, it became a huge monster of a thing and got out of control. I have boxes and boxes of chapters. But anyway, to make a long story short, eventually some things clicked in my head and, as a consequence, I bit the bullet, very hard, and cut hundreds of pages. Got it down to one voice, three parts, a dozen chapters. Only about 60,000 words. A skinny book, in the end! I feel sort of stunned after the whole process, actually. I never would’ve dreamed that it would take so many years to get it right.
Charles Holdefer will be teaching “Novel Fundamentals” at the week long Rosemont Writers’ Retreat on June 24-28. Meet Charles on Friday, June 28, 2013 at the free noontime Writers and Readers Series, which will feature in-depth conversations about craft led by Rosemont MFA program director, Carla Spataro.