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Drunk on Ink Q & A with Elise Hooper and ‘The Other Alcott’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Elise Hooper lives with her husband and two young daughters in Seattle, where she writes and teaches literature and history. The Other Alcott is her first novel. Learning to See will be releasing January 29, 2018.

About The Other Alcott

Elise Hooper’s debut novel conjures the fascinating, untold story of May Alcott—Louisa’s youngest sister and an artist in her own right. We all know the story of the March sisters, heroines of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But while everyone cheers on Jo March, based on Louisa herself, Amy March is often the least favorite sister. Now, it’s time to learn the truth about the real “Amy”, Louisa’s sister, May.  Stylish, outgoing, creative, May Alcott grows up longing to experience the wide world beyond Concord, Massachusetts. While her sister Louisa crafts stories, May herself is a talented and dedicated artist, taking lessons in Boston, turning down a marriage proposal from a well-off suitor, and facing scorn for entering what is very much a man’s profession.  Life for the Alcott family has never been easy, so when Louisa’s Little Women is published, its success eases the financial burdens they’d faced for so many years. Everyone agrees the novel is charming, but May is struck to the core by the portrayal of selfish, spoiled “Amy March.” Is this what her beloved sister really thinks of her?So May embarks on a quest to discover her own true identity, as an artist and a woman. From Boston to Rome, London, and Paris, this brave, talented, and determined woman forges an amazing life of her own, making her so much more than merely “The Other Alcott.”

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

ELISE HOOPER: I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t think much about the authors behind them until I was about nine or ten and visited Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, MA. It sounds silly, but it wasn’t until I traipsed through her little bedroom and saw the desk at which she wrote Little Women that I realized that actual people wrote books and maybe I could write them too.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Depending on the time of day, I’m happy to unwind with an iced tea or cocktail.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

Oh boy, how about the Constitution?

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

This is an unpopular opinion, but I’m not a huge fan of Wuthering Heights. I’ve tried several times and just can’t slog through it.

A favorite quote from your book 

“I long to turn back the clock and mend the rift between us, though now that I think on it, if I could go back in time when would I go back to? When was our relationship ever simple?”

Your favorite book to film?

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but I remember thinking that The Joy Luck Club adapted surprisingly well to the big screen.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

I have so many favorites! My daughter’s swim team practice is close to Island Books (Mercer Island, WA) so this is the independent bookstore that I visit the most. The staff is awesome and they always offer great book recommendations.

The one thing you wish you’d known about the writing life?

I held off on trying to write a book telling myself I needed to wait until life settled down and my kids got older. Well, it took a while, but finally I realized that life doesn’t settle down one bit as kids get older, it just changes. So I just dove in and started working and have been surprised by the delight I’ve taken in writing as my girls have developed as readers and writers. My daughters have seen my books take shape and I love that there’s no mystery about the creative process for them. They understand that if you want to produce something, you have to sit down and work on it for a long time. Creative work doesn’t just appear in a poof of special magic sparkle dust. It comes from hard work and a whole lot of elbow grease.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

I’m not sure yet because I only have one book out, but I can let you know after Learning to See is released (January 29, 2018).

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dogs all the way.

Favorite book cover?

This is a tough one! I just got up and scanned my bookshelves. Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese is gorgeous. All of that gold? Mmmm.

Favorite song?

We’re still gaga for Hamilton at my house. I’m still trying to get all the words down to “Satisfied.”

Recommend a Small Press and Literary Journal?

Flights, the literary journal produced by students at the school where I teach.

Last impulse book buy and why?

A staff recommendation tag at Elliott Bay Book Company drew me into buying Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt a couple of weeks ago. It described it as a feminist Lonesome Dove and I was SOLD!

Soniah Kamal is an award winning essayist and fiction writer. Her novel Unmarriageable: Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan, a parallel retelling of Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.  NPR calls it ‘thought provoking and deliciously readable’ and People Magazine says “This inventive retelling of Pride and Prejudice charms.” Unmarriageable is an Amazon Best Books pick, a People Magazine’s Pick, a New York Post Best Book pick, a Library Reads pick and more. Soniah’s debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and is an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s short story ‘Jelly Beans’ was selected for the Best South Asian Short Stories Anthology 2017. Her TEDx talk is about regrets and redemption. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Catapult, The Normal School, Literary Hub, and has been widely anthologized. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia State University where she was a Paul Bowles Fellow in Fiction. She currently teaches creative writing at Rhineheart University and reviews books for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Soniah will be giving a keynote address at the Jane Austen Summer Program Conference (2019) and she is a Jane Austen Literacy Ambassador. She was born in Pakistan, grew up in England and Saudi Arabia, and currently resides in Georgia.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

Emily Midorikawa: A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, biography

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel



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