Meet the authors: Haven Kimmel
The 2004 Festival of Words is fast approaching with the festivities kicking off on Friday, April 16. The Booklovers’ Wellness Weekend offers participants the chance to meet nationally recognized authors and hear their stories.
In order for participants to get to know the authors before the event, the Vail Daily is featuring an interview with each author every Friday in the weeks leading up to the Festival.
Meet Haven Kimmel
Haven Kimmel first charmed readers three years ago with her memoir, “A Girl Named Zippy,” which became a New York Times bestseller and a “Today Show” Book Club pick. Just as “God is in the details,” so too is Kimmel’s readable story.
Her first novel, “The Solace of Leaving Early,” was published to critical acclaim in 2002. With her new novel, “Something Rising,” published in January, Kimmel continues to live up to her Book magazine moniker, “the new Carson McCullers.”
Aside from her studies in English and creative writing, Kimmel also spent two-and-a-half years studying theology and religious philosophy. She resides in Durham, North Carolina with her two children, a fish, a cat and five dogs.
How did you start writing?
My introduction to fiction was through theft, as I’m sure it is for many other people. When I was about nine years old, I was either obsessed with Ray Bradbury’s collection of short stories, “Twice-22,” or it was the only book I could easily locate in the disaster of my room. I read the stories over and over. One day I had the excellent idea of copying one of his stories out by hand and presenting it to my mother, saying I had written it. Mother, who knew that book back and forward, declared me a genius. I eventually copied the entire collection, and along the way began changing important details (mostly because there was too much subtlety and not enough human explosion). Eventually I realized I could just make the whole thing up.
Is there a particular author, past or present, who has influenced your writing?
Clearly I owe an enormous debt to Ray Bradbury. As I got older and became, I don’t know, more like a thinking person, I was greatly affected by a literature course I took in high school. I had been moved from a county school in rural Indiana to a laboratory school attached to a university, and I felt like someone had turned on a light in a very dark room. We read “Zorba the Greek,” by Nikos Kazantzakis, “Tender is the Night,” by Fitzgerald, “The Optimist’s Daughter,” by Eudora Welty, “The Sun Also Rises,” by Hemingway, “The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter,” “To the Lighthouse,” by Virginia Wool and “The Crying of Lot 49,” by Thomas Pynchon. I spent that whole semester in a state of shock. I didn’t think then (and I don’t think now) that I would ever approximate those books, but I saw what was possible. It was stunning.
How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?
I think about writing. I read a great deal. And I have many dogs, so I vacuum a lot.
If you could trade places with one famous person for a day, who would it be…and why?
I’m not much interested in famous people, and there’s no life that interests me more than my own. Plus I suspect that what I would find in another consciousness are quandaries over what to have for lunch, whether the phone bill was actually paid, or why the dog is still behaving as if he has fleas. What a waste of a famous person!
What is your best personal quality?
Humility, which prevents me from saying more.
If your house were on fire, what would you try to save and why?
If my children and pets were safe, I would have to assume that the loss of what I owned – my physical world – was some sort of terrible but necessary lesson in the transitory nature of existence, so I’d let it go. Also I’d get to buy all new stuff.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
In order of preference: rodeo clown, private detective, prison guard.
If you won the lotto, what would you do?
I would finally be able to live by one of my life’s philosophies: money is for spending, and for throwing from the backs of trains.
The 2004 Festival of Words is a three-day event beginning with a Wine and Wit evening of poetry on Friday, April 16, and followed by an Afternoon with Authors on Saturday, April 17. A Footnote Breakfast with the authors will cap off the weekend on Sunday, April 18. For more information and to purchase tickets, call the Vail Symposium at 476-0954 or visit http://www.festivalofwords.org.