We are seriously smitten with Hannah Pittard.
Her debut novel, The Fates Will Find Their Way, is an eerie, perfectly pitched recounting of adolescence that skillfully captures the blurred line between the tangible and the imagined . The story is told from the collective perspective of a group of neighborhood boys who obsess over their missing 16-year-old classmate, Nora Lindell. Fixated on the mystique of her absence, they reimagine the past and can't help but factor her void into their own lives, willfully allowing it to define the men they grow up to be.
It's one of those books that gets passed around the office, talked about at meetings, and enthusiastically recommended to anyone loitering around the shelf of advance reader copies. It had the makings of a perfect Indiespensable title, and we're thrilled to feature a signed and slipcased edition of the book in Volume 24.
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Megan Zabel: Where did this story come from?
Hannah Pittard: I think it's been a long time brewing. I don't think of myself as old at all — I'm 32 — but certainly the older I get the more I marvel at the things I did when I was young and how they've affected where I am today. The more crotchety I get, I think, "Why didn't someone stop me? Why didn't my mom say, 'No, don't do that, ' or my dad say, 'No, don't do that'?" And, of course, they did say it the whole time. It's just that we can't learn it until we've done it ourselves. Now, I look at my nieces, and I look at these children that I teach, and I think, "You're making such mistakes. Don't do that. Don't do that." I guess that's just what life is.
Often I start writing about something that goes missing, or something that's lost. There's an automatic story there. Something has to change. In my short stories, a father will go missing or die, or a dog will go missing, and thus a story is born. I like to see how characters react when something is taken away from them, and, in this case, it was this girl.
I did go to school with a girl whose older sister had been kidnapped , in middle school, so long ago. I was telling my boyfriend that story about two years ago, and he said, "That's the weirdest thing I've ever heard. I've never known anyone who's known anyone who's been kidnapped." I started thinking about that, and I thought, you know, it's true. We see it on the news all the time, but I don't know anybody else who knew somebody who was kidnapped. It's a strange thing to have grown up with.
I kept thinking about how we treated that girl when we were young — the one whose sister had been kidnapped — and we were wicked to her, like it was something that was catching. That was definitely in the back of my mind.
Megan: How did you arrive at a first-person-plural point of view?
Pittard: When I first started it, I wrote 10 pages that are almost identical to the 10 pages that are the first 10 pages now, the very first chapter.
Megan: It's a great first chapter.
Pittard: Thank you. It was the first thing that I'd written in a long time. I'd taken about a year off after writing a very bad novella that didn't sell. And then I thought, "Well, you know, I'm going to shit or get off the pot here, and I'm going to write something or I'm not going to write something." And I wrote those 10 pages. Originally, I thought of the narrator as a collective of children, of boys and girls. I thought of myself being in that school with that girl whose sister had been kidnapped, and I thought, "Well, I want to be a part of this story that gets told," sort of like an apology or something.
And, almost by the second or third page — it was that moment when the boys are thinking about Nora shaving her legs — I realized, no, this is going to be so sexually charged that it has to be the boys. I didn't know how to do a double-gender sexuality. I just knew how to focus on the boys.
But it never even occurred to me, I don't think, to tell it from a single first person. I think I was scared that if I did my voice would come out too much and I wouldn't be able to really be a man or tell this story the way that it needed to be told.