This month, Brooklyn-based novelist Joanna Hershon is publishing her fourth novel, A DUAL INHERITANCE. Described as a big book “about American politics, social customs, and family dynamics that seeks to update and relocate the brilliantly compelling English nineteenth-century novel,” it has received wide advance praise and Joanna has been compared to Tom Wolfe, Jonathan Franzen and Anne Tyler. Joanna will be visiting our Amherst campus this summer and Great Books had a chance to sit down with her before her book came out to hear what inspired her:
GBSP: What role did literature play in your childhood?
Literature was a gift. I was always reading, loved libraries, loved books. I remember the first time I cried for someone else was when I was ten years old and I stayed up late reading Summer of my German Soldier. I cried myself to sleep but I was also amazed and inspired.
GBSP: Did any one person in your life stand out as fostering a love of writing or literature?
My parents always fostered my love of reading but my ninth grade English teacher Mr. Al Haulenbeek definitely stands out in my mind as someone special. He called me Sarah Bernhardt, after the great actress and recognized not only my dramatic bent, but also that I wanted to be somewhere more exciting and diverse than where we were. He was also exacting and made me want to work hard.
GBSP: What was your favorite book as a teenager? Which writers inspired you?
Anywhere But Here by Mona Simpson and Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood both stand out in my memory. Mona Simpson, Tom Robbins, Herman Hesse
GBSP: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes. But it was more like I just always wrote. I started keeping a consistent journal at 13.
GBSP: If you could give one piece of advice to young writers, what would it be?