Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chandra Hoffman, author of Chosen,

Today I have the author of Chosen, Chandra Hoffman, here at The Book Bag. I posted my thoughts on her wonderful book yesterday. Read them here.

I posed this question to her~~

"I have heard other authors say that they 'hear voices in their head' and that is how they write their books, the characters are telling their stories. Not being a writer, that idea has always intrigued me. 

When some people hear voices, we get them medical attention, other people become writers. Does that happen to you? How do you come up with your stories? 

Great question, Susan. Thanks so much for having me and reviewing CHOSEN!


When I am in the thick of it, it’s difficult to describe what happens without sounding hokey, but it's like being a medium. The words come, the story flows, I hear the characters and my mouth actually moves along with their dialogue; I just try to keep up. On days when I can't go there, when I know I can’t mentally still be in a women's prison or describing the smell of flowers in Maui while picking my kid up from piano, I try to do something technical, like outlining or editing. 

As far as editing, I'm a big believer in beat sheets, and in getting a listener whose opinion you value, who is not your target audience, who also might have a short attention span, and reading them sections out loud. I find myself editing, rewriting, rephrasing as I read. I think it's because growing up, I was the middle of five kids and there was always some anxiety about not getting enough airtime, losing my audience.


My first novel, CHOSEN rattled around with me for several years. The story grew out of three defining experiences: the first was my time in Romania post-Revolution as an aide worker in the infamous Orphanage Number One.   It was overwhelming—I was given fifty infants my first day—but inspiring to see the human spirit surviving in spite of the bleakness. Romania led me to the second experience, a job in the United States as the director of the domestic adoption program for a private agency, the sole caseworker managing birth and adoptive parents. My goal was to create happy endings, everything I hadn’t been able to do in Bucharest. 

There is a social aspect to this novel: In everything I write, I strive to shine a light on the complexity of scenarios that we encounter regularly -- in the case of CHOSEN, I selected domestic adoption as the backdrop for the novel. When I took the agency position in Portland, I was surprised by how many agendas there are to what seems like a simple equation, how many sides of the adoption story. I chose unique voices for the multiple points of view, the grieving birthfather, one potential adoptive father, the jangled single mother, the green social worker, to underscore this fact. 

I wanted to share an inside perspective on domestic adoption with characters who were human, flawed, and sympathetic, because the truth is, adoption is the creation of a family in a unique way, but there is a darker side, both the business aspect, and the fact that at every birth, someone is going home empty-handed. All parenthood is a risk; adoption ups the ante. 

I also learned that when you take into account the business side of adoption, it was very difficult to meet the needs of everyone. I left the adoption world when I became a mother myself—my skin had become too thin.

This was the final defining point that shaped this novel: our first son's birth and an unexpected diagnosis, nearly losing him as an infant. (Hayden's Story) As a new mother to a child with huge medical hurdles, I pondered some of the deeper issues that form the backbone of CHOSEN: How does parenthood change you? How will the challenges you face shape you as a couple? What happens when your expectations of parenthood are so far from the reality? What makes a good parent? A good person? What happens when you get what you thought you wanted?
The story is fiction--characters and settings and scenarios are as though I took a handful of my life experiences, threw in a  well-marinated childhood paranoia about abduction, seasoned them with the salt of my vivid imagination, put them all in a bag and shook it up. From all of this, CHOSEN grew. 

With the book I am working on now, it really was a moment of creative inspiration. Last year, I was on book tour with my three little kids all tucked around me in a hotel in Santa Monica. We had been traveling for two weeks, and it had been months since I had done any creative writing. I had a few stories that I figured I would work on after I got home and the dust settled, but that night, something happened. We had left the windows open so we could hear the ocean and I dreamed an entire novel, a love story peppered with obstacles and tinged with grief and loss, set in the islands. I had to get through a day at Disneyland and hustling everyone on to a red-eye flight before I had four uninterrupted hours to write it all down, but I knew it was the next story. I can't wait to share it with readers.

Thanks Chandra - And I can't wait to read it!

**Everyone who leaves a comment on Chosen's tour page will be entered to win a $10 Amazon gift card! If you purchase your copy of Chosen  from November 26 - December 19  and send your receipt to Samantha (at) ChickLitPlus (dot) com, you will get five bonus entries!**

Follow Chandra on Facebook and Twitter

1 comment:

  1. It's fun to hear other authors respond to this question!


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