Bestselling novelist Ann Hood discusses her latest book, The Obituary Writer—about two uncompromising women’s discovery of love and loss—and how she’d want her own obit to read.
Zola: Were you at all interested in obituaries and obituary writing before this book? How did you decide upon it as a career for your character?
Ann Hood: I am a big fan of obituaries. My favorite obituary writer is the late Robert McG Thomas who wrote for The New York Times. He was able to write an obituary like a short story. Several years ago, I was asked to write someone’s obituary and I saw how daunting it was to capture a lifetime in so few words. How interesting, I thought, if someone does that as a job and as a mission. That’s when the character was born.
Zola: Did you talk to obituary writers when researching the book? Did they share any insight of how to write a stirring obituary?
AH: I didn’t. I wanted a unique obituary writer who wrote them her way.
Zola: What was the greatest challenge in writing a book that split its time between two main characters?
AH: Keeping each character and her story equally interesting and compelling.
Zola: With its look at the challenges of feminism and its characters’ unorthodox views on motherhood and femininity, The Obituary Writer is reminiscent of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Was this a conscious influence? Did you have any other books in mind as you wrote this?
AH: That’s a great comparison! It wasn’t a conscious influence. I try not to think about other books but rather to find the story on its own.
Zola: Vivien—one of the novel’s two main characters—wrote unconventional obituaries, less obsessed with the details and more interested in the memory the person left behind. If she were to write yours, what do you think it would say?
AH: She laughed a lot. She loved a lot. She lived life her own way.
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.