Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Katherine Hill's "The Violet Hour"

Katherine Hill is the author of The Violet Hour, a novel first published by Scribner in July 2013.

Her short fiction has been published by AGNI, Colorado Review, The Common, n+1, Philadelphia Stories, and Word Riot, and has been honored with the Nelligan Prize, the Marguerite McGlinn Prize, and fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications, including The Believer, Bookforum, The Paris Review Daily, Philadelphia City Paper, Poets & Writers, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Currently an assistant editor at Barrelhouse, she is a former speechwriter at the University of Pennsylvania, and has taught writing at Philadelphia University, Mighty Writers in South Philadelphia, and the PEN Prison Writing Program in New England. She holds a BA from Yale and an MFA from Bennington College.

Here Hill dreamcasts an adaptation of The Violet Hour:
My husband and I recently spent the better part of a drive home from the airport dreaming up a new movie adaptation of As You Like It. We got as far as Channing Tatum for Charles the Wrestler and stopped—because it was too perfect a choice and no other decision could top it. I have a similar problem with my novel. I watch a lot of movies and I like to think about their approaches to storytelling, so I can certainly see parts of The Violet Hour cinematically—Cassandra and Abe’s explosive fight on their sailboat, for instance, or Cassandra’s first corpse, or Elizabeth’s adventure at an outdoor movie. But other aspects of my American family in disarray are perhaps too interior, more rooted in the words and thought of fiction than in the sights and sounds of the screen.

Which is not to say I’m opposed to The Violet Hour movie. Not at all. Not in the slightest. Do not get me wrong. I’d love to talk with you further. Because let’s be honest: having your book made into a movie is right up there with the double rainbow as one of the all-time coolest things that can happen to a person.

The common complaint is that movie adaptations ruin books by getting them wrong or changing too much (for instance, Martin Scorsese’s casting of blonde Michelle Pfeiffer as Madame Olenska and brunette Winona Ryder as May Welland in the otherwise masterful The Age of Innocence, when it should’ve been the other way around). I’m of the opposite school: I’d actually love to see a director riff on the book a little, create something new that only cinema can make. Forget literal adaptations. After all, most of my favorite recent movies, from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s L’Enfant to Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, rely on the unique tools of cinema—faces, spaces, and sound—to tell stories very differently from me.

All right then, so who would I pick? Directors come to mind first. I really admire what Derek Cianfrance did with Cindy and Dean’s marriage in Blue Valentine, cutting back and forth between courtship and breakup; he’d be a top contender. So would Sofia Coppola, who is exceptional at framing the angst of privilege, making it look at once abhorrent and achingly fun.

Actors are harder for me to envision, because I’ve lived with these characters so long I can no longer see their faces. With two exceptions: Julianne Moore for Cassandra, and Russell Brand for Vince.
Learn more about the book and author at Katherine Hill's website and blog.

Writers Read: Katherine Hill.

--Marshal Zeringue