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Meet the Author: Jennifer Haigh

heatlight-hc-cjhWe are excited to meet Jennifer Haigh who will speak at The Bookworm on October 24th about her recently published novel Heat and Light.  Heat and Light, the sixth book by American author Jennifer Haigh, looks at a community divided by the controversy over fracking. Bakerton is a dying Pennsylvania coal town that’s offered a surprise third act when the natural gas industry come to town. To drill or not to drill?  The question pits husband against wife, neighbor against neighbor, entrepreneur against environmentalist.  The Bookworm asked Jennifer a couple of questions to help our readers understand her work more.

The BW: What first inspired you to write novels?

Jennifer: I wrote short stories for many years before I attempted a novel. To me, a novel always begins with the moment after which nothing will ever be the same. When I’m writing, I don’t think about the plot so much as causality, how a single event has consequences that lead to more consequences. Working on a larger canvas allows me to play out this chain of causality in many different lives.

The BW:  Heat and Light depicts a community blessed and cursed by its natural resources. Where did your interest in this topic come from?

Jennifer: The novel is set in a place I’ve written about before, a northern Appalachian coal town modeled on the one I grew up in. I wrote one novel,Baker Towers, about the town in its heyday; and a later book, News From Heaven, about what happened to the town when the mines went bust. Heat and Light looks at how the community responds when the gas industry comes to town and offers it a surprise third act.

The BW: What aspects of writing the novel did you enjoy? Were there any aspects you found particularly challenging?

Jennifer: Everything about this novel challenged me. In the five years I spent researching and writing it, it changed shape constantly. As I wrote, I realized the story was much larger than the controversy over gas drilling. It’s really a story about the tension between economic development and protecting the environment, a question that it is particularly relevant here in China.

The BW: For anyone who is interested in the topic, but may not yet have had time to read/finish your book,  what further insights can we expect from your book talk?

Jennifer: I’ll be talking about writing as a process of discovery. More than any other book I’ve written, this one defied my attempts at planning and organization. It’s a big, complicated story, and to write it, I had to surrender to the chaos. It was a formative experience for me as a writer.


The BW: What is your biggest dream for your writing career?

Jennifer: All I want is to keep going, to get up every day and work, to write something true.


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