Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, who currently lives in Minneapolis with her family, was inspired by her own experiences to write her latest novel. Hannah, Delivered deals with a woman facing her fear of pain who turns it into a life of risk and fulfillment.
1. What moments in your life lead you to writing this book?
My sister is a midwife in Taos, New Mexico. About ten years ago, she invited me to attend a birth at the center where she worked. At one point she said to the mother, “Push through the pain. Your baby’s on the other side of that pain.”
We need to remember that a baby, as well as everything new and full of life, resides on the other side of pain. Hannah is a character who is afraid of pain and afraid of inflicting pain. I was curious to see what it would take for Hannah to move through that fear and push through that pain.
2. How would you describe your writing style?
Quiet. Publishers use the word “quiet” to dismiss books that don’t have murders or sex or sensational, extraordinary plots, but I’m quite proud of being a quiet writer. I’m far more interested in the interior realm—how we’re governed by fear, where we place our faith, and what moves us from one way of understanding the world into another. Most of us live ordinary lives and turn to books to make sense of the ordinary. Frankly, I think the ordinary is dramatic enough.
3. Do you personally relate to any of the characters in this novel?
Of course. If I didn’t relate to them, I couldn’t have created them. Part of me is Hannah, very afraid of hurting others and making mistakes. Fiction writers take some small attribute of themselves to expand and enflesh in a character.
4. Do you have a routine when you begin to write a novel or a memoir?
I give myself ample time to rest and dream. I read more between projects than at any other time—I think of it as priming the pump. I write in my journal as a way to discover where my heart and mind gravitate. Then I begin experimenting, usually in longhand in spiral notebooks, usually very fragmentary pieces. I like to give myself a tremendous amount of privacy, time, and space to incubate something new.
5. Do you have an author that you admired most when you first started writing?
My early inspirations were nonfiction writers like Annie Dillard, Kathleen Norris, James Baldwin, Scott Russell Sanders, Thomas Merton, and the essays of Virginia Woolf. There’s a fierce trend in contemporary fiction to “show, don’t tell”—to avoid reflection and ideas at all costs for fear they’ll detract from the story. I think fiction has suffered as a result. We all have questions that press against our hearts, and many of us read to explore these questions.