A Woman Defined

Art & Culture by Mahvash Mossaed

A Conversation with Blair Hurley, Author of Newly Released Book “The Devoted”

August 9, 2019
The Devoted by Blair Hurley

I had the opportunity to interview Blair Hurley, the author of The Devoted. Here are some highlights.

Do you write for others because you have to write or for yourself only? If no one ever read my writing, I’d still write, so the primary joy and meaning comes from writing for myself. This expressive impulse comes from somewhere deep inside my sense of self. But I do think writing is fundamentally an act of communication; I’m telling a story, reaching out to a reader, and hoping it resonates for someone.

Are you affected by other people’s appraisal of your work? Have you ever been hurt by them? Definitely I’m affected! I’ve gotten harsh critiques or hard but true critiques, and it always stings a little. I think it hurts the most when someone has noticed a failing in my writing that I know is true. It can feel overwhelming and very disappointing to know that others have seen through your tricks and you’re still relying on the old crutches to tell a story. When I get a tough critique, I take some time to reflect on what is at the heart of the critique — what questions I really need to be asking myself. Then I dust myself and the piece off and I try to make it better.

Do you feel you and the characters in your books have always been well understood by your readers? I’ve been very gratified to hear readers are moved by the main character of my novel; many seem to really understand her struggles, desires, and loneliness, possibly because they’ve gone through similar things themselves. It’s not always the case, though. Sometimes readers wonder why a character would do the things they do. In that case, I can tell they’re missing a little part of the life experience of the character I wanted to convey. It’s more my responsibility to make that come across, though.

Do you lose yourself in your writing? The very fact that writing is a very lonely art, do you sometimes feel lonely? Writing can be lonely. It can feel like your life is full of aimless wandering around, like you’ve lost your sense of direction, and like you’re not connecting with others. At times like those, I seek out other writers at events or just to get coffee. It’s so important to be a part of that writing community! That somewhat lonely lifestyle, however, is all worth it when I experience those immersive moments of pure creativity. When I’m sinking into the work and the work is going well, the story is alive and strange and surprising me at every turn, then I don’t want to be anywhere else in the world.

What books are currently on your book stand? Currently I’m going through a whole shelf of exciting books I’ve been meaning to get through this summer. I’m finishing (and loving) Maura Roosevelt’s Baby of the Family; I just finished the thrilling nonfiction travelogue Underland by Robert MacFarlane; and next up is Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers.

What do you plan to read next? After The Great Believers, I plan to dive into the classic Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki. I try to read one old classic every year.

What is next for Blair Hurley and what would be next for Blair Hurley if the sky were the limit? I’m currently trying to finish a new novel draft. It’s my dream to build a steady writing career with a novel every few years. If the sky were the limit, I’d still be quietly reaching for that goal.

About the Author
Blair Hurley received her A.B. from Princeton University and her M.F.A. from NYU. Her stories are published or forthcoming in Ninth Letter, The Georgia Review, West Branch, Mid-American Review, Washington Square, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Descant, Fugue, and elsewhere. She has received a 2018 Pushcart Prize and scholarships from Bread Loaf and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. Her debut novel, THE DEVOTED, was published in August 2018 from WW Norton & Company.


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