We spent an afternoon with our friend, the Brooklyn-based author and escapist Joanna Hershon to find out what she's up to, learn about her new novel A Dual Inheritance, and get the story on her all time favorite books to read while travelling. Whether you're about to go on holiday (or just armchair traveling) this winter, we hope you will find some transportive inspiration from Joanna's story.
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Smart, creative and effortlessly chic - you're a perfect picture of what we like to refer to as an "LR Girl". How did you discover Loeffler Randall and what is it that connects you to the brand?
Why thank you so much-- you've definitely made my day. I'm not sure how I originally discovered Loeffler Randall, but when I did, several years ago, it became my instant favorite. The look is unique; it's such a distinct combination of vintage and utterly modern. There's something romantic and literary about the look, too. It appeals to my sense of fantasy.
Tell us about yourself and how you got your start as a writer?
I've always written since I was a kid-- stories, poetry, plays, journal-writing. Joan Didion famously said, "I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking," and "Keepers of private notebooks are... afflicted at birth with some presentiment of loss." I read these lines as a teenager and felt such recognition. When I was in my early twenties, I wrote a play that was produced off-Broadway. My friend had just become a junior agent at a literary agency. She asked me that if I ever wrote a novel that I show it to her first. Three years later (in 1999) I handed her my just-completed novel (which was my thesis for the MFA program at Columbia University). She took me on as one of her first clients and sold my book soon after. It was an exciting time. She's still one of my best friends and she's still my agent. As for right now, I do have an idea for a new book, but I'm still in the percolating stage...
Fill us in about your new novel A Dual Inheritance - how did the idea for the book come about?
This book is in some ways my own crackpot anthology project and it has taken me into various worlds, leading me to have many conversations with some pretty extraordinary people. There's a strong theme of tribalism at work, and what it means to stay in one's tribe or leave it. There were several seeds to this story, and I'm not even sure which came first or when I knew what, but I've always been interested in male friendship--specifically my father's friendship with his best friend from college. The book is in no way about my father and his friend, but that interest in their friendship started something as did the time period in which they went to Harvard. Also, I've been focused on the passage of time, and-- for this book specifically-- how people can be revealed so uniquely through their children.
We're obsessed with the cover art (and the sweet shout from Jen Egan) - is there a story behind it, do tell!?
I love the cover too. I also am a HUGE fan of Jennifer Egan, so I was beyond honored that she offered this blurb. Regarding the cover, the art department at Ballantine had sent me several cover ideas but I didn't think any of them suited the book. They allowed me to give some input, and they created some that-- I was thrilled to see--really captured the novel. Like what I said about Loeffler Randall, I wanted the cover to have a real blend of a vintage and modern style, as the book starts in 1962 and ends after Obama is elected, so there's a scope that's important to project. When I had the opportunity to meet the designer she showed me the photograph where she found the trio that graces the cover. It was a nondescript photo taken in Germany in the early 1960's-- nothing special in the composition. But she zeroed in on this detail and created such a perfect tableau. Then-- and I love this-- she scrawled the title and my name in magic marker. That sensuality really comes across, and I'm so grateful to this designer.
We heard you have a magical winter travel tradition of escaping to the coast of Mexico...
When I met my husband Derek Buckner (seventeen years ago) he was living in Baja, painting. We met at a wedding in New Hampshire but I ended up going down to Baja to visit for a couple of make-or-break weeks and by the end of the trip, I was head over heels for not only him but also the place, which was such a different kind of landscape than anything I'd previously known. It's an unusual mix of desert, mountain, jungle and beach. We've always spent a couple of months there each year and this will be the fifth year our kids will go to school there.
What are your favorite travel reads and why do you recommend them?
- Alice Munro - Selected Stories: Reading her work feels weirdly nourishing. It's so pure and unpredictable and I have no idea how she does what she does. That she won this year's Nobel Prize for Literature will hopefully expose more readers to her work and to short stories in general.
- Leo Tolstoy - Anna Karenina: My favorite novel. I read it on my honeymoon in 1999, and-- among many many other reactions-- I couldn't get over how Tolstoy described the wedding of Lenin and Kitty, how fresh and true it felt.
- Hilary Reyl - Lessons in French: Such a delightful sophisticated coming of age story. Funny, smart and tender. Highly recommend for a trip to Paris.
- Jennifer Egan - A Visit from the Goon Squad: A modern masterpiece. Gripping, original and lush, Jennifer Egan always surprises and inspires me, and this Pulitzer Prize winner is spell-binding.
We know you are loving the new Tilda scallop pumps in white snakeskin from our Resort '14 collection, and they look awesome on you, we must admit! Can you describe your personal style and how/where you will be wearing Tilda this season into the next?
Well I'd like to say my personal style is very Loeffler Randall-- an effortlessly chic blend of vintage and modern, always a bit grounded in another era. HOWEVER-- I fear that much of my day you'll find me trying to create passable looks with my exercise clothes, which ends up involving leg warmers and being a little bit Flashdance, a little bit Brooklyn Writer-Mom. I do plan on wearing the Tilda Pumps with jeans and a delicate white top and leather jacket, or with a black pencil skirt in my closet that I tend to think about more than I actually wear. The Tilda's might embolden me to bust it out more often. I'm always happy when I do.
Besides a great read, what's one thing you always bring with you when traveling?
Tinted moisturizer with SPF (latest purchase: Bobbi Brown's BB cream) and a cute dress (I realize that's two things but it also answers the bonus question of whether I'm an under or over packer).
Find out more about Joanna here: www.joannahershon.com
Photos by Ryan Slack www.rslack.com