7 takeaways from the discussion about the author of “Something Wild”

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“I think I wrote it in every possible way.”

On Wednesday, the Boston.com Book Club hosted a virtual chat with author Hanna Halperin on her debut novel, “Something Wild.” Moderated by Gillian Kohli, co-owner of Wellesley Books, our conversation covered the author’s past as a domestic violence counselor, how she gets to know her characters, and what she hopes readers will take away from her novel.

Coming up, we’re sharing our top takeaways from the event, and you can also watch the full recording here.

Halperin worked as a domestic violence counselor before becoming a writer

She worked in the field for five years, devoting much of her time to education on domestic violence. During her work, she became aware of the prevalence of violence against women around the world.

Boston.com Book Club chooses “Something Wild” by Hanna Halperin

The book was inspired by the stories of women who have experienced domestic violence – but the characters are fictional

Halperin has kept his clients’ stories completely private, but they have always served as the catalyst behind “Something Wild.” However, she sought to capture the varied reactions to the abuse she witnessed during her tenure as a counselor and made it a central part of the novel. Once the two sisters find out their mother is being abused by their stepfather during a home visit, one sister is adamant about filing a restraining order, while the other feels conflicted – struggling with lingering feelings of love towards her stepfather.

The story explores the “sixth sense of danger” which is deeply linked to childhood

“I ended up opening the novel with that feeling – especially girls with that almost sixth sense of danger,” she said. In the book, the two sisters refer to this innate feeling of feeling that another woman or themselves are in trouble and in need of protection from “the wild thing.” “These two young girls, even when they are quite young, know it without having the language to speak it, so they invent their own language. And part of what this story is about is how complicated it gets when they’re pitted against each other. “

“Something Wild” was written several times before settling on a winning draft

The author describes her experience writing the novel as messy and chaotic – changing narrators and cutting nearly 300 pages on the sisters’ childhood. “I think I wrote it from every possible perspective,” Halperin said. “When I started writing it, I wrote almost everything from the point of view of Nessa, the older sister alone, and then I realized that I wanted it to be from the point of view of the two sisters… I had to find my bearings. what story do I want to tell and who do I want to tell… in the end, I thought “this is the story of two sisters”.

The author of “Something Wild” Hanna Halperin – Sharona Jacobs

Why the novel takes place in Arlington, Mass.

Halperin worked on Winter Street in Arlington, so she felt she could easily paint the picture of the area. But the setting was originally nonexistent until Halperin’s editor insisted on describing the meaning behind different New England towns and how that plays out in the story. The author believes that adding a specific setting has made a big difference in the novel, bringing out interesting details about the characters, showing how and where they live and spend time adds context to who they are.

How she gets to know her characters, and the one with special meaning

“Usually when I write, I follow the details,” said the author. “I’m going to write a detail about a character or put a character in a situation. What’s exciting about writing a scene is figuring out how that character would react, and then I kind of get to know my characters by writing that scene, and then I have these little nuggets on the character.

One of the names of the main character has special meaning for the author. A late friend of Halperin’s gave him the idea of ​​using Nessa’s name for one of his characters, and felt that including her was a way of honoring his life.

Halperin hopes readers get a taste of how to navigate conversations about abuse

“It’s hard to navigate conversations where someone comes to you and reveals they’re in an abusive relationship,” the author said. “I think the characters in the novel struggle with that. So hopefully the book opens up conversations about how to have those conversations. I think there is that pressure to say the right thing and, if someone comes to you and tells you, just listening to them and believing them is huge.


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