Kristen den Hartog Answers the HN Questionnaire

Kristen den Hartog is a novelist and memoirist. Her latest (fourth) novel, And Me Among Them, was published last spring. She will be appearing at 4:30 pm this Sunday September 25th, 2011 in the Vibrant Voices of Ontario Tent at Toronto’s Word on the Street festival.

Currently residing in: Toronto

Website: http://kristendenhartog.com/

Blog: http://blogofgreengables.wordpress.com/

What’s going on in your writing life right now? My daughter is back in school, so I’m happily back at my desk, researching a second family memoir with my sister, Tracy Kasaboski, co-author of our earlier book, The Occupied Garden.

What’s your writing routine? As soon as the house is clear of husband and child, at about 8:30, I’m working, and I keep at it, breaking for lunch and dog walks, until they’re home around 4 o’clock.

What do you usually eat for breakfast? Cereal with yoghurt and fruit and nuts. Or sometimes toast. Always two essential cups of good strong coffee with a bit of cream.

What good books have you read recently? Lemon by Cordelia Strube. Also the Harry Potter series, which we’re working through as a family. We’re on book five, and all three of us are hooked.

What did you eat for dinner last night? Delicious salmon from the Osler Fish Market nearby, with new potatoes and rosemary from the garden, corn on the cob, and salad.

Writing rules you live by: I don’t sit and gaze out the window and wait for things to come anymore. I believe more in my own ability and determination as the years go on and less in any kind of muse or mysterious inspiration.

Foodstuffs you’re fiending these days: Fall is my favourite time of year, and fall food is my favourite too, so I’m happy when the hot weather is done and love to make soups and eat squashy rooty kinds of things. My husband, who loves steaks and especially pie, thinks I’m crazy.

A scene or piece you’ve written that features food:
In And Me Among Them, James eats his regular Thursday pressed ham sandwich and becomes aware that his future stretches out before him in an expanse of sameness he has neither chosen nor rejected. He bites again, and recalls the time his daughter bit into a hot dog and came upon a pig’s eyelid, the lashes like a fossil in the meat. Somehow the moment prompts him to make a life-changing decision and leave his wife … but will he?

Favorite restaurants: Kalendar on College Street in Toronto, where I first met my husband on a blind date. Zocalo, a great new little place in our neighbourhood, at Bloor and Symington.

Three formative books from your youth: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren; the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder; Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Three formative books from your adulthood: Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro; The Diary of Etty Hillesum; The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Dishes/recipes in regular rotation in your cooking repertoire: Salads of all kinds, especially with arugula or fresh mint; soups of all kinds; rode kool, or red cabbage, a Dutch family recipe.

Random bits of writing advice: Don’t rush. Take time for each scene. Don’t worry about what the story will be when it’s finished, worry just about what it is as you’re creating it. Stay with the process; in the end (as with life!) it’s the most important part of all.
What do you do when not writing, eating or reading? I love good movies, walking the dog, hanging out with my family.

What’s your idea of comfort food and comfort reading? Comfort food is pasta with olive oil and parmesan cheese. And Strub’s Pickles are unbeatable. Comfort reading is what I do with my daughter – rediscovering the books I read as a kid, and finding new ones together.

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