What We’re Reading with Michelle Huneven
Professor Huneven’s new book, Search (Penguin Random House, 2022) came out earlier this year. We caught up with Professor Huneven to discuss how her new work came about.
Can you tell us a little bit about your book?
Search is about a church search committee tasked with finding the next senior minister. It’s a yearlong process with many steps and bumps along the way.
Where did the idea for this book come from?
I was on a search committee once—just a short one to hire an assistant minister—and I was intrigued by the incremental way we got to know each of the applicants, and how someone who presented very well was in fact quite flawed. Also, after the 2016 election, I was interested in exploring how intelligent, well-educated, well-meaning people could choose the wrong person.
How long did it take to write this story, and how did you know when the story was finished?
It took more years than I’m willing to admit and the book wasn’t finished until I addressed all of my editor’s insightful suggestions.
What do you hope readers come away with after reading this novel?
You recently did a podcast where you shared advice you give to your students about writing, such as making it a goal to write for 20 minutes a day. What motivates you to write and to meet that goal yourself?
I’m a writer, so I write. If I don’t write, I get very grouchy. Even on vacation. 20 minutes a day keeps your hand in, so you don’t have to play catch-up. Also, if you commit to 20 minutes, it often turns into 2 or 4 or more hours. But even if you just write 20 minutes a day, you’ll be surprised how quickly the pages pile up.
Do you have any other projects on the horizon that you’d like to share or talk a bit about?
I taught a short story intensive last winter and learned a lot of strategies and techniques by deeply studying masters of the form. So now, I’m working on a handful of stories before I dive into the next novel, which is about the eugenicist who once lived on my property here in Altadena and who invented the field of marriage counseling.
Michelle Huneven photo (c): Courtney Gregg