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Meet the WritersImage of Holiday Reinhorn
Holiday Reinhorn
Holiday Reinhorn's work has appeared in Tin House, Zoetrope, Ploughshares, Gulf Coast and other literary magazines. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is the recipient of a Tobias Wolff Award, a Pushcart nomination and a Carl Djerassi Fiction Fellowship from The University of Wisconsin at Madison. Last Seen, an independent feature film she adapted from one of her short stories and co-produced with filmmaker Eva Ilona Brzeski, premiered at the Mill Valley and Central Standard Film Festivals.

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she currently lives in Los Angeles with a young son, several dogs, and her husband, Rainn. Big Cats is her first book.

Biography courtesy of the author's official web site.

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Good to Know
Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Reinhorn:

"After a series of failed careers -- broadcaster, sound designer, hummus maker, vet's assistant, shoe painter, actor -- I started writing after I got held at gunpoint by two Serb mercenaries in a seafood restaurant near the United Nations where I was waiting tables in New York. The event became a performance art piece called FISH. After that, I joined a writing workshop, wrote my first short story and the rest, as they say...."

"I get along better with animals. I am very horse and pit bull crazy. I study Classical Dressage and enjoy hanging out with my dogs and son. And his father too!"

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In the summer of 2005, Holiday Reinhorn took some time out to talk about some of her favorite books, authors, and interests.

What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer? As a child, it would be Alice in Wonderland, without question. I was given a first edition copy, and before I could read, I was completely fascinated by the illustrations. (Alice in her pinafore swimming with a rabid looking water rat and being smiled at perversely by the Cheshire Cat, etc.). Then, when I could read, the obsession grew. For me, it was the only book that seemed to encapsulate all the fantastical absurdity and sudden menace of childhood and of being alive, in general. Philosophy was useless and the only way to survive was to imagine your way through.

As an aspiring writer in the early 90's -- it was an anthology of short fiction: The Vintage Book of Contemporary Short Stories edited by Tobias Wolff (1994). I read that book like a bible. Every piece in there made me ache to be a writer. Each one is a masterpiece and literally changed the cellular structure of my body. I really felt like they altered the chemical make-up of my skin. Kate Braverman's story, "Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta" and Mary Gaitskill's "A Romantic Weekend" were probably my all time favorites of those included. Both of those narrators are definitely "Alice's" in their own particular corrupted wonderlands.

My all-time favorite book set in the Pacific Northwest would have to be Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey. I've never read anything that embodies the land and the settling of the land by the logging industry tycoons so beautifully. This novel is such a tour de force in so many ways. The multiplicity of POV's, the epic generational tragedy. The novel opens with a breathtaking prologue that is beyond magnificent. it's the King Lear of the Pacific Northwest.

What are your favorite books, and what makes them special to you?
I consider the following books visionary and perfect in terms of imagination, voice, POV, structure, style, everything inexplicable and mysterious and haunting that makes a book change your life, your heart and your soul:

  • Ray by Barry Hannah
  • Where I'm Calling From by Ray Carver
  • Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  • Desperate Characters by Paula Fox
  • Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  • Among The Missing by Dan Chaon
  • Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow
  • Franny & Zooey by J. D. Salinger
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
  • Angels by Denis Johnson
  • Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

    What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you? A list of movies I watch, then rewind and watch over again, 3-6 times over the course of a single weekend, not because I want to, but because I need to:

  • Days of Heaven
  • Apocalyse Now
  • Tender Mercies
  • Adaptation
  • Leaving Las Vegas
  • Last Exit to Brooklyn
  • Angel Baby
  • Phar Lap
  • Valley Girl
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  • Say Anything
  • Reckless

    What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
    I wish I could listen to music while I'm writing, but, for me, it gets in the way of the character's voice, so I have to have it quiet. If the dogs are snoring while I'm working they get kicked out of the room. I do listen to lots while I'm driving though, which in So. Cal is a preposterous amount of time.

    Right now I'm playing PJ Harvey's newest album over and over, and listeing to Richard Bueckner, Lucinda Williams, The White Stripes, The Jayhawks, and Wilco. When writing Big Cats (and in general, I guess), I like to listen to bands that are either from the Pacific Northwest (or ones that sound to me like they could be from there) because they have a certain amount of emotional moisture in them that I don't get down here in all this endless sunshine and beach volleyball playing. Sleater-Kinney, Varneline Sebadoh, Pavement Everclear, Calamity Jane, Sound Garden, The Dandy Warhols, Soul Coughing and Nirvana, of course, because they make me yearn for home. In my writing, I seem to prefer to yearn for home rather than to be there and generally my characters seem to feel the same way. If we're at home we don't really feel like we belong there and if we aren't at home all we want to do is get back there.

    If you had a book club, what would it be reading?
    I would start with women from the 20th century that are not as well-known as they should be. This year I read Kay Boyle for the first time. Her collection, The White Horses of Vienna, was just amazing. She was an ex-pat in Austria and Germany (pre-Hemingway and the gang) and her work is completely unlike anything I have read. She has this particular ability to evoke casual horror and the motivations of her characters are completely compelling and mysterious. Discussions and disagreements about her work could easily roll into the wee hours.

    Reading translations from writers around the globe is something I want to way more of in general. I'd be interested in going by continent. Contemporary writing from Africa, Vietnam, India, etc. Now that there is so much e-traffic and global media communication, writing is available from so many countries that wouldn't have been as easily accessible in the past. It's thrilling.

    What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
    I love to get and give weird old books from garage sales. Technical books from the 50's, like How do Guided Missiles Tick? and The Facts about the Swedish Hospital Administration. Recently, somebody gave me a book that is Navy etiquette for First Mates on a ship. OnlyFirst Mates, and nobody else. It's like 600 pages long, and it's excellent!

    I rarely give people new books though, just gift certificates. Seems to me that a major part of the joy of acquiring a book is going to the stacks and picking it out. It's kinda sexy to go to a bookstore and be surrounded by all the choices. I wouldn't want to get in the way of that experience for anybody. I do like getting new books as gifts myself, of course. Now that I have a baby at home and don't get out quite as much, people can feel free to send them at will.

    Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
    The ritual depends on the character. Some are really hard to spend time with so I just work for a short period every day. Sometimes they are really talkative and I check in for long periods a couple days a week. The staples stay the same, though. Remain unshowered and generally unkempt. Ignore phones and e-mail. Skip breakfast. Drink lots of espresso. Take son and dogs to park. More espresso. Work.

    My desk is kind of a mess of archival things. Antique pictures of people I don't know. A tallyman's book from the lumber company where my great grandfather worked. He went blind keeping tallies of logs that came up the Willamette River. Shells, Chinese fortunes. Dust and shells and baubles. I try to clean out the desk once in a while but it never works. One of those "Clutter Away" consultants would have a field day.

    What are you working on now?
    In general I'm working on a novel, but I'm not really committing to anything yet. Big Cats was sold when I was six months pregnant and after the last year of revising and working on finishing the manuscript with a new baby at the same time, I need to have an open marriage with the material right now. I don't want to commit to any one character or story quite yet. I want to sleep around.

    Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
    I worked on the stories in Big Cats for about eight years. One of the stories was rejected from over 75 magazines in sometimes hilarious ways that I came to enjoy. One rejection came on a post-it note that had "SORRY, DUDE" written on it in crayon. I love it and keep it in my desk. It's like a note from a sweetheart that always re-inspires me.

    If you could choose one new writer to be "discovered," who would it be?
    On my web site there are links to a number of contemporary writers whose stories will leave you in awe. They either have books out recently or should soon. Check them out and you'll see why!

    What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
    The relationship to one's writing is like a marriage. So do everything you can to keep it exciting. Keep learning, keep showing up, take as many risks as

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  • About the Writer
    *Holiday Reinhorn Home
    * Biography
    * Good to Know
    * Interview
    *Big Cats: Stories, 2005