Pamela Erens (’85) on Writing Her Fourth Novel

Pamela Erens’ third novel, Eleven Hours, was published by Tin House Books in May 2016. It has received praise from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Huffington Post, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, and other media. The novel, about a woman in labor and the nurse who attends her, was described by The New York Times as "an indelible portrait of two women coming to terms with the desire, fear, crushing losses and fragile joys that have carved their lives . . . Erens beautifully evokes [labor's] insistent rhythms and protective deliriums."

We asked Pamela to tell us about life as a professional writer, and how her years at Yale helped lead her where she is today.

How did you get started?

I always wanted to write books—from age six or so (I also wanted to be a ballerina, but I dropped that eventually). Later I wanted to write for magazines too. I didn’t have the stomach to be a freelancer, so I started working in editorial positions at magazines after graduation, freelancing and writing fiction on the side.

Were you involved in the arts/literary scene at Yale?

I did some theater freshman year, and worked on The Quarterly (literary magazine—don’t know if it still exists) and Aurora (feminist magazine—ditto) throughout my time there. I was an enthusiastic theater-goer: undergrad productions as well as the Yale Rep.

What are your current projects?

I’m trying to launch a new novel—number 4. If I ever find the extra time, I also have a group of essays I’d like to get underway.

How did this project come about?

I finished novel number 3!

If you could meet one artist/author, alive or dead, who would it be?

I actually find it very scary to meet artists or authors I deeply admire. I fantasize about meeting George Eliot, but it would probably be terrible. I wouldn’t know what to say, and what if I didn’t like her?

How does NYC affect your work?

My first novel was in part a love letter to Manhattan—all the walking I had done through it as well as in Central Park. My main character takes many of those same walks. My third novel is also set in Manhattan, in an invented hospital there. I adore the city—the subways, the crowds, the energy, all the wonderful things to do and hear and watch and see.

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