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Eleanor Henderson at Powell’s

June 14, 2011

Eleanor Henderson Talks About Ten Thousand Saints and Subway Laser Tag

Debut author Eleanor Henderson was at Powell’s on Hawthorne last night reading from her just-released and already highly-acclaimed novel Ten Thousand Saints.  Afterward,  she talked about writing the book and said that she didn’t grow up in New York or Vermont so it was a challenge for her to research a world that was slightly out of reach.  “A lot of the stories that I tell are second hand. My husband did grow up on the Lower East Side of New York in the 1980s so a lot of these stories are his.  It’s certainly not a book that is based on his life in anyway, but the world is his, the setting is his and I felt that the setting was so rich I wanted to tell a story about it.”
“When I first started writing the book – mostly in grad school – it was just Jude’s point of view – pretty limited.  It was 540 pages of sixteen-year-old boy.  That’s a lot of sixteen-year-old boy and I loved Jude but I realized that it was a pretty claustrophobic point of view.  At some point I realized I wanted to access more than one point of view so I kind of took a sledge hammer to it.  I think there are eight points of view now including the parents.  Not only was I hoping to make it more interesting for the reader but I think I realized as I was writing it that the book wasn’t just about the straight edge boys coming of age.  There was a larger story about their parents’ choices and about generations and about the coming of age of New York City.”
Henderson said that the book The Outsiders had a lot of influence on her and not because she cried when she hadn’t published a book by 16 like S.E. Hinton but because it’s such a “terrific” coming-of-age story.  “That book had an impact in terms of its focus on a group of misfit parentless boys who are forming their own family and learning to take care of each other.  I’m proud to have some echoes of that book.”
When asked if there would be a sequel she said, “I think I’m ready to put these characters aside.  It was nice spending nine years with them but it’s a long time – I’m ready for the next project.  The next thing I’m working on is historical fiction.”
On a light note, Henderson commented on the scene in the book where the characters play subway laser tag: “I think it’s a great invention.  I think we all should do it.  Instead of a book tour, I’d like to do subway laser tag.”

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