PW: In The Probable Future, your 16th adult novel, each descendant of Rebecca Sparrow, a young woman drowned for witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts, has a supernatural gift that changes her life. What do you want to convey about the nature of gifts?
Alice Hoffman: In all of these gifts, there's a glitch. You realize that it's not exactly what you think it is. Jenny can dream other people's dreams, but she makes a mistake and doesn't know whose dream is whose. Stella can see the way people will die, but there's the possibility of intervention. So it's like a process of a discovery, that yes, you have a gift, but things change, and you have to learn how to go with it.
PW: And if you accept the gift, what else do you have to accept?
AH: I really feel like the gift is also the curse. It's always half-and-half. Whatever brings you the most joy will also probably bring you the most pain. Always a price to pay.
PW: Why did you return to the theme of witchcraft and magic, which you last addressed in Practical Magic?
AH: I was in the middle of writing Here on Earth, and it was so dark and difficult for me to write that I stopped halfway through and wrote Practical Magic. I'm interested in witchcraft's symbolic essence and history more than in the "craft" itself—what it means to be a woman in this society and an outcast. It's also about mothers and daughters, not about contemporary witchcraft. I really felt that in writing this book I completed some circle. I wrote it after my mother had died.
PW: Love, fulfilled or unfulfilled, is also a common thread. Do you believe, as you wrote in your novel, that love is "catching, like a common cold"?
AH: (Laughs) I think it's so mysterious, so impossible to explain and so defies all logic. It's so completely interesting, no matter how many times you examine it. I don't have a clue!
PW: The rose motif of The River King returns, this time when the matriarch Elinor strives to breed a blue rose. Was this a deliberate metaphor?
AH: I think that this is a universal search, for the blue rose and everything it means, to try to create something that doesn't exist without your intervention, something that's a miracle and impossible, but you keep trying again and again. In some ways it's a metaphor for creating, or writing a novel. It's the process that's the important thing, the search, the quest. In a period of about five years I lost so many people that I'd loved. This book was a way of figuring out how you go on in this world of sorrow.
PW: What's next?
AH: I'm working on another short story collection. Also, The River King might be made into a film by Nick Willing, a British director. The Blue Diary was bought by CBS; the director is Nancy Savoca. I'm also doing a children's picture book, Moon Dog, with my son, Wolfe Martin, about a puppy who turns into a werewolf, for Halloween 2004.
PW: You once said, "Our fate is tied to the world around us." How can we remain hopeful in the face of troubling global events?
AH: You can try to take sorrow and make it into something enduring, meaningful and beautiful. I always feel guilty that this is my job, that I get to do this. Even in times when it's difficult to figure out, how do you go forward, art—and books—always help.