nightnavigation“Kafka wrote that a book must be the axe to the frozen sea inside us. Ginnah Howard‘s astonishing debut novel, Night Navigation, is just such an axe: sharp and fierce, enlivening and enlightening. Howard’s gripping tale of a mother who can’t stop saving the very son who can’t be saved lays bare the marrow of familial love–its messy desperation and its stubborn, enduring beauty.” So says Maud Casey, author of Genealogy and The Shape of Things To Come.

According to Kirkus, Night Navigation “takes us into the deranged, darkly humorous world of the addict—from break-your-arm-dealers, to boot-camp rehabs, to Rumi-spouting NA sponsors.” Ginnah posted the opening chapter to Fictionaut. Her official website is

If you weren’t a writer, how would you spend your time?

If I come back in another life, I’d be a recorded books reader, do all of Alice Munro or George Eliot. In my current body, most of March, I had the good fortune to be able to write while sitting out on a boat house dock on the Gulf, the tide going out, coming in, along with an occasional dolphin. If I wasn’t writing, I’d just sit there and watch the ibis, their ribbon of flight.

Which book do you wish you’d written?

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood. Or The Things They Carry by Tim O’Brien. Or…

What are the websites you couldn’t live without?

Google and YouTube for research. I’m doing a scene in a dairy barn right now. I can go right into a milking parlor on YouTube—though I’m going to have to visit a real barn for the smell of urine.

What are you working on now?

Book 3 of a trilogy-in-progress, Common Descent. It opens on a mother, pulling into the county jail to see her son, and trying to talk her daughter into going in with her. Book 2, Night Navigation, has just been published (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and Book 1, Rope & Bone, is on my agent’s shelf, waiting for the turnaround.

Do you listen to music while you write? What?

No! Like John Gardner said, I’d cut off a character’s ear to get the rhythm right. Just about every few paragraphs, I stop to revise. I work out loud then. Those authors, like Jane Smiley, who advise writers to speed along and not look back until they get to The End, just about give me an attack thinking how bad the work would be if I couldn’t keep re-making the world on the page through revision.

  1. alice lichtenstein

    I loved Ginnah’s interview and novel. Ginnah read the chapter “Sharps” for my creative writing class at Hartwick College and led an excellent in-class exercise. She asked the class to think of someone they had a conflict with and to write a scene in which they take the other person’s point of view. When someone asked how to write from another person’s pov, she answered, “put the camera on that person’s shoulder.” We all loved her work, her energy and her insights. Thanks again, Ginnah.

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