Profile with Henriette Power

Henriette Lazaridis Power (Vermont & St Hugh’s 1982) is a Greek/American author and founder of The Drum literary magazine. Her debut novel, The Clover House, was published by Ballantine Books in 2013. She holds a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, an MPhil from the University of Oxford, and a BA from Middlebury College, all in English. A competitive rower, Power trains regularly on the Charles River in Boston.

Rhodes Project: Where do you call home?

Henriette Power: Weston, Massachusetts.

Rhodes Project: Who is your favorite author?

Henriette Power: Ian McEwan. But actually I can add a second author, much less well known: Tom Drury, whose book, The End of Vandalism, is right up there as one of my favorites that I re-read about once a year.

Rhodes Project: What piece of technology could you not live without?

Henriette Power: Probably my phone. That’s so obvious though, I feel like I should pick something more unique. If we’re ruling out the phone or the computer, I would say my camera.

Rhodes Project: Have you been interested in photography for a while?

Henriette Power: For a long time, which doesn’t mean I’m necessarily good. I’ve probably had times in my life where I’ve been better than other times at catching a composition and managing the technology of the camera—whether that technology was film or digital. But it’s something I’ve always loved to do. I’m actually doing a photography workshop all day on Saturday which I’m really looking forward to!

Rhodes Project: When you were a kid, what did you aspire to be later in life?

Henriette Power: First an astronaut, then an architect, then, at a fairly early age, a writer. Telling stories has always been a very important part of what I wanted to be. My father used to introduce me as his little girl who was going to be the first woman on the moon. And now I have a tremendous fear of big wide empty spaces, so it’s really hilarious to me that I would have wanted to be on the moon.

Rhodes Project: What is the best part of being a writer?

Henriette Power: Getting to make stuff up all the time! And now that my novel The Clover House is out, it’s wonderful to be part of the conversation around books. The writer’s life affords us the opportunity to have those conversations because people read so much and book groups are such a large part of our culture.

Rhodes Project: What would you say is the most challenging part?

Henriette Power: Not knowing whether you’re good or not. Not having the regular approval that you get when you’re in school or college or grad school and getting a grade—knowing immediately whether your effort was successful or not. When you write something and send it out, you won’t hear for a long time. And even if it’s a rejection, that doesn’t actually mean that you’re not good. So many other factors are at play. It can be really difficult to live in this world where everything is quite a bit subjective, and where your gratification is very delayed.

Rhodes Project: What advice would you give to a young woman who wanted to be a writer?

Henriette Power: It would be the same advice I would give to a young man, which would be to read the best stuff. But also read widely. Your style, your language, your vocabulary should come from all of the language that’s swirling around you. But you have to read. And this is obvious, but: keep doing it. That’s the part that is the hardest, because when you do face those rejections— when you do face that empty space of sending something out into the world and not knowing if it’s any good—it’s very easy to say, “Well, I’m done now.” I know I almost did. It’s at that moment that you really need to push through and keep doing it. Keep trying to figure out how to get better.

Rhodes Project: Who is your favorite fictional heroine?

Henriette Power: I would actually say at the moment, Louise in Tom Drury’s The End of Vandalism. She’s a wonderful character: very straightforward, very down to earth, very wry without being flashy. And Drury is very good at describing characters with the most minimal language to convey the whole depth of what they’ve lost in life, what matters to them and what they hope will come for them in the future.

Rhodes Project: Who is your favorite real life heroine?

Henriette Power: Rebecca West. She had the courage and the initiative to tour eastern Europe on the eve of the Second World War and to write an incredible book about it (with one of the best titles ever): Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. West didn’t let herself be bound by the conventions of the time. She wrote novels, she wrote journalism, she wrote a book that’s still definitive about the Balkans. She led her life the way she wanted to.

Rhodes Project: What inspires you, and why?

Henriette Power: Here is the kind of thing that literally gives me goosebumps: I’m always inspired and moved by stories in which things have gone wrong for people, and they find something in themselves that allows them to make the best of it—to rise to the occasion. Whether that’s a personal story or a political story, those are the things that I really find inspiring.

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