Thompson Rivers University

Hofmann’s Echolocation a deep dive into the heart

April 23, 2019

Karen Hofmann, Associate Professor.

Like an album of songs that work together in harmony, Karen Hofmann’s latest book, Echolocation, is a collection of stories that speak to the same human tendencies.

The title is a metaphor: Echolocation, in this case, is the process of locating things when one’s perception is compromised, or inadequate. As humans, we send out signals, and through our complicated thought processes and emotions, try to interpret what we hear back.

And as is evidenced throughout the book — which published earlier this month by NeWest Press — our interpretations are not always successful.

“I’m trying to deeply explore relationships. The characters in Echolocation are all trying to find their way in relationships that are new or changing,” she said, noting that the title story was written 20 years ago, while others were written more recently. The collection came together when Hofmann was convinced she had all the right pieces in place.

Hofmann’s earlier works include the novel, What is Going to Happen Next?, which published in fall 2017, and her debut novel After Alice, which published in 2014. Her collection of poetry, Water Strider, published in 2008.

When it comes to writing novels versus short fiction, Hofmann said that when she begins a piece, she’s never quite certain what she’s going to end up with, or how far the characters will take her.

“I’m always writing — and most often writing a few things at the same time. Some of the stories I start and then they’ll sit for a few years before I open my notebook back up to see if there’s still something alive for me in those pages,” she said.

“I’m always trying to find a language that expresses an emotion — not just to write about the emotion, but to represent it artistically.”

Through her rich career as a novelist, storyteller and teacher, Hofmann said she’s still learning, and growing, and through the process of compiling Echolocation, she learned a lot about herself.

“I learned that I enjoy writing about complexity and ambiguity, and about our ability to just live with something without having to know for sure. Life gets very painful if we try to understand everything.”

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