BIO

I have written two books: Love Child: A Memoir of Family Lost and Found (2009) and a novel, Say My Name (2017). I have also written journalism for newspapers and magazines including Newsweek, Vogue, People, the Santa Fean, and Condé Nast Traveler in the US; and the Independent on Sunday (as part of the series Lives of the Great Songs), Harper’s Bazaar, Mail On Sunday YOU magazine, the Tatler, and The Times in the UK, French Vogue, and the international art and culture magazine Garage, where I am also part of the editorial team. My article on midwifery, “Catching Babies in New Mexico,” written for Mothering magazine, is on the website of the New Mexico State Historian.

I have published Twice 5 Miles Guides: the stuff nobody teaches you. Launch titles will be How to Work with a Writer, by me, and How to Read for an Audience, cowritten by me and James Navé, who taught me everything I know about public readings.

I am the screenwriter and producer of the award-winning short film Good Luck, Mr. Gorski (2011), which won the Grand Remi at the Houston Worldfest and was shown in many prestigious festivals including Mill Valley, the Hamptons, Torino, Cartagena, Rhode Island, and L.A. Shorts. Projects in development include three features and two TV series.

I grew up in London, Ireland, Long Island, Los Angeles, and Mexico, where my father John Huston lived for the last decades of his life. I read English at Hertford College, Oxford, then spent nine years in publishing in London. At Chatto & Windus, and then as Editorial Director of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, I worked with authors including Alan Hollinghurst, Iris Murdoch, Edna O’Brien, Henry Shukman, Robert Conquest, and Jane Goodall. I then worked for two years with the film distribution and production company Pathé in London.

I have taught screenwriting and memoir writing workshops at the National University of Ireland, Galway, the OSLEP program at the University of Oklahoma, and the Arvon Foundation in the UK. I also co-direct Imaginative Storm Writing Workshops with the poet James Navé (click here for more info) and am a founding member of the creative think tank Twice 5 Miles (click here for more info).

I currently live in Taos, New Mexico, with my 15-year-old son Rafael, in a traditional adobe house which I designed and built with Rafael’s father. Looking out the window from the table where I work, I see nearly 100 miles: horizon after horizon of extinct volcanoes that undulate like an ocean. A few years ago I started taking piano lessons, and my proudest accomplishment is being able to play Chopin’s Nocturne #1–not very well, but well enough for me.


CONTACT

For professional inquiries, please contact my agent, Caroline Wood at Felicity Bryan Ltd.: caroline@felicitybryan.com
or send a message through the contact form »


Q&A

When I was a child, I used to think it would be good to be a writer because I could live wherever I wanted—like on the beach. I loved reading books, though I couldn’t quite imagine writing one. I hated writing letters and I never kept a journal. (Now I think that’s because of the pressure to get the words right first time when you’re writing on paper—because I don’t hate writing emails, and in fact I tend to write long ones to friends.) I became a book editor, working with writers, and gradually started to feel that maybe I could do this myself. Then I came across a story that fascinated me, so I started writing a screenplay.
The first thing I wrote was a piece about Graceland, Elvis Presley’s house, when I was in my early twenties. I’d been getting a lot of laughs telling the story of the visit, so I wrote it up. I didn’t find a magazine to publish the piece, but I liked what I wrote, and that gave me confidence to propose other travel pieces to magazines and newspapers in London.
I must have received praise early on or I wouldn’t have continued writing, but I don’t actually remember it. I was trying to be professional, so I was pretending I didn’t need praise.
Only when I began to write personal things did praise sink in. When my father, John Julius Norwich, read my memoir Love Child and told me I wrote beautifully, it meant the world to me.
When I was 15, I helped my (other) father, John Huston, edit the manuscript of his autobiography. For some reason I had the confidence I could do it—maybe just because I read so much.
I was a good student because that was my currency. My sister was beautiful, my brother was outdoorsy, my other brother was artistic; I was the brainy one. That was, as I saw it, my role in the Huston family.
I find writing hard, probably because my critical faculty is so well developed. I have to find tricks so that I don’t feel like I’m writing something that has to be good. I write out of order. I free-associate. I call it “material” rather than a draft. Anything so as to get words on a page. Then I can edit them, which is my comfort zone. The most enjoyable part is when I feel it all starting to come together. That’s when I want to do nothing but work!
The first time I read my work in semi-public, it was to about 20 people who were participants in a writing workshop which I was co-teaching. It was the first time I’d read my own words aloud, and I realized as I read what a great editing tool that was. I felt when something was forced or inauthentic. As a result, I read the entire manuscript of Love Child aloud to myself before I gave it to my editor.
The answer is different according to whether I’m reading or writing. As a reader, I love to learn things, so I’m drawn to history, anthropology, and science, especially books about the brain. As a writer, I’m most comfortable writing memoir—though I’m not one of those writers who can write multiple memoirs. I feel (though this might change) that I have one story to tell, and I told it. My novels are not fictionalized memoir, but they are drawn from life in many respects.
Only competition with myself—and it’s not really competition, it’s more an attempt to meet my own high standards and frustration when I consistently fall short.
No. Although I find I write pretty long emails to friends, so I guess that’s pleasure. And when I’m excited about an idea, it’s enormously pleasurable to mess around with it. It’s just getting words on the page that’s hard.
I wrote a piece about an imagined lunch with my mother, who died when I was four. It will be included in an anthology called Table for Two, edited by Erica Heller, to be published in spring 2020.
I was editing a book called Losing the Nobel Prize by Brian Keating, a professor of astrophysics at UC San Diego. Brian had been nervous about being edited, and we were discussing his experiences with editors. I said, nobody teaches you how to do this. He said, nobody teaches you how to teach either. “You should write a book!” he said. That’s where the idea of “the stuff nobody teaches you” came from.
For a couple of years before that, I’d been encouraging James Navé to write a little book about reading your work in public. Nothing existed on the subject, and it was clear that most writers desperately need guidance. I realized then that a book on editing and a book on reading aloud could be the beginning of a series.
Writing screenplays teaches you a lot about structure, and about getting meaning into the story that’s not spelled out on the page. I think that’s a very useful discipline for all storytellers. I also love ten-minute writing exercises. They don’t give you enough time to think: it’s improv for writers. That’s where the sparks, the energy, the originality, come from.
My greatest reward is when I hear from a total stranger that my book spoke to them. In some cases, with both Love Child and A Stolen Summer (as my novel Say My Name will be called in paperback), people have told me my book has actually changed their lives. That’s why I write.

Q & A: A Stolen Summer

When I decided to write an erotic novel, I started with my own favorite fantasy. I always wanted to be the girl that a great love song was written for.
Well, clearly I’m in favor of them! In fact, I feel that in the short term, it is the perfect relationship. Neither partner is looking to the long term; neither partner wants children or has to worry about pregnancy; and it’s a relationship that requires both partners to be confident in themselves, not caught up in their egos. At its best, it’s truly a relationship between souls.
What’s interesting is that I believe there’s still an unspoken taboo about short-term relationships. I don’t mean one-night stands; those are depressingly acceptable. The relationship between Eve and Micajah has all the depth and connection of a long-term possibility. Yet I think that, when we begin a new relationship, we feel that we’re supposed to at least pretend that this could be permanent—but the age difference makes that pretense seem silly. Since we’ve abandoned the idea, as a society, that procreation is the primary purpose of a relationship, I believe this is the root of the prejudice that still exists against older women/younger men. It’s maybe the last holdover from the days when the social fabric was woven from marriages.
I was very inspired by Fear of Flying. When I decided to write this novel, that was the first book I read. It was hugely liberating to women in its time, and I hope that A Stolen Summer might inspire women to a new level of liberation and self-empowerment. What struck me most was Erica Jong’s willingness to say the things that people don’t articulate, with no shame or prurience.
A love story is always relevant, since we’re biologically wired to fall in love. It’s one of the characteristics that all humans share. But I didn’t want to tell an old-fashioned love story, with a happily-ever-after or a sad parting. In my original outline, Eve and Micajah ended up together on a Greek island, but soon I came to feel that was just stupid. To end a love story with a woman choosing to be single, but newly empowered to conquer the world on her own, feels much more relevant to the times we live in. To me, this is a contemporary happy ending.
My friend Roger Landes used to run a musicians’ camp called Zoukfest. It was centered on the bouzouki, which is a Greek instrument that became a staple of Irish music, but it extended to Balkan, Middle Eastern, Andalucian, gypsy, and medieval music, and more besides. And in various combinations. I fell in love with instruments, such as the yayli tambur, that I’d never even heard of before. This is where I saw Gary Hegedus of the group Stellamara hold the violin along his arm, the way Micajah plays it. This is Micajah’s crowd.
I don’t, although I don’t know what I’d call them instead. For me, sex implies more than one person, and it implies a destination of orgasm (though not everyone would agree with me, I suspect). I imagine Eve’s Flowers as a secret pleasure that makes the hardships of daily life easier, that makes her feel warm inside. That feeling when someone strokes your hair and your head tingles—wouldn’t it be nice to have something like that throughout your day?
For eighteen years before I moved here, I lived in London, and led a rather proper life working in publishing and then film distribution. Probably nobody who knew me then would have imagined the turn my life took. My inner hippie emerged when I moved to Taos (or perhaps that’s what made me move here): I love living among people who are following their own wyrd, as my brother Tony calls it. It’s an old Scottish word for destiny. Eve is in many ways like me, and certainly her transformation from a conventional suburban housewife to someone who is willing to take ownership of a project that, let’s say, isn’t going to be universally accepted, mirrors my own sense of liberation from the social rules of my past.
It’s hard to say, because of course I can’t compare to a version of me that had a different childhood. I do think that my father John Huston’s willingness to accept me as his daughter even though I was not biologically his child, and the close family relationship I have with my biological father and his other children, taught me that social rules and customs, along with the emotions that they foster in situations such as mine—emotions like resentment, anger, jealousy, and bitterness—are transcended by love.
allegra-huston

 

 

 

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Selling Sheets

Say My Name

Order US Edition Order UK Edition Years ago, frightened by passion, Eve settled for less: marrying safely, building a solid, ordinary life. Now she longs for more. One day, treasure-hunting for a friend’s antique shop, she finds a mysterious instrument, carved with twining vines. It sends her on a quest – and into a compelling

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Love Child

When I was four years old, my mother was killed in a car crash. Soon afterward, I was introduced to an intimidating man wreathed in cigar smoke and told, “This is your father.” Seven years later, I was introduced to another man: my biological father. Love Child is the story of a childhood fractured by tragedy

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HOW TO Read for an Audience

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How to Work with a Writer

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