Alice Hoffman, author of The Dovekeepers, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |September 16, 2011

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Alice Hoffman

author of The Dovekeepers,
The Red Garden
The Third Angel
and many more

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

A: I was born in New York City. Schooled at Adelphi College and Stanford University. Raised on Long Island.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

A: At twelve I wanted to be Mrs. Paul McCartney.

At eighteen I wanted to live in California and see Big Sur.

At thirty I was doing exactly what I wanted to do—writing.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That it was impossible to forgive.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

All books, and great ones: Wuthering Heights, Beloved, Something Wicked This Way Comes.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I can’t do any of the others.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The Dovekeepers is the story of four women at the siege of Masada in the years 70-74 AD. It’s about love, courage, faith, history and desire.

(BBGuru: publisher’s synopsis…

Over five years in the writing, The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s most ambitious and mesmerizing novel, a tour de force of imagination and research, set in ancient Israel.

In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman’s novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father, an expert assassin, never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her young grandsons, rendered mute by what they have witnessed. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and an expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow soldier. Shirah, born in Alexandria, is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power.

The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets—about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s masterpiece. )

Read a review of the The Dovekeepers by Toni Whitmont, editor of the Booktopia Buzz

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

Whatever the book means to them. It becomes their book upon reading.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

The greatest living writer, Toni Morrison, for gorgeous and raw truth.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To live till next year.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Decide who to trust, then trust him or her, and most of all, trust yourself.

Alice, thank you for playing.

Visit Booktopia’s Alice Hoffman Author Page

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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