Associate English Professor C.J. Hauser appeared as a featured guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers on Monday, September 9 to discuss her new critically acclaimed novel, Family of Origin, and her writing advice for students. Family of Origin follows the misadventures of a pair of half-siblings who travel to their recently deceased father’s field site in the Gulf Coast to unpack their past. They discover that a rare sea duck might reveal new clues to understanding evolution.
Meyers first heard of Hauser and her work through her short story, published in The Paris Review, in tandem with the release of her novel back in July 2019 entitled, The Crane Wife. While writing a novel about scientists, Hauser realized she needed hands-on experience and an understanding of research in order to properly bring the story to life.
The Crane Wife details Hauser’s trip to Texas when she followed scientists, deep in their fieldwork. Hauser felt she could not leave herself or that part of her life out of the narrative — she called off her wedding the week before the trip.
Prior to the show’s taping, Hauser spoke with producers about topics to discuss on air. She said, in truth, that she was nervous to speak about such serious and personal issues in a comedic setting such as a late night show. Striking the right tone would be key.
“Leading up to the actual day of the show, the thought of all this sounded terrifying but it was actually really fun,” Hauser said.
While touching on serious topics like the minute details of scientific research and her decision to write a personal essay about the deconstruction of her relationship, Hauser got multiple laughs from the audience and from Meyers himself.
Hauser said the conversation was not scripted or memorized. Although some conversation starters were outlined, the dialogue on the air was natural. The rapport between Meyers and Hauser may have been due to Meyer’s perceived genuine interest in her work.
“It felt like Seth and everyone else actually read the book and were excited to have an author on the show,” Hauser said.
This summer, senior and English major Ruby Wald interned for Late Night with Seth Meyers.
“Working for Seth was an incredible experience. I think what makes his show different from other late night shows is the wide array of fields his guests come from. Professor Hauser’s appearance gave insight into contemporary literature and uplifted literary academia into a pop culture setting,” Wald said. “Everyone was excited to have Professor Hauser on the show as early as this summer. Copies of ‘Family of Origin’ were kept on the office bookshelf for anyone to borrow, which many people did.”
Alumna and former student of Professor Hauser, Penny Belnap ’19, now works for the publishing company Random House. She gave a glowing review of her experiences in the classroom with Hauser, and also spoke to the great feat it was for an author to appear on a late night show.
“When it comes to television appearances for writers promoting their work, it is morning shows that demonstrate the greatest interest in hosting an author, but they usually are looking for an issue-driven book from the political realm. It is extremely hard for an author of literary fiction to land a spot on a show like Seth Meyers,” Belnap said.
However, Belnap was not surprised by the success of Hauser and her novel.
“This summer I attended a reading Professor Hauser gave at the McNally Jackson Bookstore in New York City. The room was packed, full of former and current students as well as an array of other fans. Hauser’s reading was engaging, funny, fascinating, and really heartwarming. Her book may be one of the most well-researched works of fiction I’ve ever encountered. I have about 14 books on my plate at all times because of my job but still Professor Hauser’s book is hard to put down,” Belnap said.
Professor Hauser closed the interview with writing advice that she imparts to her students: do not get caught up in the myths of the practice of writing. She insists that it is unrealistic to think writing can be as regimented when you’re young, broke, or working some other job.
Hauser wrote her first novel on lunch breaks in bodegas. To erase this writing myth, Hauser gives her writing students a tiny chicken totem and tells them that when the chicken is placed on any surface, it automatically becomes a writing desk. Hauser concluded the conversation by gifting Meyers a chicken for his late night desk.