Acclaimed author and filmmaker Peter Hedges is making three stops in his home state of Iowa this week to promote his new novel, “The Heights.”
It’s Hedges’ third novel and the first that’s not set in Iowa. It follows a fictional couple in the affluent neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights in New York City, where Hedges now lives. The 47-year-old Hedges says the seemingly-perfect husband and wife find their lives turned upside down.
“It’s a story about a marriage, a good marriage, that gets a bit lost — ‘a bit’ is an understatement,” Hedges says. “I’ve been married 17 years and I wanted to write about a marriage, not mine, but one that has some things in common with marriages that I know of, including mine.”
Hedges, whose novels have been published in fifteen languages, says he focuses on developing likeable characters who are trying to do the right thing but find themselves in a mess. Those messes, he says, make for compelling stories. Hedges says, “I just wanted to explore in a comedic and yet sometimes painful way the fragility and the resilience of a marriage.” Hedges, a native of West Des Moines, also plans to write, direct and produce the film version of “The Heights.”
He started writing the novel in 1998 and says, “It took me a long time to get it right.” He says his goal is to transfer the emotional story from the page to the big screen. “I feel I can make it be — I hope — a special film,” Hedges says. “I love these characters. I spent so long with them and to get a chance to turn it into a film, I hope I’ll have the same feelings about it the way I do about both the novel and the movie of ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?'”
That 1993 film starred Johnny Depp and Leonardo Dicaprio, who was nominated for an Oscar. Hedges wrote both the novel and screenplay for “Gilbert Grape,” and he wrote and directed 2007’s “Dan in Real Life,” as well as “Pieces of April,” which was also nominated for an Oscar in 2003.
Hedges will appear at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines on Tuesday at 7 P.M., at Iowa State University’s Memorial Union in Ames at 7 PM on Wednesday, and at Prairie Lights book store in Iowa City at 7 P.M. on Thursday.
Hear Matt Kelley’s full interview with Hedges here: Hedges intereview 12:00 MP3