15 paintings, 15 writers: “Night Stories”

(Joshua Feriss, Luanne Rice, Richard Russo, Linden Frederick, Lawrence Kasdan, me, and Lois Lowry)

Several years ago, I was invited to be part of a fascinating project.  Renowned artist Linden Frederick, known for his evocative, moody landscape paintings, noticed that a number of writers were collectors of his work.  He came up with the brilliant idea of pairing an author to each of his fifteen paintings in the “Night Stories” collection, and asking the authors to write a 1000-word short story inspired by their particular painting.  When I saw the list of other invited authors, I was intimidated.  It included three Pulitzer Prize winners, National Book Award winners and finalists, winners of the Edgar, Academy Award, Pen/Faulkner, PEN USA, Kirkus Prize, and Newbery Medal.  I was terrified that I’d be the one to embarrass them all. But I took a big gulp and said yes.

I was invited to Linden’s studio in Belfast, Maine, to look over the preliminary studies for his fifteen paintings and choose the image I wanted to write about.  I was immediately drawn to “Takeout,” a Christmas-time view of a diner at night.  It reminded me of Edward Hopper’s painting “Nighthawks,” and stories about that diner — and what might happen inside it — instantly popped into my head.

(Posing with “Takeout,” the painting that inspired my short story:)


That short story was the hardest thing I ever wrote.  Even though it was only 1,000 words, it took me months of thinking about my characters before I could write a single word.  When I finally turned it in, I felt as if I’d written an entire novel!

Last week, at a reception in the Forum Gallery in New York, they unveiled the book with the collection of paintings and the short stories inspired by them.   There I got the chance to meet some of my fellow authors, and what a star-studded cast it was!

With screenwriter Ted Tally and artist Linden Frederick:

With Richard Russo and Luanne Rice:

With screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan:

The book Night Stories: Fifteen Paintings and the Stories They Inspired will go on sale October 7.

Podcast interview with Hank Garner

Listen to the podcast in which Hank and I chat about writing, process, and why I write the books I write.