In The Library

‘I feel blessed that people share their stories and secrets with me’ – Rene Denfeld answers our questions

Rene Denfeld is the author of the hauntingly beautiful debut novel The Enchanted. As well as being a writer, Rene is a death penalty investigator in Oregon, and we couldn’t wait to find out a bit more about her.

Who is your favourite author?

Is it cheating to say I cannot answer just one? I grew up in libraries, and from my earliest ages books were my solace, my comfort and my hope. Each age brings a strong memory of the books I loved.

What book do you most often recommend to friends?

It depends on their tastes, but lately I’ve been recommending Everything I Never Told by Celeste Ng and Excavation by Wendy Ortiz. Both are astonishing.

Do you have any writing rituals?

When I am first starting a project, I like to take a long walk, to clear my head, so that the voice might visit.

If you weren’t a writer what job would you liked to have gone into?

Well, I do have a day job! I am a death penalty investigator—the same job as the character called the lady in The Enchanted. For me, having a day job is important. It’s not enough to want to be a writer. You have to have a story to tell. I feel blessed that people share their stories and secrets with me, and I can be their conduit to the world. We desperately need to hear the voices of the dispossessed.

What is the best thing about being an author?

Oh my—that magical feeling of being lost inside the story. That feeling of suspension inside another world, I think it is the same for writer as reader.

What one item could you not live without?

My computer—or failing that, a pen and paper

Tell us something that will shock your readers?

When I was 16 I sang for a punk band. I was awful, just terrible. I was such a bad singer they actually fired me. Can you imagine being such a bad singer you got fired from a punk band?

What makes you happy?

Helping others, my kids, forgiveness, books, love, and life in general. Even in times of great pain and sorrow, life can be so beautiful—so enchanting. I am someone who finds great joy in life, even during the hard times.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

My rather salty grandmother had a saying, “The only asshole you should care about is your own.” That advice is something that often occurs when I am navigating social media.

The members of my dream book club would be . . .

Anyone who walks in the door! That is what is so beautiful about books: they unify us, they break down all social and class barriers. The pages of a book do not care if you are a garbage collector or a king. They only care that you are there, listening, with an open heart. It is through literature we find the truth, about ourselves, and each other.

The Enchanted is out now in paperback and eBook

Rene Denfeld

Rene Denfeld is a death penalty investigator and the author of three non-fiction books, including the international bestseller, The New Victorians. She has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times Magazine. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her three children, all adopted from foster care. In addition to working with death-row clients, Ms. Denfeld volunteers with at-risk youth and in foster adoption advocacy.