Alice Hoffman celebrates 25 years of ‘Practical Magic’

The new edition of "Practical Magic" features an introduction by the author, Alice Hoffman.
The new edition of "Practical Magic" features an introduction by the author, Alice Hoffman.Berkley

Once upon a time, there was a book about two magical sisters in New England who confront their family destiny.

It was called “Practical Magic,” and it became a much-loved hit. It also became a movie starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock.

Now that novel is 25 years old, and to celebrate, there’s a new anniversary edition — to be released Tuesday — with an introduction by the author, Alice Hoffman, also known for “The Dovekeepers,” “The Museum of Extraordinary Things,” “The Marriage of Opposites,” and a long list of other novels.

The best-selling local writer — who has continued the “Practical Magic” story with 2017′s prequel, “The Rules of Magic", and “Magic Lessons”, which comes out Oct. 6 — spoke about the anniversary of her classic, why it’s nice to revisit old stories during stressful times, and what book snaps her out of writer’s block.

Alice Hoffman
Alice HoffmanMatt McGinley

Q. I assume you’re home. Where else would you be? Do you have places where you can walk?


A. I’m in Cambridge. I have a dog, so I kind of have to walk. Cambridge is pretty deserted. And then on a gorgeous day, all of a sudden there are tons of people by the river, but I avoid the river.

Q. I was thinking that this is a perfect time for an anniversary edition because many of the people I know are having trouble reading new things. This seems to be the time to reread because it’s a comfort. Is that true for you?

A. I’m even watching the old movies that I liked, rather than new movies. I want to go back to things. Maybe it’s that we want to go back to a different time, before this all happened. But it’s somehow comforting — to get back to a story that you loved.


Q. What are your comfort stories?

A. What I’m really finding comfort in is that I just wrote the third book in the “Practical Magic” series, “Magic Lessons.” And I’ve just been going over and over that. And I’m in the middle of writing the fourth and last in the series. So for me, when I’m writing, I’m not reading fiction, or I’m not reading [at all] so much. But I am going back to watching movies. I just watched “Sliding Doors” [1998]. Do you know that movie?

Q. It’s one of my favorites! It’s the movie I recommend to people who just had a breakup.

A. Yes, it’s a bad breakup, but also — she [the main character, played by Gwyneth Paltrow] gets on the train and has one life, and then she doesn’t get on the train and has another life. I think right now like we’re all feeling like, if only. “If only ... I should have gone to Paris in October.” Or for a lot of people, “I should have voted.” ... But maybe it’s hopeful. Maybe all this tragedy has happened, and maybe something good will come out of it. Maybe we’ll change the way things work. And, you know, I have to say, I listen to Andrew Cuomo every day because I find him very helpful and also repetitive [laughs], which I like, and very honest and straightforward. And I think it was yesterday where he was saying, “You know, I’m telling you the facts, but we’re not really sure of the facts.”: It was very comforting to hear something so honest.


Q. I’m happy to hear you’re able to write. Many have found it difficult to be creative.

A. I could not write at all [when this started] — and it reminded me ... I had the same feeling after 9/11. I had terrible writer’s block, something I don’t usually have. And then I went back and read Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” I love him. This year would have been his hundredth birthday, and that book really reminds you how important it is to write, and how important books are. So I thought a lot about that book and after a couple of weeks, I started to be able to write. It’s still hard for me. And I can only do it part of the day. Once I get into the real world and put on my mask and my gloves and go out with my dog, it kind of ends it for me.

Q. I think of the “Practical Magic” movie as being iconic to a certain generation of women.

A. I think so too. What I love about both the movie and the book is, like, grandmothers share with granddaughters‚ and mothers share with daughters. It kind of goes through every generation. In the movie, there are such great actresses and my gosh, everybody’s in it [Margo Martindale, Stockard Channing, Dianne Wiest, Evan Rachel Wood]. And there aren’t many movies where it’s all about the women, and the women have power and the women are friends. That’s a really rare thing! So I think it’s just an up to watch it, and it makes you feel like you have some sort of power and that there’s power in friendship and sisterhood. I feel like the movie, which didn’t get good reviews when it came out, is so good.


Q. Well, I also wonder who the critics were at the time — what gender, who reviewed it. I’ll have to look back and see what the Globe wrote. [Note: For the film’s release in 1998, Globe movie critic Jay Carr gave the film mixed reviews. He praised some of the performances but said, “‘Practical Magic’ just never climbs on its broomstick and takes off.”]

A. In the 25th anniversary edition, I wrote an introduction. It’s really about how women share this book and the movie — that it’s a shared experience, something [where you] want to get together ... well, now with the girlfriend on the phone — and watch it.

Q. Would you ever do a live-watch with fans?

A. [Laughing] It’s better not to have the writer there. It’s kind of like having your mother there. No ... just have fun.