The Pulitzer Prize-winning author talks about her new book, the movies, and her passion for horses

Peter Fish

On setting her new novel, Ten Days in the Hills, in Hollywood:

For Americans, Hollywood just looms huge. It's a feature of ourenvironment, like Mt. Everest.

Her all-time favorite movies:

In no special order, Tom Jones, Ashes and Diamonds ― a great Polish movie ― Pennies from Heaven, and The Return of Martin Guerre.

Her horses:

I have 11. I don't have any racing right now. The nice thingabout horses is that you don't have to hide the fact that you lovethem in different ways. They're not like kids.

On what makes a good racehorse:

Doesn't everybody wish they knew? Lots of stamina. Lots ofdetermination. Lots of good luck.

Her favorite racetrack:

Probably Santa Anita. It's so playful and elegant. I wrote anessay not long ago saying that betting is a terrible thing, but ifyou're going to bet, why don't you support a fabulous Art Decomasterpiece like Santa Anita?

On hobbies:

I cook everything. Last week I made the best apple pie I've evermade, with an oil crust. I like the Pink Lady apples ― theyhave the best flavor and don't cook down to a mush.

Her favorite road trip:

I love California Highway 198 from U.S. Highway 101 to Coalinga.It's the most beautiful and haunting road.

On moving to California:

I came here from Iowa and got off the plane and never lookedback. It took me about one second to get used to it. When we hadbeen living here four months, we went to Tuscany on vacation. Iremember sitting in our villa, thinking, What are we doing herewhen we could be in Carmel Valley?

JaneSmiley's new novel is Ten Days in the Hills (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007; $26). Herhorse-racing memoir is A Year at the Races (Anchor, 2005; $14).

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