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KxBurns
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Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Hi everyone,
Stewart O'Nan will be joining us next week to answer your questions, so please post them here!
 
-Karen
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KxBurns
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Stewart, we're delighted to have you join us!
 
I really enjoyed Songs for the Missing. I was wondering whether or how being a parent influenced your writing of the characters Fran and Ed.
 
Thanks!
Karen
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BookSavage
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Thanks so much for joining us in this discussion.  I will admit off the top that I did not enjoy this book at all.  I hope that does not keep you from answering my question though.  I have many questions about the way you wrote this book, but I will confine it to one for right now.  Why did you choose to not include more about JP?  I really liked his character and wanted to become connected, but felt like he never developed and participated enough in the story to allow me to do so.  Thanks again for joining us in this discussion.
Go Cubs Go!
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dhaupt
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

[ Edited ]
Mr. O'Nan,
Thank you so much for being part of the First Look book club. I don't really have a question I just wanted to make a statement.
I really enjoyed your book very much, I found the characters very real and memorable, and the story line while haunting and very emotional reminded me more of a work of non-fiction with the great details and the heroics and blundering that really goes on in one of these situations.
I will be singing your praises to everyone I know to read this book. This was my first opportunity to read one of your books, but I will be looking for more to read.
Thank you again.

Message Edited by dhaupt on 06-13-2008 12:39 PM
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Tarri
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Thank you for sharing Songs for the Missing with the First Look bookclub, it was an incredibly insightful looking into the aftermath of a family with a missing child.  I don't know if you discussed the feelings a family goes through as hope wanes with a family who has gone through it, but your words brought the Larsen's emotions into sharp focus for me.  At times, I had to set my book aside and do something other than read.
 
Why did you decide to have the murderer commit suicide as opposed to having the family go through a trial?
 
I look forward to reading more of your books.
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Carmenere_lady
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Welcome Stewart.  What a pleasure it has been to be introduced to you through First Look.  While waiting for Songs to arrive I read The Good Wife and Last Night and the Lobster.  They offered me a peak into what to expect with Songs for the Missing.  I believe, you stayed true to your writing style.  Although the times are not always pretty, you capture periods of time and people in the 21st century perfectly.  I've begun calling you the Norman Rockwell of literature. 
Anyway, as a Northern Ohio resident forever, I feel you captured the area quite well.  It is amazing how through your photos you are able to create a story. 
I've just begun reading Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio to see if there is any comparison.  Have you read it and what is your opinion?  In the intro to Winesburg  it states that Anderson was not interested in telling conventional folk tales, those in which events are more important than emotions.  Considering Songs it seems that Kims abduction is an important event however it is the emotions afterward that fill most of your book.  Would you say that Andersons objective is similar to your style?
 
Thanks again and I look forward to reading your past and future novels.
Lynda

"I think of literature.....as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach."
The Uncommon Reader


"You've been running around naked in the stacks again, haven't you?"
"Um, maybe."
The Time Traveler's Wife

It is with books as with men; a very small number play a great part.
Voltaire
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Linda10
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Dear Mr. O'Nan:
 
I don't know why this thought popped into my head; but it did.
 
Is Stewart O'Nan your real name?  Or is it a pen name?
 
 
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abbyg7
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Mr. O'Nan
Thanks so much to you and Barnes and Noble for this opportunity to read Songs for the Missing and for joining the discussion.  I enjoyed this book very much and just could not put it down.  I have a few questions.  First, was there a significance to the key being broken off in the door of Kim's car?  Secondly, there has been some speculation as to whether Kim ran out of gas or if her abducter caused an accident to get her to stop, do you have an answer to that or is that left to us to decide?  I'm also wondering if someone close to you has been in an abduction situation?  You seem to be able to show us the different emotions and ways of dealing with the situation the various characters had, so I'm just wondering if you've been through a similar situation..  I was lucky enough to find copies of A Prayer for the Dying and The Circus Fire and  I'm looking forward to reading them.  Thank you again.
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bentley
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Stewart, thank you for spending some time with us. I asked Josh these same questions but I thought I would like to gain your perspective on them. Josh was great btw and I think that your writing style and this book is quietly powerful.

The first question dealt with the chapter titled "The Killer Next Door". This chapter troubled me for a variety or reasons. It was confusing because the killer was not in their neighborhood or next door; the abruptness of the chapter, the lack of details or of details which added up. I think I felt similarly to the Mimi character and how a sparkie and her dog found Kim. These pieces did not feel right to me in terms of integration with the flow of the book. However, I dealt with them and allowed myself to continue with the story which I felt was indeed a very powerful one told eloquently.

This first question was:

I have enjoyed this book very much and actually learned a lot. One chapter which was a pivotal and important chapter was the one titled The Killer Next Door. For me, there was not enough transition made for this chapter and for its revelations. It left me with a lot of questions. Had Kim run out of gas after she left her home on her way to her job? We know that she was running low because Fran had made her feel guilty about taking her sister out to practice driving. Did she think she had enough, ran out and sought help from a random wrong older man? At first, I thought you were referring to someone in Kim's neighborhood where she lived which made me think that she had come home to change and someone waylaid her while she was inside. Lindsay saw Kim's bathing suit hanging up so I assumed she got home. I found the chapter a bolt out of the blue, for such an important chapter lacking in details with the chapter title being a little misleading. I am wondering if you have heard any other comments about this chapter etc.

The second question dealt with the First Look experience. I was wondering how you felt about this kind of advance reading and what were your objectives for participating in this pre-read and what did you hope to gain from the experience. Will the input in any way change any element, paragraph, or chapter in the book or was this simply from your perspective a way to increase readership of some of your other novels? I am always curious about process and the reason for a decision such as this one.

Mr. O'Nan, this is the first book of yours which I have read; but I want you to know it will not be my last. I enjoyed the experience very much.

Bentley
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detailmuse
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Welcome, Stewart, and thanks for making your novel and yourself available in this great reading experience!
 
I'm wondering: in general, how do you choose characters' names?
 
Then I'm wondering about these specific names:
Ed -- was his name inspired by the real-life Ed Smart?
Detective Ronald Holloway -- inspired by the real-life Natalee Holloway?
Nina and Dana -- why such similar names for the sisters' best friends?
Jared -- were you winking at readers? ... a Quiznos employee named after the Subway spokesperson?? :smileyvery-happy:
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Redhead525
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

[ Edited ]
Mr. O'Nan, thank you for sharing Songs for the Missing with us through this First Look opportunity.  I have to admit that I typically avoid this genre and was wondering how I would respond to your book.  I both enjoyed it and was frustrated by it.  The frustration comes from what I saw as many loose ends.  I have several questions.
First, it seems as if Kim's friends are clearly significant characters in the book, but they aren't very well developed - we know so little about JP and Nina.  Then this Wooze guy turns up and Kim obviously had some significant (perhaps destructive) connections to him but we really don't know anything about that, and at the end it seems he could have been omitted and it wouldn't have made a significant difference.  Why have so many characters who play significant roles who we know so little about?
Second, I didn't appreciate you having the killer kill himself before he provided any information about Kim.  I can understand not needing the book to go all the way through a trial - I don't think that was necessary to the story you were telling which was more about the family, friends and community.  However, a little more information would have been appreciated. We don't understand how he managed to get Kim, how the car got to Sandusky or why the key was broken off.   Why did you decide to leave so many things about the crime or the search unresolved?
Third, early in your description of the gas station where Kim and Nina worked you talked about men like "Fat Joe Bob" who came in and bought condoms.  When I got to the end of the book, I wondered if one of them had been her killer and went back and re-read that portion.  It doesn't seem that was the case, but I'm wondering whether you used that as a device to create a scenario where her killer could have first seen her and decided to abduct her.


Message Edited by Redhead525 on 06-14-2008 10:25 AM
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thefamilymanager
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Mr. O'Nan,
 
Thank you so much for sharing this book with us.  I wanted to comment that I enjoyed this book immensely and somehow felt that I was almost intruding on the characters as I was reading.  I felt the characters were extremely real and the story really drew the reader into that world.
 
What was your inspiration for the story?  Have you had life experience with a missing child?
 
Sincerely,
 
Lisa
 
 
LMD

- if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with! - Dorothy - Wizard of OZ
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tigger27
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Mr. O'Nan,
 
Thank you for joining us!  I like to read but haven't come across your books before.  I'm now scrambling to read the rest of your books. 
 
I found when reading this book that I wasn't always inside the character's head thinking of how they were thinking but more on the side watching from behind a tree or from a doorway in the ajoining room, almost like it was a movie.  Is it more difficult writing that way instead of being inside the character's head? 
 
Thanks again!
Shelly
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Luvstoread
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Hi Mr. O'Nan:
First I want to thank you for letting us read your book.  I must admit that I have never heard of you before.  I really enjoyed Songs for the Missing and I have purchased two of your other books as well.  I will definitely keep you on my list for authors to watch for.  Thanks again.
Norma
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vivico1
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Hi,
I have a question or two and comment or two. First, thank you for being with us, its always so nice to be able to talk to the authors. I have to say up front, I knew this was not going to be a mystery thriller, or something like that, but instead a character story about those left behind after a girl goes missing, and I was excited to read it done this way. However, as the story goes on, it seemed to me to be an emotional story, told unemotional, or from a distance, like a news story would talk about the emotions or thoughts of those involved and I became disappointed about midway through the book. Some have said, well they are tired of the hysterical parents type of book, but when I say emotional, thats not what I mean. I never felt like I was really let inside the characters to know any of what they really thought or felt and so I began to not care about them. I think you have a great cast of characters, but their emotions seemed to just be touched from the periphery. I know there were quite a few of us that felt that disconnect, but i know there were many who felt it was emotion. I felt the story idea, the idea of a missing girl, a family member and friend was emotional, but not the telling of it. I did connect some to Lindsay, I felt you let us see how this affected her the most and so since I was not getting that insight from the story being told in the third person (where so much more about every character could have been explored), then I thought this might have been a great book told from Lindsay's point of view and threw it out there in the discussions to see how others felt. There was a lot of agreement on that, so I guess my first question is, did you ever consider telling it from a first person narrative point of view, with third person on the others or was third person always the way you saw writing it? I think third person would have been the best way to go, if we got to be inside the characters more, so we could not only sympathize with them, as we do anytime we hear something like this, but also empathize with them, from the inside out.

Also, this may just be me, but the "secret", it was very intriguing what it was and why the family had turned against the friends, especially JP. I thought, man they must know something more about what happened to her that day then they are saying. Is the "secret" just that she had been hanging out with Wooze, (the sex and drugs)? I do not mean to take this lightly, its not. But at the same time, its often one of those things you find out about someone after they die and it may hurt and shock you and I can understand why they could be upset about the kids not mentioning this sooner, but once they did, why ostracize the kids and why JP in particularly? Did I miss something? The kids worried it might mean something, they told what they probably never would have, if this hadn't happened, but now that they have, and you know they are worried too, why the reaction and as I said especially to JP? I didn't get that part at all.

I do want to say tho, that the beginning of the book, the description of the kids, their hangouts and things were very well done and I enjoyed reading that. Also, and this may sound strange, but when Ed gets back to work and is looking at the house he is going to try to sell, all those thoughts and feelings he had about it, had me more drawn into him than the tragedy going on. I found your description of things very interesting, but the emotional side fell flat for me, and I just wound up with some questions and characters I really didnt care about because I was only getting the tip of anything going on inside them in a really emotionally charged crisis, and again, I am not saying, make them hysterical, just help me know more about them as you wrote them, but from the inside.

Thanks again for being here with us to discuss your book and thanks in advance for your replies.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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EbonyAngel
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

No question, I just want to say thank you for allowing me to read an advance copy of your book.  I enjoyed the story even though it did not seem to start off as fast paced as the back cover led me to believe.
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bookhunter
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Mr. O'Nan, thank you for participating in the First Look Club.  While I don't think I can use the word "enjoy" to describe my reading experience with this book, I will say that it impacted me deeply.  It hits a little to close to home for this mom of teenagers!
 
As the "god of the pen," do YOU know all the details of Kim's abduction and death?  I was wondering if as part of the writing process you wrote out exactly what happened to Kim?  If so, did you do it for your own reference, or did you ever think to include the account in the book?
 
Not including the account fits with my perception of the book as the story of those left behind--not Kim's story.  Her friends and family do not get to know what happened, exactly, so neither does the reader.  But since the beginning chapter was told from Kim's perspective, I thought we could have  seen her abduction from her pov at the end of the novel.
 
Thanks again,
Ann, bookhunter
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Jeanie0522
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Dear Mr. O'Nan:
 
A friend of mine recommended your books to me some time ago.  When I learned you were sharing Songs with First Look, I quickly ran out and purchased The Night Country, The Good Wife, A Prayer for the Dying and Speed Queen.  I couldn't believe what great reads I had been missing out on!  I was also surprised to see that Speed Queen didn't have a review on the B&N site (until I posted mine).  Your writing style is so unique.  If one of your objectives in doing First Look was to find some new fans, you were successful!
 
My question is who are the authors that have inspired you?  Oh, and did Stephen King like Speed Queen? 
 
Thanks for the opportunity to read your new novel before it is offerred to the general public.  It was excellent and right on the mark.  Very human characters living through one of our worst fears.  Very realistic and well written. 
 
Thank you!  -Jeanie
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Librarian
Posts: 483
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Hi Stewart--------I enjoyed Last Night at the Lobster. Thank you for participating with us in First Look for Songs for the Missing. Did you meet the real Blizzard, a white shepherd search and rescue dog, that I had the delight to meet in a school presentation? Or did you make up that name for Songs for the Missing?
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mwinasu
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Dear Sir,
    
     I would like to apologize for not taking you seriously. I never really thought about what I was reading.  Part of that comes from a deep desire to  avoid emotional pain and part of it stems from the fact that I am a Book Snob. You are not responsible for either of these things. 
     You said in your letter that you had a hard time figuring out how to tell Kim's story.  I know why it would be hard for me, why was it hard for you?
    
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