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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Everyman wrote:
Stewart_ONan wrote: The reason I had the murderer commit suicide in prison before divulging where Kim was was because that actually happened in the case I based the back half of the novel on, and that extra uncertainty was even more excruciating for the family (and for me, reading about it). The terror of the book is the not-knowing, and the motivation for the parents is always them trying to find out what happened and where she is, and this choice added to that drama.

Thanks for that answer. I, like the poster who asked the question, found this resolution/non-resolution of the book frustrating. I can see your point, though since the book was fiction and not non-fiction, I still want (and think I deserve!) to know.

But this raises a follow-up question. Did you lay out in your own mind how Kim was abducted and killed, so you "knew" the facts yourself and (for the reason given above) decided not to share them with the reader? Or did you leave this all unresolved in your own mind, so that with the murderer dead nobody, not even you, will ever know what really happened to Kim?

Every book operates by its own rules, but I can sympathize with you, in that I do ask you to wonder exactly what happened and then don't tell you.  I did know early on what happened to Kim, but  believe  the reader's imagination, once prodded by the surrounding information, can come up with something similar, or even more horrifying.  And in many ways, exactly what happens to Kim is beside the point.  Once she's gone, she's gone.


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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Everyman wrote:
Stewart_ONan wrote: ... I wanted there to be a chance for the reader to move about the rooms of the Larsen's house, or around the empty summer streets of Kingsville. I don't know if it's harder to write that way, but you do have to trust the reader a lot more, because they have to do at least half of the work.

I love this discussion format because that comment very much struck home. I really enjoyed the first third or so of the book because there was information, things happening, people doing things, activity to observe. Where I would have stopped if I had been following one of the discussion formats I didn't because I was too engrossed in the story. But then I found the book dragging, little activity, little character development, much less interest, and I found myself skimming to get to the denouement, which (intentionally, as you have explained elsewhere) was less than satisfying. But with your comment, I have a better idea of what you were trying to accomplish, and the realization that my dissatisfaction may have been because I was not the trustworthy reader you were writing for.

I think the characters are always changing, but they themselves don't always understand how they're changing or why.  That's the difficulty of trying to grab on to something intangible, or ineffable.  They're mystified by what's going on, but they understand that things aren't right, and they're trying to hang on to what was and who they were before all this happened.  Impossible, of course.  It's not simple, but in the end I'd hope that a deeper level it's satisfying.  But not every reader's going to love every book.


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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Everyman wrote:
Stewart_ONan wrote:I do know all the details of Kim's abduction and death. Occasionally I was tempted to deliver them in full, knowing most readers would want them, but, as you say, in the end I decided the book would be stronger if I left the reader in the position of the Larsens and those closest to Kim.

I should have finished reading your posts before asking that same question myself.

But a follow-up question -- now that we have finished the book, will you tell us what really happened if we promise not to divulge it to anybody outside this group? :smileyhappy:

P.S. You should get Barnes and Noble to put the apostrophe in your screen name!

Ha!  That's great.  No, I still think I'd rather have the reader speculate.  That speculation is part of the book, just as the reader's vision of Kingsville is part of the book, or the face the reader gives Kim or Lindsay or Ed.
 
That apostrophe's tricky.  Hotel clerks can never find my reservations.


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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Everyman wrote:
A few general questions on how your write, if I may.

1. Do you work out a detailed outline in advance before you start to write, do you have an outline of the major elements fully worked out but create details as you go along, or do you leave major plot elements to develop for themselves as the writing proceeds? Or something other than these?

2. How fully formed are your characters in your mind before you start to write? I'm thinking specifically of Elizabeth George's book Write Away where she recommends developing a detailed outline of each major character before starting to write. Do you follow this general concept? If not, how do your characters develop?

3. Do you set yourself a goal of a certain amount of time to spend writing or a specific number of pages to write every day? If not, how does your writing schedule work?

1.  I have an outline which I amend as I go along, including changing major plot points.
 
2.  Most of my characters grow with the first draft of the book.  I keep notebooks on all of my characters, and on the setting, and on any main research subjects, and these grow and grow as I keep the characters close to me over the months and years that a novel takes.
 
3.  I try to write 9 to 5 and get out a single double-spaced page, around 300 words.  Sometimes they're good and they stay; other times I have to fix them or trash them.

 


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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Everyman wrote:
Where did the idea of Mimi come in. Was that something that really happened in the case you loosely based Songs on? Or in some other case? Or did you invent her basically out of thin air? She seems a bit deus-ex-machina.

And isn't it usual in a case that gets this much publicity for there to be at least one false confession? (And indeed, Wade's may be.) Did you consider and reject the idea of including a false confessor for some reason (perhaps because it would distract from the close focus on the family and intimate friends), or did you not consider that possibility as a plot element?

Mimi was there from the beginning.  She's based on a woman in real-life who became obsessed with a missing persons case and did indeed find the body, years after everyone else had given up.
 
Yes, it's absolutely true that Wade's confession could have been a false one, until the body of the other woman was where he said it was.  I weighed having another false confessor, but figured there were enough false leads in the book already.


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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



bentley wrote:

Stewart_ONan wrote:


bentley wrote:
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

Thanks for reading the book, and for your comments.  Josh is an amazing reader and editor, and I'm very lucky to have him.
 
The Killer Next Door is a reference to how the media represents James Wade (and serial killers in general).  The speed with which these revelations come stuns the Larsens.  They have no idea what to make of them, just as they have no idea what to make of Mimi's obsession, success and instant celebrity.  They feel left out, as if all of this is happening out of their reach--which it is.  They can't integrate the details of the discovery into their lives, so while the details are absolutely, indisputably true, they feel false, and wrong.
 
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I want the reader to speculate as to what might have happened but never know for sure--just as Ed and Fran and Nina and JP do.
 
By participating in the First Look program, I hope to have more readers meet and spend time with Fran and Ed and Lindsay and Nina and JP.





Hello Stewart,

Thank you for your cryptic response; but you have been gracious with your time and we appreciate that. I think we are used to authors sharing a little about their thinking process for the novel and tying up some of the loose ends for us.

I am referring to some of your other responses to questions that I also had but didn't ask because someone had already posed them to you.

I wish you would share with us what you thought did happen to Kim; why the broken off key? I think she ran out of gas and unfortunately at that point in time; her so called good samaritan was jack the ripper. But what troubled me a tad is your response about why you are participating in the First Look program. Any reader of your book would spend time with your characters. Why First Look? It is odd because out of the three first looks that I have participated in; this is the first time that I have seen that response. So my understanding is then that the book will be brought out in the same format and with few if any modifications; this was just a first peek to gauge reaction to the subject matter, etc.

We will just keep guessing then about the plausible scenarios. I can understand that you do not want to give away your underlining plot details but since the elements that we are asking about are not devulged in the novel at all; I am not sure that I see the risk in that. Most readers will come away most likely with the feelings we all had. By the way, I completely understand that the novel is really not about Kim; but about the event's impact upon the people, family and friends left behind.

I like so many here was hoping to catch a glimpse into the understanding you had of what went wrong for Kim. I do not understand at all why the car was damaged or what the broken key was all about. Did he force Kim to drive the car and did she try to cause an accident to draw attention to her plight. So many questions; so few answers.

The reader is left up in the air and yes we experience the same feelings that Fran and Ed had but we are the readers and our expectations are that we should have been let in on somewhat more.

Thank you for your time; I thought the book was good and it was a satisfying read where I learned a great deal about the process that comes into play during a missing person's search and the emotional roller coaster that the loved ones go through.

Bentley

Thanks for all the questions and concerns.  I could tell you exactly what happened to Kim, but to me the reader's speculation as to what might have happened to Kim--along with the different Larsens', and Nina's, and J.P.'s--is a major part of the book.  You can put together the clues and come up with your version of what might have happened, just as you can put together what you know about Nina and come up with how and what you feel about her.  Another reader may have a different interpretation of that character, and that's okay.  The book, in a way, is like a Rohrshach blot.  Your reaction to it says as much about you as it does about the book.
 
And yes, any reader of my book would spend time with my characters.  But the First Look folks may not have read the book if it wasn't offered in the First Look program, so this was a way of having people spend time with them who otherwise wouldn't have.  Thank you for being adventurous and willing readers!

 


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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Stewart_ONan wrote:


bentley wrote:

Stewart_ONan wrote:


bentley wrote:
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

Thanks for reading the book, and for your comments.  Josh is an amazing reader and editor, and I'm very lucky to have him.
 
The Killer Next Door is a reference to how the media represents James Wade (and serial killers in general).  The speed with which these revelations come stuns the Larsens.  They have no idea what to make of them, just as they have no idea what to make of Mimi's obsession, success and instant celebrity.  They feel left out, as if all of this is happening out of their reach--which it is.  They can't integrate the details of the discovery into their lives, so while the details are absolutely, indisputably true, they feel false, and wrong.
 
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I want the reader to speculate as to what might have happened but never know for sure--just as Ed and Fran and Nina and JP do.
 
By participating in the First Look program, I hope to have more readers meet and spend time with Fran and Ed and Lindsay and Nina and JP.





Hello Stewart,

Thank you for your cryptic response; but you have been gracious with your time and we appreciate that. I think we are used to authors sharing a little about their thinking process for the novel and tying up some of the loose ends for us.

I am referring to some of your other responses to questions that I also had but didn't ask because someone had already posed them to you.

I wish you would share with us what you thought did happen to Kim; why the broken off key? I think she ran out of gas and unfortunately at that point in time; her so called good samaritan was jack the ripper. But what troubled me a tad is your response about why you are participating in the First Look program. Any reader of your book would spend time with your characters. Why First Look? It is odd because out of the three first looks that I have participated in; this is the first time that I have seen that response. So my understanding is then that the book will be brought out in the same format and with few if any modifications; this was just a first peek to gauge reaction to the subject matter, etc.

We will just keep guessing then about the plausible scenarios. I can understand that you do not want to give away your underlining plot details but since the elements that we are asking about are not devulged in the novel at all; I am not sure that I see the risk in that. Most readers will come away most likely with the feelings we all had. By the way, I completely understand that the novel is really not about Kim; but about the event's impact upon the people, family and friends left behind.

I like so many here was hoping to catch a glimpse into the understanding you had of what went wrong for Kim. I do not understand at all why the car was damaged or what the broken key was all about. Did he force Kim to drive the car and did she try to cause an accident to draw attention to her plight. So many questions; so few answers.

The reader is left up in the air and yes we experience the same feelings that Fran and Ed had but we are the readers and our expectations are that we should have been let in on somewhat more.

Thank you for your time; I thought the book was good and it was a satisfying read where I learned a great deal about the process that comes into play during a missing person's search and the emotional roller coaster that the loved ones go through.

Bentley

Thanks for all the questions and concerns.  I could tell you exactly what happened to Kim, but to me the reader's speculation as to what might have happened to Kim--along with the different Larsens', and Nina's, and J.P.'s--is a major part of the book.  You can put together the clues and come up with your version of what might have happened, just as you can put together what you know about Nina and come up with how and what you feel about her.  Another reader may have a different interpretation of that character, and that's okay.  The book, in a way, is like a Rohrshach blot.  Your reaction to it says as much about you as it does about the book.
 
And yes, any reader of my book would spend time with my characters.  But the First Look folks may not have read the book if it wasn't offered in the First Look program, so this was a way of having people spend time with them who otherwise wouldn't have.  Thank you for being adventurous and willing readers!

 





We try Stewart. We would like I think to hear your speculations about Kim; I guess as readers we can decide if we feel it is plausible. You are the writer; but isn't it odd for you to hear how most of us felt that Mimi felt false and contrived even though you mirrored her on an actual account. Why not try us out on what exactly happened to Kim from your perspective. As far as the Rohrshach blot, I think a lot of us saw the same thing; and our reactions were much the same. You have to admit we brought up the same missing details. These were not isolated comments from what I can see; correct me if I am wrong. I agree that I might never have read SFTM if it had not been offered as a First Look. I hate to be bummed out; and would probably have steered clear of this topic. However, I am glad that I had the opportunity to read your book and understand the emotional roller coaster that folks go through when a loved one goes missing. In the process I did get to know your characters and your style of writing and now a little bit about you. Thank you for that.

Bentley
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

My two favorite chapters in the book dealt with the strengthening of relationships that could just have easily disintegrated through this tragedy.
 
I thought the chapter, Last Summer, in which Nina and Elise hiked to theirs and Kim's childhood watering hole, wrestled their fears crossing the trestle and jumped the 30 feet to the water below, was very well written. My heart was pounding during this whole scene.
 
I loved the symbolism of this journey for Kim's close friends - they needed to feel alive again, they need to regain their confidence, they needed their friendship to survive this tragedy.
 
My second favorite chapter was Catch and Release, where Fran and Ed tip toed through each other's mine field of emotions and totally different coping mechanisms to forge a relationship based on openness and a willingness to respect their individual coping styles. I developed a new-found respect for both Ed and Fran in this chapter.
 
I was under the impression that many marriages and relationships fall apart after the loss of a child. Did your research bear this out? For those relationships that survived, what characteristics in the surviving family members and friends can be attributed to the saving of the relationship? Did you consider these attributes when you developed your characters?
 
I thought you did a fine job presenting the gut-wrenching emotions, self-inflicted guilt, helplessness and inability to move forward or plan a future that families probably encounter during such a tragedy. Thank you for sharing your forthcoming book with all of us. I look forward to reading your past publications as well.
 
Nancy
 
 
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Thank you again, Stewart (if I may be so informal) for your incredibly generous gift of your time and information. I'm impressed that you are spending so much time here, that you are obviously not only reading but thinking about all the posts made, that you are giving complete and thoughtful answers to all the questions, and that you are open to and not defensive about comments from people who had concerns about the book.

I am very impressed both by you and your editor.

And I'm glad to see that you got your apostrophe! :smileyhappy:
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan


Stewart_ONan wrote:


Everyman wrote:
Where did the idea of Mimi come in. Was that something that really happened in the case you loosely based Songs on? Or in some other case? Or did you invent her basically out of thin air? She seems a bit deus-ex-machina.

And isn't it usual in a case that gets this much publicity for there to be at least one false confession? (And indeed, Wade's may be.) Did you consider and reject the idea of including a false confessor for some reason (perhaps because it would distract from the close focus on the family and intimate friends), or did you not consider that possibility as a plot element?

Mimi was there from the beginning. She's based on a woman in real-life who became obsessed with a missing persons case and did indeed find the body, years after everyone else had given up.
Yes, it's absolutely true that Wade's confession could have been a false one, until the body of the other woman was where he said it was. I weighed having another false confessor, but figured there were enough false leads in the book already.



As I mentioned before, I had no problem with the details as you wrote them. The details I thought were very good, the people fell flat, BUT not going there again. You were kind enough to let me express myself on that. What I found interesting tho, and one thing I had NO problem with that several seemed to, was the appearance of Mimi and her finding Kim. Some felt this was just too implausible and just a quick end for an ends sake. Now I have no problem with it happening this way at all because some time ago, I saw on tv, some show like 60 minutes or dateline, about these people who spend their days on the internet hunting missing people. They do it because they want to help, they do not get paid, they just want to help and also as one said, its their way of being a detective. There was one woman who was instrumental in finding TWO missing people! There are a lot of people out there that do this and are good at it and will stick with it when others give up. There are websites you can go to that give information on missing people, trying to get anyone to help. I think you mentioned Fran running across some of these in the book. So for me, for Mimi to suddenly pop up having found her worked for me.

Also, since we are mentioning her, I will say there is one point I did feel like we finally got inside someone's head deeply and that was over this with Ed. That it bothered Ed so much that it was Mimi who found her and coming to grips with the reason being that he had not found her, that some "crazy" or "odd" woman had and he hadn't and that just got to him so much was finally a piece of that internal look I was waiting for. I don't know that I would have thought that's what bothered him about her, or even that he was bothered beyond her being a bit off, if you had not let us inside him for that, to his truth that was not an easy thing to face. That is truly what I wanted to feel from all of them, not what some thought I was saying was missing, sadness or hysteria, but actually feelings, good or bad that allowed me to really know them and what was happening inside them, of course they were sad but what were they thinking or what changed because of this event. I guess a father could feel that way about someone like her finding Kim and not himself, but I wouldnt have thought about it, without that great insight. It really made me think.
Vivian
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

[ Edited ]

Stewart_ONan wrote:


Peppermill wrote:
Mr. O'Nan -- thank you for sharing your book and for your time with us. I have been quite fascinated with your writing style in SFTM, even though I don't know the technical literary terms to describe it.

Your cover letter to us rather implied that you struggled with this plot line to get access to the stories of the people closest to Kim. As you know from the discussions here, as readers we have had a fairly wide range of reactions to what you have provided us -- in fact that some of us have had divergent reactions to various characters or to the same character at different points in the novel.

My question is what authors (writings) and teachers have most influenced your portrayals of characters and how do you characterize those influences? (The word play is unintended, but a substitute word like "describe" doesn't seem right either.) What is at the top of your reading pile for further self-development of your skills in writing characters?

A third question -- how do you describe your own journey in writing characters -- both within the context of SFTM and across your years of writing?

Please know that this is a book whose characters I am highly likely to remember -- both for your portrayals and for the discussions they have generated here.

Thanks for reading the book, and for your comments. The point of view I'm using in Songs is the third-person limited. It can mimic omniscience, but it tries mostly to stay close to one character at a time. I've tried to portray each of the major characters by their actions and gestures, their daily routines and overall hopes, relying on allusion and concrete detail (their selective apprehension of the world) rather than overtly telling the reader how to feel about them. I try to leave room for the reader and supply shared details so they can add their own memories from their own experiences in similar situations. It's a risky strategy, in that I'm trusting the reader to help create the character incrementally, detail by detail (clue by clue), sentence by sentence, scene by scene, but the payoff is that if the reader does this, they become a participant in the book and feel it that much more deeply. Some of the writers who do this well are Chekhov, Virginia Woolf, William Maxwell, Larry Woiwode and Alice Munro. It's a patient approach, and not for everyone, but it seemed to fit this particular situation, and these people. Right now I'm re-reading all of William Maxwell.
In terms of my journey of writing characters, I guess I see that people in most situations have things that they have to do (inevitabilities), that they most likely will do (probabilities), and that they could do (possibilities). Then I ask myself, knowing what I know so far about this person, what they would REALLY do, and try to answer as honestly as I can.





Stewart -- thank you for your response. You introduce me to a couple of writers whose works I do not know and reinforce my desire to spend more time with Ms. Munro, who I understand is still probably better known and respected among her fellow writers than the general public. (I do like what I have read of her and agree with your assessment of her strengths in drawing characters.)

The one comment I should like to make is that I don't think a writer (or any one else, for that matter) can ever dictate someone else's feelings -- i.e., I hold strongly to the view that we are each responsible for own feelings and emotive reactions. But, one of my frustrations with your characterizations at times has been the seeming expectation that the feelings of those characters can be surmised from their actions. Even though we all do such, any communications training that I have received has suggested that it is very tricky, if not dangerous, ground to assume feelings based on actions. Knowing a character's (or person's) feelings is no necessary predictor of the reader's feelings, although knowing the feelings of a character can aid empathy and understanding of why a specific characters takes a particular action. That is, it is critical to distinguish the character's emotions/feelings from the reader's.

And, it is true, that sometimes neither the characters nor we can specifically identify the operant emotion, but that can often be all the more reason for some exploration of that ambiguity. Also, while the character himself or herself may not recognize whether he/she is acting out of shock or panic or fear, a third person narrator has the privilege of giving clues -- which you do sometimes do, but which too often I only guesstimated or played with after considering several views expressed in the discussion.

Pepper

Message Edited by Peppermill on 06-17-2008 12:59 AM
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Stewart_ONan wrote:

...During the writing of the book, we lost touch with our daughter Caitlin, who was off at college.  She didn't call home one weekend like she was supposed to, and then when we tried to call her, her voicemail was full.  None of her friends had seen her, and she hadn't been to class or to work.  She hadn't used her bank account in two weeks, or her cell phone.  Eventually we had to call the police, who went to her dorm room, where she was sleeping, having been sick in bed for two weeks with the flu... 



Mr. O'Nan,
 
One reason I responded so strongly to this book is because our family is much like the Larsen's of chapter one.  Our oldest is soon headed off to college and my heart was my throat while reading Songs.  I said in one of our discussions that you created a "perfect storm" of fear and loss for me.  The book captures well the particular fears parents of teenagers and young adults have. 
 
It was difficult and painful for me to read, and while I don't think I can say I enjoyed the book, it has certainly haunted me.  I have already shared the story with friends and family (but not my daughter!)
 
Was it difficult for you to write?  How does a writer tackle such emotional topics?  Are you in a funk during the entire writing process, or can you leave it at 5 and "go home" with it out bringing these emotions and fears with you?
 
Thanks again,
Ann, bookhunter
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BookWoman718
Posts: 220
Registered: ‎01-28-2007
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

[ Edited ]

Mr. O’Nan. Thank you so much for making your book available and for being so generous with your time in this discussion. As I had posted in a message and question to your editor, I was one of the lucky readers who was familiar with your work, excited about having an advance copy of one of your novels, and completely fulfilled in the actual reading. You made me feel as if I were in the story somehow, a neighbor or friend, seeing how the family and others react, trying to make sense of conflicting bits of information, frustrated with dead ends, the whole panoply of reactions, thoughts and emotions that one would go through. Although I was curious in that way that we all are now - we want the inside scoop on whatever story we hear - the fact is that I don’t take a close look at accident sites either. As you said in one of your answers, the specifics of what happened don’t really matter. Kim is gone. We know enough to imagine the horror these people are living.

I especially want to thank you for your answer about Mimi being based on a real person because I was wondering if you created her to demonstrate some deeper truth about the story, e.g., to add another layer of the unknown to all those the family was already experiencing. Here comes someone ‘out of the blue’, certainly surprising this reader, but once again, making me feel as though I were standing beside the family, who were dumbfounded as well.

I think my favorite book of yours was “Wish you were here.” I loved the complexity of the family and their relationships to one another and to the family place. It was another one where you put me right in their midst. So thanks for that one, and for your other gifts to the reading public, and for this latest, in all its heartbreaking hopefulness.



Message Edited by BookWoman718 on 06-17-2008 02:36 AM
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ClaudiaLuce
Posts: 133
Registered: ‎01-31-2008
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Dear Mr. O'Nan,
Let me start this off by telling you how grateful I am for you allowing us to preview this novel, especially in this open discussion manner!  I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I love the fact that you allow ME to interject my own emotions onto the characters, while they are portraying the emotions you have given them as well.  I love your style, the type of characters and the characterization that you utilize.  Perhaps because I am so used to teaching adolescents to read and to use their imaginations, I am grateful that you allow me to use mine to fill in the "gaps".  I certainly did not expect a true crime story when I started this book!
 
I enjoyed the fact that you began this strand of mystery in Wish You Were Here and brought it fully to life in Songs for the Missing!  Both books were very entertaining reads, ones that I could not put down.  I have purchased several more of your books to read this summer because I do like your style and the way you let ME interpret the story.  Not many authors let us do that.  Thank you for that! 
 
I, too, have gone days without hearing from my grown daughter while she was in college.  Boy, that does lead to panic attacks, doesn't it?  The overwhelming relief that they are okay when you finally here from them, along with the urge to shake them silly because they haven't called!!  Perhaps that is what you need to have experienced to understand Fran and Ed at the beginning of your book.  That letting go, but holding on that comes with a high school graduation and the knowledge that your child is growing up and attempting to become more and more independent before completely leaving the nest.
 
I felt that Lindsey was adequately developed, if you understood what she was experiencing.  But, you had to be willing to put yourself in her place in order to understand where she "was coming from".  Sometimes, I hate to say, I think that many readers do not attempt to do this anymore.  They want authors to lay everything out in the open for them.  I am so thankful that you allow the reader to apply their experiences to your characters, once they take into consideration what the characters' circumstances are!!
 
Thank you again for allowing us this wonderful opportunity to preview this book!!  I must admit I would not have discovered your work if it hadn't been for this novel, but I am so grateful that I did!!  I have several of your books to read over my summer break and am looking forward to delving into more of your characters!!
 
Gratefully,
 
Claudia
"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." -
-- Sir Richard Steele
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bentley
Posts: 2,509
Registered: ‎01-31-2007
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

[ Edited ]

Everyman wrote:
Thank you again, Stewart (if I may be so informal) for your incredibly generous gift of your time and information. I'm impressed that you are spending so much time here, that you are obviously not only reading but thinking about all the posts made, that you are giving complete and thoughtful answers to all the questions, and that you are open to and not defensive about comments from people who had concerns about the book.

I am very impressed both by you and your editor.

And I'm glad to see that you got your apostrophe! :smileyhappy:




I am "also" glad that they got your name right and you got your apostrophe (I looked again and saw that they did not and alas won't). You have a great editor and he was most gracious with his time as you are being. I have to disagree with you about the characterizations and the lack of details; but I understand the point you are making from your perspective. However, what you are stating was your intent is often the fault that is cited with modern day writing by some. Readers finish a book and they really can't tell how they felt about it. It leaves them feeling out of sorts; not a good feeling..not a bad one either. There can be strong emotional empathy with the situation or not; but at the end they still did not have any facts to go on. As a reader, I felt the same way when I completed The Sister (another advanced reading copy)as one reviewer mentioned. And I for one never thought your book was about the details but about the emotion you were creating. There were many parts of SFTM which were very quietly powerful and I applaud you for that.

I think that everyone here has spent a good deal of time "trying" to get to know your characters; but there were details that were in fact included which do not add up and others that were not included that should have been (MHO).

Your explanations tell us the reasons and your intent and I respect those of course. I wish you the best with this book and appreciated the opportunity to read and discuss it with fellow board members and with you. Thank you again.

Bentley

Message Edited by bentley on 06-17-2008 09:49 AM
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BookSavage
Posts: 108
Registered: ‎01-11-2008
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Stewart_ONan wrote:


BookSavage wrote:
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.


Thanks for reading the book.  Sorry you didn't like it better.
 
J.P.'s relationship with Kim is the least intense, in that he's already kind of lost her before she disappears.  Their understanding is that they'll split after the summer, and he's been wounded by this, and so he's been holding himself apart from her.  Her disappearance changes this, perversely, to a closer (idealized, guilty) relationship, but eventually he drifts away from her (and from himself, it seems) after learning about Wooze and surrendering to his helpless crush on Nina.  So in a way his development is negative, falling away from her and away from the center of the book, though Kim's place in his life will be indelible.  So naturally, toward the end, he gets fewer pages, proportionally, than Lindsay or Fran or Ed or even Nina, whose feeling grow deeper and stronger with time.


Wow! I did not see JP that way at all.  I really felt as though his relationship was the most intense.  Amazing how differently I read it to the way you wrote it.
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vivico1
Posts: 3,456
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan


BookSavage wrote:


Stewart_ONan wrote:


BookSavage wrote:
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.


Thanks for reading the book. Sorry you didn't like it better.
J.P.'s relationship with Kim is the least intense, in that he's already kind of lost her before she disappears. Their understanding is that they'll split after the summer, and he's been wounded by this, and so he's been holding himself apart from her. Her disappearance changes this, perversely, to a closer (idealized, guilty) relationship, but eventually he drifts away from her (and from himself, it seems) after learning about Wooze and surrendering to his helpless crush on Nina. So in a way his development is negative, falling away from her and away from the center of the book, though Kim's place in his life will be indelible. So naturally, toward the end, he gets fewer pages, proportionally, than Lindsay or Fran or Ed or even Nina, whose feeling grow deeper and stronger with time.


Wow! I did not see JP that way at all. I really felt as though his relationship was the most intense. Amazing how differently I read it to the way you wrote it.



I agree with you. That shocked me because I never would have thought of his part as being the least intense! See, now if we could have gotten inside someone in the story more, maybe we would have got this but from what I read, I even thought he might be a first person narrator because of what I presumed were his feelings, especially being hated so by Fran, which was never explained and I still don't get. Ok, this book really has left me now with the feeling I did in fact read a news story about a girl going missing and I have no more insight into the players then I do when I hear it on tv or from others and get what little I did feel wrong. :smileysad: What a book could do about this kind of situation, this one just didnt do. I think I just read a bad Lifetime Special. Oh well. I give.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Maria_H
Posts: 791
Registered: ‎07-19-2007
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

I tried!

I swear.

But no apostrophes are allowed on this platform. It doesn't care much for any kind of punctuation.


Stewart_ONan wrote:

That apostrophe's tricky. Hotel clerks can never find my reservations.


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bentley
Posts: 2,509
Registered: ‎01-31-2007
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Maria_H wrote:
I tried!

I swear.

But no apostrophes are allowed on this platform. It doesn't care much for any kind of punctuation.


Stewart_ONan wrote:

That apostrophe's tricky. Hotel clerks can never find my reservations.





You tried; we forgive you.
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Maria_H
Posts: 791
Registered: ‎07-19-2007
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

*You* do?! Well, didn't you just make my day.


bentley wrote:
You tried; we forgive you.


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