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Stewart_ONan
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Registered: ‎05-20-2008
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Peppermill wrote:

Everyman wrote:
On the thread on Fran, bookhunter wrote:

Do you all think that by the end of the book Fran is a "better" person? Has this whole experience caused her to grow positively?

She has stopped drinking pretty much. She lost weight, looks better, becomes more focused on her family relationships. It seems like the search for Kim gave her a purpose and a role she found fulfilling.


To which I replied:

If you're right, isn't it sad that it took the loss of a daughter to make her a better person, to stop her drinking, to make here more focused on her remaining family?

Is any of this consistent with the way you intended to present Fran to your readers? Was it your intent that we think that this terrible experience had at least one silver lining in making Fran a "better" person than she was before?



Eman -- I know you are placing your question to Stewart, but I have a reaction I'm going to try to share. It seems to me a trite truism that all tragedies have "silver linings" -- if nothing else, we as humans are quite capable of either identifying or creating such linkages if we try hard enough. Horror stories like 9/11 abound with them. But, true or no, real or fabricated, it seems false positivism to let silver linings obscure dreadful reality. The creation of positive results may be a healthy way of dealing with disaster, but isn't it a treacherous, slippery slope to view such as the fruits of tragedy?


Well-said.  Any evaluation of Fran's changes has to weigh what she's gained against what she's lost.  But I do think, like most of them, that she's trying her best.


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KxBurns
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Stewart, your contributions to this thread have been outstanding. I hope you've enjoyed being here as much as we've enjoyed having you!
 
-Karen
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vivico1
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan


KxBurns wrote:
Stewart, your contributions to this thread have been outstanding. I hope you've enjoyed being here as much as we've enjoyed having you!
-Karen



I know there is still a lot of time left, but I would like to second that. I feel like you have been hit with either, loved it or hated it and some very vocal people about either way. I am not sure either that all of the post were polite at all. I hope I did not come off impolite in regards to my feelings. I may not have liked this book myself, I honestly think that as a story about the character's feelings and journey before and after this horrible event, that we just were not let inside them in a way only an author can do. So it fell flat for me. But man, I got to tell ya, having said that, I do appreciate that you were willing to be here AND stay here lol to talk to us about it. You have been kind and gracious about sharing your book and time and I am sure you have felt some real frustration on your side too from some of the remarks here. Thank you for sticking with us. I admire that.
Vivian
~Those who do not read are no better off than those who can not.~ Chinese proverb
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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



vivico1 wrote:

KxBurns wrote:
Stewart, your contributions to this thread have been outstanding. I hope you've enjoyed being here as much as we've enjoyed having you!
-Karen



I know there is still a lot of time left, but I would like to second that. I feel like you have been hit with either, loved it or hated it and some very vocal people about either way. I am not sure either that all of the post were polite at all. I hope I did not come off impolite in regards to my feelings. I may not have liked this book myself, I honestly think that as a story about the character's feelings and journey before and after this horrible event, that we just were not let inside them in a way only an author can do. So it fell flat for me. But man, I got to tell ya, having said that, I do appreciate that you were willing to be here AND stay here lol to talk to us about it. You have been kind and gracious about sharing your book and time and I am sure you have felt some real frustration on your side too from some of the remarks here. Thank you for sticking with us. I admire that.

Thanks very much, and thanks for your comments all along.  Not every reader is going to like every book, just as not every book a writer writes is going to be good (think of Faulkner or Virginia Woolf, great writers who wrote some true stinkers), but those times when the reader gives him- or herself wholly to a book and connects with the characters and story and language and setting--for me, there's nothing better.  That's happened to me with Chekhov, and Tolstoy, and Woolf, and William Maxwell, and Larry Woiwode, and Alice Munro, with Basho and Buson and Issa, with Camus and Kawabata, J.D. Salinger and James Salter, John Edgar Wideman and Theodore Weesner.  And sometimes, for whatever reason, it didn't happen on a first read.  All of these writers aren't for everyone, or all of their books, but I hope I'm working in their tradition.


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Author
Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



KxBurns wrote:
Stewart, your contributions to this thread have been outstanding. I hope you've enjoyed being here as much as we've enjoyed having you!
 
-Karen


Thanks again for having me, and for moderating.


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bentley
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Thank you Stewart for your time and your input.

Bentley
Author
Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



bentley wrote:
Thank you Stewart for your time and your input.

Bentley


You're quite welcome.  Thanks for yours.


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the_mad_chatter
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

I hope I haven't missed the opportunity to thank Stewart, the moderators and the other readers.  It's such a treat to not only be in a book club were everyone has actually read the book (I've experience the other kind too often-very frustrating!!!) but also have the author weigh in on the discussion.  And to think I did it just for a free book!  :smileywink:
 
The best part of this experience has been the great debates and discussions.  I thank everyone for their perspectives.  Just think how boring this would have been if the discussions were full of "You're so clever for thinking that!"  and "I absolutely agree". 
 
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FrankieD
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Registered: ‎12-16-2007
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Stewart...thanks for sharing your book with us,. I enjoyed every page and found myself caught up in the emotions that the family must have been feeling. While waiting for my book to arrive I read two other books of yours...A World Away and The Names of the Dead. I was most impressed with the second one because as a Vietnam veteran...and a Navy corpsman with the Marines in the I Corps area in 1968 - 1969 I felt very close to your story. In fact, there were times that you talked about places that I've been and at the same time as your story...and I even found that I had to put the book down now and then to regroup.
Anyway, I found your writing style very enjoyable in each book...thanks!!!
                                                           FrankieD :smileyhappy:
" The longer I live...the more beautiful life becomes."
- Frank Lloyd Wright
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blkeyesuzi
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Registered: ‎01-26-2008
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Mr. O'Nan,

First of all, I want to tell you that your book was very enjoyable. This is my first book by you, but certainly not my last. I'm struck by your ability to paint pictures with your words, as well as your gift for making me, feel like I'm experiencing the moment. Your characters, settings, and stories are very real, down to the tiniest detail. I adore your style. I can see, feel, taste, touch, semm and, hear every nuance of the story ---thanks to you.

I was struck immediately by the following line:

"The trees inside the spiked iron fence were old, their roots poking through the dry grass like knucklebones."....

...upon reading this I knew I was in for a treat.

Here is my question. What do you draw from when you are writing your descriptives involving location, or your characters' mundane tasks. They are so poignant, real, and in no way overdone. You make the ordinary extraordinary. Do you draw from moments in your everyday life and put it to paper? or do you imagine the moment and your characters and then put your imaginings to paper? I'd love to hear about your writing process.

Thank you,
Suzi
Suzi

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see. " --John Burroughs
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Everyman
Posts: 9,216
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Here is my question. What do you draw from when you are writing your descriptives involving location, or your characters' mundane tasks. They are so poignant, real, and in no way overdone. You make the ordinary extraordinary. Do you draw from moments in your everyday life and put it to paper? or do you imagine the moment and your characters and then put your imaginings to paper? I'd love to hear about your writing process.


This has nothing to do with O'Nan or Songs, but I was talking earlier this week with an author who described a magnificent sunset she had seen here in Washington State, and then said she had used that sunset specifically in a book she was writing set in Africa -- nearly half a globe away and in the other hemisphere! So I guess experiences can be quite mobile at times.
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
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renhair
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it....couldn't wait for the comment time and then life got in the way.  Unfortunately, I missed the blogging, but I must say that as much as I enjoyed the book, the commentary has really filled it out.
 
I love stories where I (the reader) have to work a little.  I want to make my own mind up as to who is the good guy and who is the bad.  To my mind, that makes the story more real to me.  Thank you for allowing me to do this with Songs.  I liked learning about all the characters.  Of course, I wanted to know more, but so what.  I want to know more about a lot of "real" people, too and that doesn't always happen!  :smileyhappy: 
 
Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks!  Hopefully, I'm not too late to share that appreciation with Mr. O'Nan....
Moderator
dhaupt
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

I have already asked and had a question answered but I just wanted to say to you Mr. O'Nan that your generosity has been overwhelming and I am in awe of the time and energy you gave the First Look Book Club.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this with you.
Author
Stewart_ONan
Posts: 119
Registered: ‎05-20-2008
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



the_mad_chatter wrote:
I hope I haven't missed the opportunity to thank Stewart, the moderators and the other readers.  It's such a treat to not only be in a book club were everyone has actually read the book (I've experience the other kind too often-very frustrating!!!) but also have the author weigh in on the discussion.  And to think I did it just for a free book!  :smileywink:
 
The best part of this experience has been the great debates and discussions.  I thank everyone for their perspectives.  Just think how boring this would have been if the discussions were full of "You're so clever for thinking that!"  and "I absolutely agree". 
 


You're welcome.  Thanks again for reading the book, and for your generous comments.


Learn more about Songs for the Missing.

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Author
Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



FrankieD wrote:
Stewart...thanks for sharing your book with us,. I enjoyed every page and found myself caught up in the emotions that the family must have been feeling. While waiting for my book to arrive I read two other books of yours...A World Away and The Names of the Dead. I was most impressed with the second one because as a Vietnam veteran...and a Navy corpsman with the Marines in the I Corps area in 1968 - 1969 I felt very close to your story. In fact, there were times that you talked about places that I've been and at the same time as your story...and I even found that I had to put the book down now and then to regroup.
Anyway, I found your writing style very enjoyable in each book...thanks!!!
                                                           FrankieD :smileyhappy:


Thank you for reading Songs, and for your kind words, especially on The Names of the Dead.  They mean a great deal to me, coming from someone who was there.  At first Larry was actually going to be a Navy corpsman with the Marines in I Corps.  My hope was that it would be a memory book, so i'm glad it took you back, as hard as that must have been.  I can't think of a more impossible job for a young man.  Thank you for serving, and for helping your guys.


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Author
Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



blkeyesuzi wrote:
Mr. O'Nan,

First of all, I want to tell you that your book was very enjoyable. This is my first book by you, but certainly not my last. I'm struck by your ability to paint pictures with your words, as well as your gift for making me, feel like I'm experiencing the moment. Your characters, settings, and stories are very real, down to the tiniest detail. I adore your style. I can see, feel, taste, touch, semm and, hear every nuance of the story ---thanks to you.

I was struck immediately by the following line:

"The trees inside the spiked iron fence were old, their roots poking through the dry grass like knucklebones."....

...upon reading this I knew I was in for a treat.

Here is my question. What do you draw from when you are writing your descriptives involving location, or your characters' mundane tasks. They are so poignant, real, and in no way overdone. You make the ordinary extraordinary. Do you draw from moments in your everyday life and put it to paper? or do you imagine the moment and your characters and then put your imaginings to paper? I'd love to hear about your writing process.

Thank you,
Suzi

Thanks so much for reading Songs, and for your kind words.  You hit the key to writing vivid description right there in your first paragraph--it's all about the five senses.  You look for opportunites to let the reader see, hear, feel, taste and touch what the characters are going through.  Most of the actions they undertake are familiar to us (pulling up to a drive-thru, eating a sloppy burger while listening to the radio) so as a writer you don't have to include every single detail, just one or two that set the scene so the close reader can smell the ketchup Lindsay squeezes into the styrofoam container without having been directly told to.
 
Most of those moments come from everyday life.  I imagine them happening in the lives of my characters the way they'd happen to me or to anybody, because of where they are and what they have to do, except my characters will see the world differently than I would, because of what they're going through.  I try to select what they would naturally key on, given their emotional state--say, Ed looking into the abandoned car and seeing the scrunchy around the stickshift.  It's a detail I've seen thousands of times in real-life, but in this context, it becomes charged and meaningful.  It's something that impinges on the character's main desire, and therefore it has a place or role in the book.  My feeling is that if a detail doesn't speak to/of a character's desire, then it shouldn't be in there, and I hope that kind of economy of words keeps things from being overdone. 


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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Everyman wrote:
Here is my question. What do you draw from when you are writing your descriptives involving location, or your characters' mundane tasks. They are so poignant, real, and in no way overdone. You make the ordinary extraordinary. Do you draw from moments in your everyday life and put it to paper? or do you imagine the moment and your characters and then put your imaginings to paper? I'd love to hear about your writing process.


This has nothing to do with O'Nan or Songs, but I was talking earlier this week with an author who described a magnificent sunset she had seen here in Washington State, and then said she had used that sunset specifically in a book she was writing set in Africa -- nearly half a globe away and in the other hemisphere! So I guess experiences can be quite mobile at times.

Hunh.  See, I'd think those two sunsets would be very different, but maybe the emotion she felt when seeing one powered the emotion the character(s) felt when seeing the other.


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Author
Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



renhair wrote:
I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it....couldn't wait for the comment time and then life got in the way.  Unfortunately, I missed the blogging, but I must say that as much as I enjoyed the book, the commentary has really filled it out.
 
I love stories where I (the reader) have to work a little.  I want to make my own mind up as to who is the good guy and who is the bad.  To my mind, that makes the story more real to me.  Thank you for allowing me to do this with Songs.  I liked learning about all the characters.  Of course, I wanted to know more, but so what.  I want to know more about a lot of "real" people, too and that doesn't always happen!  :smileyhappy: 
 
Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks!  Hopefully, I'm not too late to share that appreciation with Mr. O'Nan....


Thanks for reading Songs, and for your comments.  I appreciate both, knowing how short time can be, and how life gets in the way.  And I'm a fan of your approach to stories.


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Author
Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



dhaupt wrote:
I have already asked and had a question answered but I just wanted to say to you Mr. O'Nan that your generosity has been overwhelming and I am in awe of the time and energy you gave the First Look Book Club.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this with you.

You're quite welcome.  And thank you.  All I had to do was answer some questions.  You guys had to read the book and discuss it.  I wish it were happier.  A year ago, when I finished the draft and went back and read it start to finish, I felt bad for putting the reader through all this, so thank you for hanging in there.  The next one will definitely be lighter.


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MLeighMiller80
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Registered: ‎12-18-2007
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Thank you for writing a book that the reader could really be a part of, not only by "deciding" for ourselves what ultimately happened to Kim, but to form our own opinions of the characters and the towns. I think that you gave a brilliant insight into the sadness and desperation that the unknown can bring. I was happy to be invited along for the ride. I would love to see an update or follow-up in a future book??? Maybe even just to see if the Larsen's were ever able to obtain any sort of normalcy to their lives.

Meredith
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