Sunday, October 10, 2010

Guest Blog With Stephen Cushman

STEVE CUSHMAN's newest novel, Heart with Joy, will be out this Fall.

In Heart With Joy, fifteen year old Julian Hale’s life is turned upside down when his mother suddenly moves from North Carolina to Florida under the pretense of running her parents’ motel and finishing the novel she has been writing for years. While Julian has always been closer to his mother and wants to go with her, she tells him he has to stay with his father until the end of the school year.

Six weeks after his mother leaves, Julian’s father decides to run a marathon. Once Julian agrees to help him train, the two develop the sort of close relationship they’ve never had before. Also, with the help of an elderly neighbor, who loves to spend her days bird-watching, Julian learns that the most important thing in life is to follow your heart. And Julian’s heart leads him to a passion for cooking and a young cashier at the local grocery store even as his own parents drift apart. By the end of the novel, Julian is forced to choose between staying with his father and going to live with his mother.

Heart With Joy is an uplifting coming of age novel about the importance of following your heart and trusting that it will take you where you need to go.

How I Wrote My Novel or Why Writing Takes Patience, Faith and Hard-headedness
by Steve Cushman

My novel, Heart With Joy, was recently published, but I started writing it almost 8 years ago now. Heart With Joy is about bird watching and cooking and falling in love but it's also about finding your passion in life and pursuing it. That's what I say it is about now, but back in 2002, when I took my first stab at this story, all I knew was that I had a family where the mother ups and leaves. Her husband and son are stunned and faced with the reality that they are somehow going to have to learn to live without her. I didn't have much else to start with, but I had that kernel of a story and conflict.

Over the next six years, I tried a variety of different things--I changed the point of view of the novel from first to third to first again. I added and took out characters. I tried to insert pieces of the novel into another novel only to take them out again. It wasn't until I discovered that Julian was going to spend time with an elderly lady and help her care for the birds in her backyard that things started rolling. And then Julian and his father had to eat, so Julian started to cook and through cooking he met a young girl he liked. Then at some point along the way, Julian's father decided to run a marathon, so that gave Julian and his father something to do together. Julian would ride his bike beside his father while he trained for a marathon.

So what I'm saying here is that when I started this novel, I didn't know where it was going. I just had this father and son and this not so great relationship. But over time, and much hard work, new details emerged--some I came up with and others seemed to magically appear. For me, this willingness to put in the work and trust that something will come out of it is one of the things I like best about writing.

I believe this translates to anything you really want to do--get into college, play tennis, write poems, be a computer programmer--it all takes patience and a good bit of hardheadedness to ignore the people who tell you you can't do something.

Someone once described writing a novel as like driving down a dark street with your lights on. You can only see a little bit ahead of you, but you have to trust that if you keep driving more of the road will be revealed. I think this is a great analogy for writing, because to me writing is an act of faith--the faith that if you put the time in and you keep working good things will come, good things like being lucky enough to have your novel published. Thank You.


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