Saturday, January 22, 2011

Guest Post: Steve Cushman author of Heart With Joy

So some of you may have seen Steve Cushman's book around the blog-o-sphere or read my recent review of it. If not make sure you check it out. So for now, here is a guest post by the author Steve Cushman.

A Little Bit Of Me In Every Character
As writers, we are taught to write about what we know, that each of our lives are made up of the things that make good fiction: conflicts (within ourselves or with others), redemption, and the everyday struggle to do our best with what we've got.  While I can't say I set out to do this intentionally, I see now that there is a little bit of me in each of the main characters from my latest novel, Heart With Joy.

Julian, the novel's main character and narrator, is a 15 year old boy who loves to cook.  I also enjoy cooking and like Julian it was through watching the Food Network that I first came to really believe I could cook.  There's something about watching someone take a set of ingredients and put them together, then 30 minutes later you have a meal. 

Old Lady Peters, Julian's elderly neighbor, loves to sit outside and watch birds.  Like cooking, watching birds is one of my favorite things to do.  I may not spend hours in my backyard watching birds like Old Lady Peters does, but I do make a point of keeping my bird feeders full and watching my winged friends for at least a few minutes each day.

Julian's mother is a struggling writer.  I am also a struggling writer, even if I have been fortunate enough to have three books published. In my opinion, all writers are struggling because we are never actually done with the work.  There is always more to do. The next story or poem or novel to write.  And her feelings about writing are similar to mine as well:  sometimes writing is great, you lift off into another world, but sometimes it's frustrating and you want to pull your hair out.  Even so, I've discovered that once writing is in your blood you can't stop doing it.  Writing, as some have said, is like breathing to me.

Julian's dad is a nurse, an ex potter.  He is someone who wrestles with the questions I have wrestled with since my son was born 8 years ago.  Should I be practicing my craft, working on writing (or creating pots in this character's case) or spending more time with my son?  It's always a balancing act to be both a parent and a writer, particularly as I also work a full-time job.  In the novel, Julian's father chooses to work, to provide for his family, putting aside his dreams and passions, hoping eventually he will be able to go back to his art, creating beautiful pots.  But this conflict is something that is always there for me.  Am I doing the right thing?  Should I be doing more of the other?

As I said, while it may not have been intentional I do so see now, nearly seven years after I started writing it, and five months after it was published, that my novel, Heart With Joy, is a novel that is about as close to me as I can make it--it is filled with the things I love and the things I struggle with every day.  Without knowing it at the time, Heart With Joy allowed me to write about many of the things that are important to me.  It's a novel I will always be proud of, so when a reader tells me they love it, it's all the more gratifying.  If they tell me they don't like it, that's okay to.  I've done my job.  I've bled on the page, giving it everything I have.

Photo credit for the image of the man writing on the typewriter go to this website.

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