Sunday, November 7, 2010

Steve Cushman Interview & Giveaway!

Well, Hello to all of my readers and friends!

Today is special because I am posting my first interview with an author since I started my blog under the new name of A Bookish Wonderland.
We'll be giving away a book as well! Aren't you all so excited?

Steve Cushman (You can visit his website here) has published two novels and one collection of short stories. His novel Portisville (2004) won the 2004 Novello Literary Award.

His most recent book, Heart With Joy will most likely make my top 5 for this year of reads, (my review here) and I've been recommending it to friends as much as possible.

The description itself is engaging and once you read i
t you'll find you have no way to escape the need to read this book:

In Heart with Joy, 15-year-old Julian Hale s life is turned upside down when his mother suddenly moves from North Carolina to Venice, Florida, under the pretense of running her parents nine-room motel and finishing the novel she has been working on for years. Julian is forced to stay with his father until the end of the school year. Three weeks after his mother leaves, Julian s father decides to run a marathon. This surprises Julian because he has never seen his father exercise. But once Julian agrees to help with training, the two develop the sort of close relationship they ve never had before. Meanwhile, with the help of an elderly neighbor, Julian learns that the most important thing in life is to follow your heart. His heart leads him to a passion for cooking and a young cashier at the local grocery store. Once so eager to live with his mother, Julian must choose between staying with his father over the summer and going to live with his mother. Heart with Joy is a literary coming-of-age novel that explores how sometimes the things you need most in life have been there, right beside you, all along.

I was lucky enough to get to not only read and review the book itself, but also interview this amazing author!

Here's how our conversation went:

What inspired you to write a coming of age novel?

When I started the novel, almost 8 years ago now, I wasn't thinking about what sort of novel it would be. I was just writing about a father and son who were thrown together after the mother leaves and how they would somehow get along or learn to love each other. I don't think too far ahead when it comes to writing. I write the story and revise and over the course of revision things like 'what sort of novel' or 'what it's about' come up, but never during the actual initial writing.

Did you have anyone in particular that inspired you to write a character like Mrs. Peters?

Well Mrs. Peters is modeled after my neighbor, Barbara Hughes. Barbara is not in her nineties and has never ran over my leg or anyone else's that I know of, but she is an older woman who likes to spend her days watching birds. Barbara and I have spent a lot of time talking about birds over our shared fence.
On another level, Mrs. Peters was fun to write about because she was sort of this bizarre old lady and y
et she gets to be a surrogate mother for Julian once his mother leaves. And she gave Julian a chance to see there was more to people than we sometimes think.

What kind of research did it take for you to write about birds in the way that you did?

I joke that this was a very selfish novel for me because it allowed me to write about many things that I enjoy: cooking, bird watching, and writing. I spend a part of each day doing each of those things, so no research was needed. While I knew Julian's mother would be a writer, when I started writing the novel I didn't know it would include so much about cooking and bird watching. That stuff just came in as I revised and Julian needed something to do.

Was it easy or hard to write about cooking in a way that didn't make your writer want to fall asleep?

Again, since I enjoy cooking and watching the Food Network it was fun to write about cooking. As a writer, you just put it out there and hopefully you are able to express your enthusiasm for certain things.

Was there any part of you that wanted to make the ending of the book nice and tidy for Julian's parents? If so, what made you leave it open?

Sure, there was a part of me that wanted to wrap it all up in a little bow and send the Hale family off on their merry little way. I'm sure over the years, I wrote a draft or two with that sort of ending, but I decided not to because that's not what happens in real life. It felt pat and easy and not realistic. Also, fiction-wise for this story, it makes more sense for Julian and his father to be together without her at the end.

Some fun questions?

Opera? Love it? Hate it?

Somewhere in the middle. I don't seek it out, but I also don't hide from it if that makes sense.

Are you a good cook?

I think I'm a decent cook but not great. My training is like Julian in Heart With Joy from hours of watching the Food Network and reading cook books.

Did you spend anytime bird watching while or before writing this book?

We have feeders and bird baths in our backyard, and I try to spend a few minutes each day watching the birds out there. I'm a sucker for the small, cute birds--hummingbirds, nuthatches, chickadees, etc..

Any pet allergies?

Thankfully no as we have two cats and a dog.

Favorite dish?

To cook: that salmon dish in the novel. To eat: cheesy chicken quesadillas.

I want to thank Steve so much for participating and for letting me be one of the ones who got to read this wonderful book. And now....

~The Giveaway~

Contest ends: November 14th, 2010
(if there is a problem with the form please let me know, this is my first time using them)

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