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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Old Man, Young Talent, Innocent Questions

After finishing ML Stedman's strong debut novel "The Light Between Oceans" (2012), the first questions I wanted to ask this talented new author were - What were the last significant changes you made to this book? And, who or what influenced you to make those final changes? If Stedman has promoted her novel at all, the answers could be available somewhere; I haven't looked. If you've already read or later read this fine book and have done or do that research, please educate me.

The reason I haven't sought out the answers? Several months ago I read Hillary Jordan's equally assured debut "Mudbound" (2008), which shares some of the strengths of "The Light Between Oceans" - believably flawed characters, skillful use of a classic three act structure, a solid sense of locale. And in my estimation, both books made minor missteps during their third acts. When I learned that Barbara Kingsolver, a giant of contemporary fiction, is one of Jordan's mentors and played a small role in the midwifing of "Mudbound", I wondered what part she played as Jordan finished her powerful book. Did Kingsolver contribute to what I saw as those minor missteps? Or, did Kingsolver suggest final changes that Jordan chose to ignore, making those missteps (sic) the author's?

Both these gifted young authors make me green with envy; what I call their missteps can be easily dismissed. This post is more about my never-ending fascination with the mystery of the creative process. I recall having a similar wondering soon after finishing "The Art Of Fielding" (2011), the debut of Chad Harbach, and another clear winner. By the time I finish my own debut, I'll be old enough to be the grandfather of the newest promising talents finishing theirs. Here's hoping some insolent blogger uses a word no more harsh than missteps to describe the flaws in my work. That is, if that insolent blogger can even find my work.

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