Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Author Guest Post - Michael Baron (& Giveaway)

Congrats to lucky winner - Deb!

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Readers, please join me welcoming Michael Baron, author of When You Went Away, who will be guest blogging here today! In this book, drama springs from finding the courage to put one foot in front of the other each day and, for protagonist Gerry Rubato, the alternate universe is one he can only imagine—one in which his wife, the mother of their infant son, is still alive and his teenage daughter has not abandoned them.

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In a Sentimental Mood

Many years ago, I read an article that John Irving had written for the New York Times Book Review. In it, he defended the novelist’s use of sentimental passages if they were intrinsic to the story and not contrived purely to generate an emotional response from the reader. His argument, if I’m remembering it correctly, was that these events do in fact come up in our real lives. Therefore, a writer should be able to reflect this reality on the page. Sentimental experiences can tell us as much about ourselves as tragic experiences, traumatic experiences, or disillusioning experiences. They are therefore no less “literary,” as long as the writer employs them honestly.

I found this piece extremely liberating. For years, I had gravitated toward novelists whose work had a certain heart-on-the-sleeve element. Someone like Pat Conroy, who can range from brutal to deeply sentimental in a matter of paragraphs. Or Barbara Kingsolver, whose characters so often express such deep care for one another. Or Luanne Rice, whose novels often teem with sentiment without ever becoming mawkish. Having been raised by proper literary mentors, I felt a certain amount of guilt over enjoying these writers so much. Real novels were supposed to be darker, their lessons more sobering. John Irving freed me from this thinking, and I am deeply appreciative of this.

For the longest time, this article only influenced me as a reader. I focused the first portion of my writing career on works of nonfiction and sentimentality was never a factor. Then I decided that I wanted to write fiction. Fiction about relationships. Fiction where people had an impact on each other. That meant I needed to make a decision. I could write an emotion-driven story influenced by the writers that most inspired me. Or I could write an intellectually driven story influenced by the still prevalent conventions about what made a novel relevant. I chose the former and set out to do everything I could to make the sentiment in my work feel real.

I did not make this easy on myself. I wanted to write about fatherhood and about the redemptive qualities of love. So I set up a situation that threw these themes into relief – in a way that could easily be interpreted as maudlin. I made my protagonist a man in his early forties whose wife had died only two months after giving birth to their second child. I had the first child – a teenager – run away from home, unaware of her mother’s fate. I had a woman come into my protagonist’s life in the midst of his grief and confusion. I did all of these things because they allowed me to write about issues that meant a great deal to me. But I realized that I was always one sentence away from descending into melodrama.

To address this, I strove to make every situation as honest as I possibly could (while understanding that there are some inherent contradictions between fiction and honesty). I wanted the reader to accept the sentimental passages in the novel (and there are many) because they felt natural to the characters and the situation. I wanted to live up to the standard that John Irving set in my mind when he put that article out into the world.

Did I succeed? Only readers can say. But I embraced the challenge so much that it has become my model for writing novels.
Thank you for that insightful post, dear author. Yes, honesty works for me most of the time, whatever form it might take. What about you, readers?

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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader.

To Enter
  • Tell me about a book that has influenced you as a reader and how.
  • Please list your email address within your comment so that you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.


Deadline   Midnight CST of December 2, 2009.

Eligibility  US & Can only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!

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56 comments :

  1. Your Erroneous Zones by Dr. Dyer. It helped to look into human behavior and understand people, and adjust your way of thinking.


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  2. I subscribe via email.


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  3. I read The Shack and it opened me up to just let it go and forgive. You only live once, so live well. If you hold on to unforgiveness...you cannot live fully.

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  14. blogged and left a link here BUT GO ENTER THEIRS TOO.

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  15. blogged and left a link here BUT GO ENTER THEIRS TOO.

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  16. blogged and left a link here BUT GO ENTER THEIRS TOO.

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  17. I blogged and left a link here but GO ENTER THEIRS TOO.

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  18. I blogged and left a link here but GO ENTER THEIRS TOO.

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  19. I blogged and left a link here but GO ENTER THEIRS TOO.

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  20. I blogged and left a link here but GO ENTER THEIRS TOO.

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  21. I blogged and left a link here but GO ENTER THEIRS TOO.

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  22. I blogged and left a link here but GO ENTER THEIRS TOO.

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  23. I blogged and left a link here but GO ENTER THEIRS TOO.

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  24. I blogged and left a link here but GO ENTER THEIRS TOO.

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  25. I blogged and left a link here but GO ENTER THEIRS TOO.

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  26. I blogged and left a link here but GO ENTER THEIRS TOO.

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    #10

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  27. Please count me in on this giveaway.

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  28. The Bible
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  29. subscribed to A Book Blogger's Diary feed
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  35. Atlas Shrugged, because it made me realize that many of our current society's priorities are skewed!

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  38. I follow on twitter & tweeted! http://twitter.com/amweeks/status/5298147982

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  39. Madwoman-doing-cartwheelsNovember 20, 2009 at 4:41 AM

    The book that impacted me was a book called Sunshine by Norma Klein. I read it as a young mother in the 1980's. It is about a young mother dying of cancer who decides to make tapes of her thoughts for her baby daughter whom she won't live to raise. It was later made into a TV movie. I think it made me so appreciate life.

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  40. Madwoman-doing-cartwheelsNovember 20, 2009 at 4:43 AM

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  45. justpeachy36@yahoo.com

    When I was still a young girl I knew I wanted to be a writer. But, as things go, I grew up, went to college, got married had two kids etc. and didn't think I had to stuff to write. Then I read a book by L.M. Montgomery called Emily, there were three books in the series all about a girl who could write but didn't have confidence in herself. Emily, was me. After reading the book and a lot of changes in my life... I am now a freelance writer, blogger and book reviewer for several publications...

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  48. "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl" was the first book I ever read about the Holocaust. This is a subject that has always intrigued me. Anne haunts me even to this day. Every time I read the book or see the movie, I can't help but to hope the ending is different. But we all know it always ends the same.

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  54. Congrats to the winner who has been notified. Thank you all for stopping by!

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