INTERVIEW

Stewart O'Nan


Posted: November 18, 2004

Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King have just finished the book Faithful about The Boston Red Sox and he was gracious to give me the chance to ask some questions. Besides Faithful Stewart has written books like The Night Country, Which You Where Here, Snow Angels, Speed Queen and many more. His official site can be found at http://www.stewart-onan.com.

Hi Stewart, thanks for agreeing to do this interview.

Lilja: How is the work with Faithful going? I'm guessing that you had a lot of work to do in the last weeks since it'll be out in about a week, right? Was it your or the publishers choice to put it out so soon after The Red Sox won The World Series?

Stewart O'Nan: Faithful is done, or at least it's at the printer's. We had expected all along to have the book in stores by early December, no matter how the team did. The fact that they played all the way till October 27th made us work a little harder, but it was definitely worth it. And the publishers, realizing they now had an even more special book, decided to move the publication date up to November 22nd. But Steve and I both work quickly and cleanly, and they counted on that.

Lilja: How happy where you and Stephen when they won? It's almost to good to be true that they won the same year you decide to write a book about them, right?

Stewart O'Nan: It's still a bit of a dreamy feeling. Remember, the Red Sox hadn't won the World Series for 86 years. Whole generations of Sox fans never got to see them win it all. Steve thought he'd never see it in his lifetime. So now, when I'm just sitting somewhere doing something, I'll remember: "Oh yeah, the Red Sox won the World Series," and I can't help but smile.

Lilja: How did it happen that you and Stephen decided to write the book?

Stewart O'Nan: Steve and I have been going to games together for years. We e-mail and talk about the team all the time, and last year in August when the team got hot, Steve decided we should keep a log of our reactions to their games. This spring, when the season was about to start, my agent asked if I wanted to write a book about the Red Sox (every year he asks me this, but this year I'd just finished a novel and finally had the time). I said I'd write it only if Steve could be my co-author. Steve was busy, but said he'd try to contribute as much as he could. And once the season got going, his natural love for the game kicked in and he couldn't stay away.

Lilja: How is the book written? Was it hard to write with someone else compared to write alone?

Stewart O'Nan: The book is in a double diary format. For each game or Sox-related issue that we found interesting, we'd write separate entires. There are also e-mail exchanges on hot topics. Essentially, the book is a season-long conversation between two supremely interested fans.

Working with another writer--in this case--was easy, since, as fans, we basically agree about what's important. In drafting pieces about players or the games, there was some overlap, but in those cases I'd just edit out any redundancies.

Lilja: Is this your first collaboration?

Stewart O'Nan: No, I once wrote a screenplay about the life of Clara Schumann with novelist A. Manette Ansay. That was much more difficult, as we didn't quite agree on the role of Brahms or her many children in her life.

Lilja: On the first two covers for the book it said "Stewart O'Nan with Stephen King" and not "Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King"? Now, on the final cover, it only lists both your names. Can you explain why that was? Did you write the majority of the book?

Stewart O'Nan: I'm not quite sure why they have our names that way, other than that's what the publisher wanted for stocking purposes (that is, how it's listed in bookstores' computers). I'm not sure what the word- or page-count is, but I can safely say I wrote a majority of the text.

Lilja: I remembered that you wrote a book you wanted to call Dear Stephen King (later renamed Speed Queen) some years ago. I then heard (don't know if it's true) that Stephen wouldn't let you use his name in the title. Is that correct and if so, did he give you a reason? And now you're writing a book with Stephen King. Are there no hard feelings about the Dear Stephen King-title?

Stewart O'Nan: Yes, the whole Speed Queen flap was over using Steve's name, and now that I've spent time with him, I see why. Everyone wants a piece of him. So no, there are no hard feelings. He's a prince of a guy, very giving.

Lilja: Why did you use Stephen's name when you wrote Speed Queen and not just some fictional name? Where / are you a fan of his books?

Stewart O'Nan: I used the name because it made sense to me that, to my character, Stephen King would be the only person who would understand her. He's a confessor-judge figure for her, and for all of America. He understands our deepest hopes and fears (or so she hopes!). And yes, I'm a huge fan of his work, always have been. Without his work--and Ray Bradbury's--I would have never become the reader and writer (the person) I am.

Lilja: I heard some time ago that Christina Ricci was going to star in and direct a movie version of Speed Queen. What happened to that project?

Stewart O'Nan: Christina Ricci was supposed to direct and star in the movie version of Speed Queen but could never make time in her schedule to make that happen. As it turned out, she ended up playing a similar role in Monster, so I sometimes wonder if she was just blocking our project to make sure it didn't get in the way of that one. Speed Queen apparently will get done, as the option was just exercised.

Lilja: Do you think there is any chance Stephen will play himself in the movie if it's ever done?

Stewart O'Nan: The screenplays that I've seen don't even deal with that aspect of the book. I think the flap over the title scared the producers.

Lilja: You have written quite a few books yourself, The Good Wife: A Novel coming in April 2005. What kind of books would you say that your write? Horror, drama, fiction, all of the above and which one would you recommend to someone that hasn't read any of your books before?

Stewart O'Nan: Speed Queen's a wild satire of American appetites, and a great departure from my usual stuff. I tend to write two kinds of novels--pastorals and gothics--and sometimes combine the two, as in A Prayer for the Dying or The Night Country. Even my first novel, Snow Angels, has that mix of stillness and foreboding in it. In my best work I'm trying not just for surface effects, but something more real and heartfelt. Those are my favorite kind of books and movies, so it makes sense. For someone who's never read my work, I'd recommend Snow Angels first.

Lilja: Again, thanks for doing this interview. Do you have any last word for my readers?

Stewart O'Nan: Last words for your readers: Support your local public library!

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