Fifteen-year-old Julian Hale’s life is turned upside down when his mother suddenly moves from North Carolina to Venice, Florida. Julian is forced to stay with his father until the end of the school year. 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. (Publisher's summary from Powell's Books)
For me Heart with Joy is one of those rare finds that totally surprised me. I had no idea what to expect when I began reading and ended up finding a gem of a story with characters that were endearing and very, very real.
Told in first person narrative Julian’s voice is clear and honest, and I immediately felt a strong attachment to this young man. He is very mature for his age, which becomes obvious through his interactions with his father and with Mrs. Peters, his elderly next-door neighbor. Instead of acting out as you might expect a fifteen year old to do when his mother up and leaves, he steps in and takes over her roles as cook and housekeeper for his dad. Cooking, something he did frequently with his mother is at first a way to keep his mother close, but Julian begins to understand that it is something that fills his heart with joy. As his relationship with his dad grows stronger, Julian also learns that life is not always what it seems. A lot of his growth is nurtured by the relationship with Mrs. Peters. An adamant bird watcher and retired teacher, Mrs. Peters and Julian become true friends and it through this relationship that Julian blossoms.
Heart with Joy is a subtle almost understated story of one boy’s realization that life doesn’t always turn out the way we expect. Julian learns instead that each individual deals with the highs and lows life throws at us making adjustments and even compromises as we go. Cushman’s prose is quietly profound and thoroughly engaging, and I loved every minute I spent with his beautiful and extremely well drawn characters. I highly recommend that you experience this brilliant coming-of-age story for yourself.
Source: Received copy from author for review
I am very pleased to have a guest post from Steve Cushman, author of Heart With Joy on Eating YA Books today. Steve will be talking about his writing process.
How I Write by Steve Cushman
The three most common questions I get asked whenever I do readings for my latest novel, Heart With Joy, are how do you write, how did you get published, and how can I get published. I'll try to
answer the first of those questions here in this blog post.
I usually write in the mornings, mostly because I work a 40-hour a week job and I find if I don't get my writing done before work I probably won't get it done at all. I get up around 5 and write for an hour, maybe an hour and a half, before the demands of the day, like being a parent and breadwinner, take over. Another thing I like about writing early in the morning is that it's so quiet and there are no distractions. Also, if I write early in the morning I believe that my subconscious continues to work on the story throughout the rest of the day even if I don't go back to it until the next day.
As far as the physical details of writing, for the past 15 years, I've written on a computer. I have tried a few times to write with the old pen and paper, but my handwriting is so bad that if I try to write anything of length I simply end up not being able to read what I've written. With that said, I generally don't edit on the computer screen but print out rough drafts and then edit off that paper copy. I've heard of some writers using $125 Mont blanc pens, but mine are simple black Bics bought wherever they are on sale. They seem to do the job for me.
You might think what do pens, papers, and computers have to do with writing and storytelling. I've often thought the same thing because those are simply tools that we use to get our stories, words, and ideas down. But these are the questions young writers, including myself years ago, ask because oftentimes they think there is something mysterious and magical about the writing process. I'll let you in on a little secret: it's not magic. Writing is simply sitting your butt in a chair and working on your story.
I don't mean to make it sound like writing is unpleasant because some days it is wonderful--you are writing along and your characters are saying all the right things and your descriptions feel right and the conflict is building, but some days it is not. Some days you have to sit there and work through the story, over and over. And to me that is what writing is: working and re-working. Going over the same material again and again until you get it right. There have been times that I have read a story 25 times and on the 26th time came up with the right word choice, piece of dialogue, etc..
So to re-cap, I believe that working and working some more on a story or novel is the way to write. I get an idea from something I see or hear, then take off from there and over time it evolves. When I sat down 6 years ago to write my new novel, Heart With Joy, it was essentially about a father and son and how they cope with each other once the lady of the house leaves. Over time many more elements came in--cooking and bird watching and the sacrifices parents make for their children and the importance of following your heart. But all of that was not there at the beginning and it never would have been if I hadn't sat at that desk and worked and worked until I got it right.
I want to thank Steve for joining us and encourage everyone to read Heart with Joy!