Heart With Joy is a coming of age novel about birdwatching and cooking and falling in love for the first time, but ultimately it’s about finding your passion in life–that thing that fills your heart with joy-and pursuing it.
The basic story revolves around a 15 year old boy named Julian, whose mother leaves him and his father under the pretense of going to Florida to help run her parents’ motel and finish the novel she has been writing for years. Julian wants to go with her, but she says he has to stay with his father, someone he has never been particularly close to. Then, over the course of the next four months, Julian and his father have to figure out how to live with each other. And they do grow closer, and learn about each other, over the meals that Julian cooks for them. By the end of the novel, Julian has to choose between staying with his father or going to live with his mother.
2. How did Julian come to you?
When I started the novel I knew it was a story about a father and son who were forced to be alone together. That’s pretty much all I knew. It was over the course of the six years it took me to write the book that I discovered that Julian’s passion was cooking.
3. Why did you write this book?
I write because it is what I love to do. Heart With Joy was a very personal book for me to write because it had many of my favorite things in it: cooking, birdwatching, writing, and father/son issues. Mind you, it wasn’t always easy to write but as the book started to take shape and I saw all these elements coming in I was very excited to get back to the work.
4. Your first novel, Portisville, is described as a “literary thriller.” What makes it “literary” as opposed to “commercial”?
I suppose the idea is that a “literary” work is more character-based and a “commercial” novel might be more plot-based. I generally am more interested in characters than plot in the books I read and the ones I write.
5. When did you discover that you are a “reader?”
I didn’t start reading seriously until I was in my early twenties and working at a record store in Orlando, Florida. The man who owned the store, Jim Boylston, would come in everyday with a new stack of books from the library. I would ask him what he was reading and he’d tell me about Larry Brown, Raymond Carver, and Cormac McCarthy some of his favorite writers. So I started reading these writers and eventually got the crazy idea that I could write too.
Nothing fancy, an upstairs guest room/loft. It’s great for escaping to except for when we do have guests and then I can’t get to the computer. But really, it’s a nice place to write. I write in the mornings, before everyone else in the house is awake.
7. What is the hardest part of writing?
To me, it’s not the actual writing. It’s all the other stuff–sending your work out, dealing with rejection, waiting to hear back from an editor or agent. All of the stuff is the frustrating part of writing for me. I’ve gotten better at telling myself it has nothing to do with writing, but still some times it does get frustrating. As for writing itself, of course I don’t sit down and write something I am proud of every day but I do sit there and get the work done and experience has taught me that if I do that, and don’t give up, then good things will come.
8. What marketing tips can you share with our other authors?
Not sure, I can share any as I don’t know how successful my marketing has been thus far. I’ve published three books, all with small presses, which puts a lot of the marketing pressure on the writer him/herself. I did write a guest blog post about one of my not so successful attempts at marketing. Here’s a link to it:
As for guest blogs, Heart With Joy has been really favorable reviewed by young adult bloggers. I put together a blog tour–with reviews, interviews, guest posts–at about 25 blogs. This has been successful in that the book has received a lot of positive publicity.
9. What is your next writing project?
I’ve been mostly writing poetry for the last few months, but my plan is to get back to a novel after the first of the year. I wrote the first draft of the novel over the summer, and it’s been sitting there waiting, so after the holidays I’ll have some more time and really dig into that.
I was born in Taunton, Massachusetts, but moved to Pinellas Park, Florida when I was four. I can’t tell you much about Taunton as I haven’t been there in years, but I am going back around Christmas this year.
Greensboro, where I currently live, is a wonderful city. It’s small enough yet it has most of the things you would find in a big city. There are six universities within ten miles of my house, so there are a good number of book-related events. Plus, we have the wonderful Eastern Music Festival every summer. As a side note, Heart With Joy is set in Greensboro.
11. How did you meet your wife? — we love a romance.
We both work as X-ray techs at a hospital here in Greensboro. In 1993, we met as X-ray students, studied together, worked together.
12. Tell us your favorite animal story.
Here’s my rat story. A couple days ago actually, I walked into the bathroom and saw what I initially thought was a squirrel hanging on the window screen. It was a nice day, so the window itself was raised about six inches. When I realized it was a rat, I tried to shut the window but as I did the rat actually lifted the bottom of the screen and jumped in the house. I ran around the house looking for something to get rid of the rat with and then I chased him around the house like a hockey player pushing him with the broom to the back door. Of course, my dog and cat did absolutely nothing to help and my seven year old laughed as hard as I’d ever heard him laugh before. So there’s my animal story. http://www.stevecushman.net/