Please welcome Stephen P. Kiernan to Book Club Girl. Stephen’s written one of my favorite novels of the year, The Curiosity. It asks the question, What if the love of your life died decades before you were born?, and then explores it by telling us a story of a smart, feisty woman, of an educated man from the past, of a tacky journalist, and of a group of scientists who are at turns narcissistic, thoughtless, and brilliant. Did I mention this story is quite suspenseful, as well as a little bit romantic? Here, meet Stephen. Then, read his book!
Originally, I thought The Curiosity was going to be a political novel, with a strong dose of social criticism. I invented a snarky candidate for president who manipulated one of the main characters to help his campaign. I had corporations falling over themselves to win the character’s endorsement. There were media competitions like the worst of a ratings war.
It was dull. Preachy. Predictable. Meanwhile there were two characters, a man and a woman, who I could not turn my back on for one minute. If they were in a scene and the narrative’s attention went elsewhere for as little as one paragraph, when I returned they would be whispering to each other, holding hands, or otherwise getting busy.
Everyone – my editor, my agent, the friends I entrust with early drafts – everyone said I was telling the wrong story. I threw away more than 50,000 words, 200-plus pages. The media wars vanished. The endorsement battles dwindled. Aside from a photo on an office wall, the candidate no longer appeared. I confess I had to trick myself, to cut months of work without heartbreak. So I created a file where I put it all. “I’ll use this later,” I told myself. “It won’t go to waste.”
Of course I never went back. With the author’s intention removed, the love story had time and room to emerge. Love, and love’s power to transform a woman from ambitious self-sacrifice to self-fulfillment, this was the novel’s true center. I would never have known I could write a book about such a topic. I definitely would not have embarked on a novel with those concerns in mind.
--Stephen P. Kiernan, 6/10/13
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