The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday September 27th

Stewart O'Nan visits UNC as writer-in-residence

American Novelist, Stewart O'Nan, serves as the 2014 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence. Notable pieces include Snow Angels, Last Night at the Lobster, and Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season (with Stephen King).
Buy Photos American Novelist, Stewart O'Nan, serves as the 2014 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence. Notable pieces include Snow Angels, Last Night at the Lobster, and Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season (with Stephen King).

This week UNC is hosting author Stewart O’Nan as its 2014 Writer-In-Residence. The writer will give a free public reading Thursday. Daily Tar Heel staff writer Langston Taylor spoke with O’Nan about his background and writing process.

The Daily Tar Heel: What are you most excited for this week?

Writer-in-residence reading

Time: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Location: Genome Science Building Auditorium
Info: http://bit.ly/1jvnQg1

Stewart O’Nan: I think to talk with younger people who are thinking about writing, who are already writing right now, and give them some hope that it’s still possible to write well and be heard. You get all the static from the whole new version of media that’s come up in like the last fifteen years, and most of that is just static instead of very well-chosen storytelling.

DTH: Do you think that, even though it’s still possible, that it’s gotten harder?

SO: A great story will always find its way. A great book will always find its way. There’s no book out there that’s so brilliant that hasn’t been published. You know? Because people are desperate for good stories.

DTH: Growing up, were you one of those people desperate for stories?

SO: Big, big reader, yeah. Comic books — it started with comic books, and then went on to stuff like Tarzan, science fiction, Stephen King, horror. Just always reading, always reading.

DTH: You worked with Stephen King for Faithful. What was it like to work with someone you had read growing up?

SO: Well I mean, you know, you’re working with your idol. You know, it’s like unbelievable … And working with him — to edit his work, to be the first one to see his writing — I felt really lucky. And then to tie that in with, lucky enough, the year that the Red Sox finally won the World Series. So I’m getting paid to watch the Red Sox win the World Series and hang out with Stephen King — I mean that’s a pretty good gig.

DTH: What do you enjoy most about your job and the opportunities you get to have as a writer?

SO: Being in those imaginary worlds, with the characters. Being there, very close to the character and being very intimate with their life and what’s going on with them. Basically, getting to feel what it’s like to be somebody else … So you’re really, really close, you know you get to know them better than you could know anybody in real life. And then, the sad part is you have to sort of let them go. You know, you finish with a book, and I mean it feels like you’re walking off the back of a moving train. Because you’ve been with this person or these people for so long, and now they’re gone. That’s the worst part.

DTH: Your work and your interests are characterized as very American-focused. What is it that ties in the subcultures you write about and makes them distinctly American?

SO: That’s a real tough answer. I always think of the American spirit as that clash of innocence and hope versus reality and experience. That idealism, that utopianism that America represents – the promise of America versus what it delivers.

DTH: What’s your impression of UNC been?

SO: I’ve been here less than 24 hours, so it’s hard to say. I can tell you that it’s warm. Warmer than Pittsburgh. No, I mean the staff is great, warm and helpful and open and loose and informal. They have great things to say about the students, and the place. I have a feeling that none of them would ever leave here – they want to be here forever.

university@dailytarheel.com

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