“Every Novel’s Voice is an Act of Imagination” MARS: Stephen Kiernan

by Adanna Carter


A writer has the mentality to create their own fiction, the ability to conjure up their own characters, the power to create their own meaning, the skills to make up their own plots, the narration to teach their own lessons, and the capability to display their own perceptions. Writers portray this ability in the words they construe to tell a story.

This a glimpse of what wisdom was offered at the latest installment of the Major Author Reading Series last week from the novelist, journalist, guitarist, and actor himself, Stephen Kiernan.

One of the stories that Kiernan shared with his audience was from his novel “The Hummingbird,” inspired out of the idea of humor in a death bed. The novel explores the notion of how a warrior can become a man of peace and connects to the notion of warring America becoming a nation of peace.

The chapters that Kiernan read out loud to his audience centered around an optimistic nurse named Deborah Birch and her grumpy patient Barclay Reed. Barclay Reed is a retired history professor, troubled veteran, and grumpy patient suffering from terminal kidney cancer. Deborah Birch is a kind nurse who takes care of people who are terminally ill. She caters to Mr. Reed’s post traumatic stresses and haunting blasts from the past in hopes that she can help him through his traumatic experiences and treat his tormented mental state.

The scene that Kiernan read out loud to his audience starts with a raucous and grumpy Mr. Reed, who claims that in all of the time he spent waiting for Nurse Birch to arrive, he’s eaten fifteen bananas. Nurse Birth is very patient and kind. She disagreed with Mr. Reed’s claim of eating fifteen bananas. Mr. Reed’s irritable character of course get’s offended by the accusation and asks Nurse Birch if she is calling him a liar. Nurse Birch informs Mr. Reed that she is calling him a tester. In conclusion to the excerpt of the skit read out loud to the audience, we find out that Mr. Reed was lying entirely and actually detests bananas.

The novel, like many other works of writing, faced different challenges. The author, like many other authors, had his own ways of handling these challenges.

One of the challenges concerned the novel being written from a woman’s point of view by a male individual. Kiernan addressed this topic explaining that it was difficult to write from a woman’s point of view, but he received many females with strong personalities’ feedback to make sure that he was giving the woman’s voice authenticity in the story.

Another one of the challenges was writer’s block. However, Kiernan explained to us that he doesn’t get writer’s block because he’s appreciative of  the rewriting of his own work and notices that as he rewrites a story, he’ll change the setting, path, or ending of the story until he is completely satisfied with its course.

Lastly Stephen Kiernan offered more words of wisdom concerning novels stating, “in a novel the writer should vanish and the story should be seen as more of a movie.”