Debut Australian Author M.L. Stedman Reads From The Light Between Oceans
A handful of eager readers gathered at the Barnes & Noble on 86 Street and Lexington Avenue last night to hear M.L. Stedman read from and discuss her debut novel The Light Between Oceans. Published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, for US audiences last week, Stedman and her book have been making publicity rounds across the country since. A Scribner tweet tipped me off that she would be making a New York appearance yesterday as part of the B&N Recommends program at their Upper East Side location. Having picked up the book last week, promptly devouring the bittersweet story and classic artfulness of Stedman’s prose, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see her in person.
As fans, book lovers, publishing professionals, and lucky B&N shoppers who just happened to be in the right place at the right time clutched their beautiful hardcover copies, Stedman took the stage. Her introduction and discussion of The Light Between Oceans were conversational. She refused a podium, afraid she might feel like she “was running for president or something,” and was reluctant to use the provided microphone. Her demeanor was charming and relatable, but as she opened the book to the first page and began to read, a change came over her.
It is a unique experience to hear a work read in the author’s own voice – especially when they are as talented and animated a reader as M.L. Stedman. Her voice is caressing and her tone, inflection, her manner changed as she switched between her characters’ voices and the narration.
Her book tells the story of Tom Sherbourne, a lighthouse keeper on the far-flung island of Janus Rock off the coast of Western Australia. He lives with his wife Isabel in the 1920’s. Between World War I and multiple miscarriages, both have experienced acute tragedy. When a boat washes up on shore carrying a dead man and a living baby, Tom and Isabel make a decision that will have devastating and unforeseen consequences.
In Stedman’s words, the book is about “how we be good, how we love, how we do our duty.” In the book she explores “whether it’s ever wrong to follow the rules. […] [Sometimes people think] you’re either right or you’re wrong, it’s good or it’s bad, and I think life is slightly more complicated than that.”
The book not only asks the reader to question the characters they have grown to love and empathize with, but to question themselves and what their own morals would dictate if forced to make Tom and Isabel’s tough decisions.
Having predominantly written short stories in the past, Stedman was surprised to discover during the writing process that the story had developed into a novel. She compares her writing inspiration to Thing from The Addams Family: it unexpectedly creeps up on her.
“I just sat down on my sofa one afternoon in March 2008, I closed my eyes, and I saw a lighthouse.” Gradually the location, Tom, and the washed up boat made their way into the picture and Stedman wrote what she saw.
Stedman is a mysterious character. She has no official website, she requested that no photographs be taken of her during the event, and the Simon & Schuster profile reveals only that she was born and raised in Western Australia and she currently resides in London. The first rounds of The Light Between Oceans’ edits were conducted in London writing groups. Since researching material for her book, Stedman says she’s become obsessed with lighthouses.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Amanda Bynes’s Behavior Revealed to Be Elaborate PSA
- 2 Obama Horrified by the Grammar in Our Emails
- 3 Monster Fart Prompting Management to Rethink “Open Office”
- 4 NSA Demanded Access To Un-Filtered Instagram Photos
- 5 Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Ambushed By Alan ‘The Paper’ Rubinstein
- 6 ‘Licensed to Kim Jong Il’ Records 27th Straight Year Atop N. Korean Charts
- 7 ‘A/S/L’ Most Asked Question At Kaplan Online University Reunion
- 8 Vice Magazine Now Only Hiring Writers Who Fail Drug Test
- 9 Stanley Cup Final One Blowout Away From “Boston Massacre” Headline Outrage