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Damaged Houses

A master craftsman, Don Lark could fix everything except what mattered, his own soul. After tragedy claimed the one thing he loved, he began looking for dilapidated houses to buy, renovate, and resell at a profit—giving these empty shells the second chance at life he denied himself.

Damaged Souls

Then in a quiet Southern town, Lark finds his biggest challenge: a squalid yet sturdy mansion that ...

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Homebody: A Novel

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Damaged Houses

A master craftsman, Don Lark could fix everything except what mattered, his own soul. After tragedy claimed the one thing he loved, he began looking for dilapidated houses to buy, renovate, and resell at a profit—giving these empty shells the second chance at life he denied himself.

Damaged Souls

Then in a quiet Southern town, Lark finds his biggest challenge: a squalid yet sturdy mansion that has suffered decades of abuse at the hands of greedy landlords and transient tenants. While two charming old neighbor ladies ply him with delicious cooking, they offer dire warnings about the house's evil past. But there is something about this building that pushes Lark on, even as its enchantments grow increasingly ominous. Will finishing the house offer Lark redemption, or unleash the darkest forces of damnation upon him?

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Orson Scott Card, bestselling author and master of the science fiction and fantasy genres, presents Homebody: A Novel, a spine-chilling tale about a man who must overcome the demons of his past -- and the bitterly sad demons he unwittingly stirs up while renovating a faded Southern mansion.

When driving through Greensboro, North Carolina, Don Lark happens upon a derelict 1870s mansion that's crying out for restoration, and he envisions a job that will bring him temporary distraction and a tidy profit. He buys the property, intending to restore the house to its former glory and then, as with past projects, sell it and move on. There's just one problem -- this once beautiful house has a way of holding on to those who cross its threshold. Lark's aging neighbors, Miss Evelyn and Miss Judea, stridently pray that he leave the house during a get-to-know-the-new-man meal: "Bless him to be smart enough to get the hell out of that house before it eats him alive." Don Lark doesn't know it, but this house will eventually change his life -- or take it.

Card deftly captures the atmosphere of a small Southern town, from the charms of an overhanging willow to the endearingly entrenched etiquette of his protective neighbors. He dares the reader to peer inside a troubled house and its equally troubled tenants. Ultimately, he offers compelling evidence that a strong will and a good heart can make a house a home, but not until the owner reckons with both personal and otherworldly demons.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like its haunted-house centerpiece, Card's third dark fantasy novel has great potential that shines through its superfluous detail. The Bellamy mansion is a venerable Victorian pile that has seen better days when it catches the eye of Don Lark, a widower who "turns his loneliness and grief into the restoration of beautiful old houses. Don's labors to restore the mansion to its former grandeur introduce him to a succession of women receptive to his emotional needs, including an amorous real estate agent, three dotty elderly neighbors who urge him to demolish the place and Sylvie Delaney, a squatter who has lived in the house secretly for a decade. All have been drawn to the mansion and its legacy of corrupted splendor through the shame of their private lives and one turns out to be ghost whose past troubles are a touchstone for analogies between Don's home improvements and the need to rebuild dignity and character. Card's imaginative use of the haunted-house theme to explore the haunting power of guilt and remorse is deflated by facile observations on the theological significance of human suffering. All of his characters are sensitive studies of the crippling effects of emotional trauma, but several serve no purpose other than to speed the sometimes sluggish plot along with timely advice and miraculous feats of magic. These shortcomings aside, the novel is a powerful tale of healing and redemption that skillfully balances supernatural horrors with spiritual uplift.
VOYA - Pam Carlson
Can a house actually be alive and take on the personality of its owner for good or evil? Don Lark never thought so-but then he met the Bellamy house, and the women of the house: homeless Sylvie, who refuses to leave, and Miz Evvie, Miz Judea, and the mysterious Gladys, neighbors who beg him to tear it down. Inside the house tools move by themselves, and nail holes heal overnight. It seems to be getting stronger as Don restores its former structure and grandeur. Secrets are revealed: Sylvie is not only homeless, she is lifeless, having been murdered by a former roommate. Problem: Don has fallen in love with her. Is there a way to rescue everyone and destroy the power of the house once and for all? In a furious fight to the death, the Bellamy house throws everything it has at Don, stabbing him with nails and attacking him with his own tools. Its malice cannot stand against Don and Gladys, however. When the dust settles, the house is destroyed and the people are free to truly live. Readers will have to wait a long time for the truth of this house to be revealed, as some characters are established while others are discarded. The mystery of Sylvie is an unexpected twist and after its revelation, the action accelerates and does not stop. Patient readers will be well rewarded and Mr./Ms. Fix-its may think twice from now on. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
When Don Lark begins restoring a faded Southern mansion, the house and neighborhood come alive with enchanting characters. Don himself is haunted by his tragic past-his alcoholic ex-wife killed herself and their young daughter in an automobile accident. His new neighbors, Miz Judea and Miz Evelyn, try to convince him not to repair the mansion, telling him that it is dangerous to continue the restoration. He discovers that the house is haunted by a squatter, Sylvie, who also implores him to leave it as it is. When Don discovers an old tunnel in the cellar, the mysteries of the house have an effect on all of them and Sylvie and his neighbors come together to prevent evils of the past from taking over their lives. This novel is fast-paced, magical, and full of unusual characters. The supernatural aspects are surprising, amazing readers and compelling them to continue reading to find out who survives. -- Alice Silver, Robert E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Memphis Comm. Appeal
The pace is headlong, the protagonist's dilemmas compelling, and the supernatural aspects well-described and consistent. Card is quite a craftsman and builds his treasure box here with a sure and steady hand.
Dayton Daily News
Card's books [are] thoughtful, well-crafted stories of fully fleshed characters in situations so wonderfully weird the reader can't help but feel bored by read life. Card's folks are right there, ready to do the smart thing, the brave thing, with second throughts dogging their every step. They're all too human. . . .It's pure imagination, pure wonder, total fun. Card is able to take the reader for a ride leading who-knows-where, and engenders enough confidence in the driver for us all to just sit back and keep the pages turning. Good as gold.
Kirkus Reviews
Another mainstream contemporary supernatural (Treasure Box, 1996; Lost Boys, 1992) from sf/fantasy author Card. Builder Don Lark's life fell apart after his drunken ex-wife killed their two-year-old daughter in a car smash; now he looks for old houses to buy, fix up, and sell, and then move on. In Greensboro, North Carolina, realtor Cindy Claybourne sells him the Bellamy house, a magnificent but badly neglected residence. Don's new neighbors, the ancient Miz Evelyn, Miz Judea, and their bedridden companion Gladys, seem nice enough but mutter darkly about the house. Meanwhile, Don and Cindy find each other attractive, though when they realize that they both have inconsolable sorrows, their affair subsides—while as a result Don is forced to pay quit money to a local lawyer who threatens to blackmail him. And, he discovers, the house is inhabited by curiously elusive Sylvie Delaney, who seems able to drift in and out when she pleases and requires no food or drink. Still, the renovations go well until Don realizes that the stronger the house gets, the weaker his neighbors become. The 'Weird Sisters' next door, it turns out, were prostitutes in the house in the 1920s when it was a brothel and speakeasy, and it still has some sort of hold on them. Sylvie the ghost was another former resident: during the renovation, Don discovers her body in an abandoned tunnel. Ironically, though, Sylvie didn't realize she was dead—she thought she'd murdered her roomie, Lissy, ten years earlier, but the reverse was true. And now Don, emotionally involved with Sylvie, must somehow trace the murderous, long-vanished Lissy and trick her into returning to the house for a showdown.Solid but undistinguished work, not high either in tension or in depth.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061093999
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/2005
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 452,526
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card has won several Hugo and Nebula Awards for his works of speculative fiction, among them the Ender series and The Tales of Alvin Maker. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife and four children.

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    1. Hometown:
      Greensboro, North Carolina
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 24, 1951
    2. Place of Birth:
      Richland, Washington
    1. Education:
      B.A. in theater, Brigham Young University, 1975; M.A. in English, University of Utah, 1981
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

New House


Dr. Calhoun Bellamy made it a point to stay away from his property while the crew was tearing down the old Varley house. He didn't want to remember scenes of destruction. All he wanted to see was each step in the construction of the new house, the one he had designed for Renee and for the children they would have together.

Architecture was all he had wanted to study, ever since his father sent him abroad after the War Between the States. It wasn't the grandeur of the great buildings of Europe, the cathedrals and palaces, monuments and museums, that made him long to be a shaper of human spaces. Rather it was the country houses of Tuscany, Provence, and England. In his mind they formed a strange amalgam: the rambling outdoors-indoors of the villas designed for the perpetual summer and spring of the Mediterranean, and the bright-windowed tight enclosures in which the English managed to frolic despite the bitter winter and the endless rain. He came home full of ideas for houses that would transform American life, only to find that architects weren't interested in new ideas. No one would take this mad young man as a student. At last Cal settled down to study medicine and follow in his father's footsteps.

But now, with his marriage less than a year away, he was granting himself one last indulgence. In consultation with an architect from Richmond, he had designed a house which seemed to be a conventional Victorian on the outside, but which on the inside preserved some of the ideas he had developed abroad. Nothing too strange, just a different use of space that made him dream of the swirling dancers at a country-house ball, witharches that reminded him of the open doors and passageways of the Riviera and the hills above Florence. The architect tried to persuade him that no one would be comfortable in such a house, but Cal responded with cheerful obstinacy. This was the house he wanted; the architect's job was to draw up plans for a structure that would last, as Cal modestly suggested, until the Rapture.

"Do you happen to know when that might be?" asked the architect, only a little superciliously. "I wouldn't want to waste your money on excessive sturdiness."

"Make it last forever," said Cal. "Just in case."

All that remained now was for the old Quaker family's house, which had been standing longer than Greensborough had been a town, to be cleared from the lot on Baker Street. The city was growing toward the west, and although this was not the wealthiest neighborhood, it was the most tasteful. It was fitting that the son and heir of the most prominent physician in the city should build his bride a house on such a piece of land. The wooded gully at the back of the lot would guarantee privacy and a wild-seeming, natural setting; the large carriagehouse and servants' quarters would separate the house from the neighbors on the one side; and shaded residential streets bounded the property on the other two sides. In effect, the house would stand alone, conventionally graceful on the outside, a place of surprise and enchantment within.
So Cal was not pleased when a servant boy came all out of breath into his offices and insisted on giving him a message from the foreman of the wrecking crew. "You best come, sir. What they found you gots to see."

"Tell them to wait half an hour-doesn't it occur to them I have patients whose needs are urgent?"

The boy only looked puzzled. There was no hope of his delivering the message coherently.

"Never mind. Just tell them to wait until I get there."

"Yes sir," said the boy, and off he ran again. No doubt the moment he was out of sight he'd amble as slowly as possible. That's the way it was with these people. You could make them free, but you couldn't make workers out of them. There was a limit to what Northern arms could impose on a prostrate South.

In truth he had no patients that afternoon and so it was only a few moments before he set out from his office, walking because it was such a fine day. He expected to pass the boy on the way, but apparently he was either more ambitious than Cal had expected or better at hiding.

Cal was not surprised to see the entire crew lolling around-getting paid, no doubt, for their waiting time. But if the foreman was at all embarrassed about wasting Cal's money, he showed no sign of it. "Something none of us was expecting, sir," said the foreman, "and there was nothing for it but to ask you to decide."

"Decide what?"

"I reckon you best come down into the old cellar with me and I'll show you."

With the house a ruin, it wasn't a safe enterprise, slipping down into the darkness of the cellar. Even when they got to the brightly lighted place where the floor above had been torn away, it was tricky walking without banging head or shins into some lurking obstruction. But at last the foreman brought him to a stone foundation wall with a small hole knocked in it.


Cal definitely did not see. Not till the foreman took out several more stones and held a lantern into the opening. Only then did it become clear that there was a tunnel connecting the cellar with . . . what?

"Where does it lead?"

"Sent the boy down there, and he popped out in the gully. Looks like them Varleys was smuggling niggers out before the war."

Cal tightened his lips. "I hope you'll never use that term in my presence again."

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Interviews & Essays

On Friday, March 20th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Orson Scott Card to discuss HOMEBODY.

Moderator: Good evening and welcome, Orson Scott Card! We're glad you could join us.

Ender Wigin from ewigin@rocketmail.com: Mr. Card, what event in your life has affected your writing most, and why? Or if that is too personal: Some people say that a writer's style "evolves" to encompass each individual story that is told. Do you feel that your writing evolves for each story? How about evolution between novels for example, ENDER'S GAME and SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD? These are questions I have wondered about for a while as I try to understand how one man can write on so many varied topics...

Orson Scott Card: There is no single event that I can point to. Everything in my life shows up in my fiction, one way or another. My handicapped son, Charlie, shows up in the story "The Fringe" and the Homecoming novels. My Mormon upbringing is all-pervasive. My siblings show up in various books. My son Geoffrey and my daughter Emily are here and there. Incidents from my school life, from the lives of my children, from my wife's life; dreams that friends have told me; everything I've ever read -- how can I single out one incident or event and declare it the one that has most affected my writing? As to a writer's "style," I have no patience with writers who even think about it. A narrative voice matters; a writer's style matters only insofar as it interferes with his ability to communicate with his audience. I find the voice that is appropriate for the narrator and the narrator that is appropriate for the story. So it can be the polemic by a character in HART'S HOPE, or the account narrated by a character in many people's voices in the Alvin Maker books, or a neutral voice that remains as unobtrusive as possible in the Ender books, or the deliberately musical, cadenced voice in SONGMASTER...et cetera. But style? My style consists of annoying habits, which I get rid of or control as best I can. So does every writer's style. After we have eliminated all the annoying habits we are conscious of, only the unconscious ones remain; that is our style.

D. R. Commander from akmaro@flash.net: Mr. Card, in reading many of your novels, particularly the sagas like Ender, Alvin Maker, and Homecoming, I have noticed that one of the threads that binds these seemingly disparate works together is the similarity of experiences and personalities of many of the characters. One could argue that Ender = Alvin = Nafai = Lanik, at least on some level, and there are often the same types of conflicts present in these stories brother versus brother, child versus bully, et cetera. Your portrayal of these experiences and many others is so real and vivid that I often wonder how many of them are based upon real-life experiences you or people you know may have had as a child. So, I guess my question is this: In creating the characters that we know and love, do you try to mold them specifically after people in your own life or even on events in your own life? Growing up, did you have any brothers or sisters, and if so, how did your relationship with them compare with that of Ender's and Nafai's siblings? Were you ever traumatized by bullies like Ender? I apologize for getting personal. Your novels bring to life such wonderful creations who seem almost as real to me as people I've known for years, and you seem to have such a firm grasp on human nature, that often in reading your works, it seems like I'm reading about myself instead of someone in a far-distant future setting. Keep them coming!

Orson Scott Card: One could argue that Ender = Alvin = Nafai = Lanik, and one could argue that they are as different as, say, any of the main characters in Hemingway or Twain or Austen. Where is the brother-brother conflict in the Alvin books? Where is the deformed body in Ender, Alvin, or Nafai? Where is the extraordinary power in Nafai? If there are similarities, it is because unconsciously I am drawn to stories about similar things, but I certainly have no common theme binding them all together. To me, at least, each story has its own origin. Ender began with the battle school and was extrapolated from there; Alvin is an allegorical American history based on the life of Joseph Smith; Nafai's story is flat-out based on the man Nephi in the Book of Mormon; Lanik came from the "cool idea" of people who inadvertently grow extra body parts and what it might mean within a society in which this is not entirely uncommon. The brothers in Nafai's story were dictated by the source material. The brother and sister in ENDER'S GAME were based loosely and subjectively on my perceptions of my older brother and sister when I was a child. My older brother didn't torture animals. Let's set the record straight on that! [grins] On the rare occasions when I base some aspect of a character on someone that I know personally, I go to great pains to make sure the character resembles that person in no other way. The only exception is in my novel LOST BOYS, which is explicitly based on my own family in 1983 and for a few years afterward. My oldest son is definitely still alive, however; but Stevie was definitely based on my son Geoffrey and on experiences he had except, of course, the experience with the child-killer; Step and Deanne are based on me and Kristine. Even then, I made them different from us in important ways. I do much better, actually, when I invent my characters than when I base them on real people. That's because real people are impossible to understand, while my made-up characters are exactly what I think them to be. But then, unconsciously, certain things do show up. Was I "traumatized" by bullies as a child? Oh, that's a bit much. But I did get frightened by a couple of bullies when I was a child, yes. I had victim written all over me, apparently. Like the troll on the bridge, one bully let every other kid but me pass him on the path to Millikin Elementary in Santa Clara, CA. But me, of course, he had to pounce on. Go figure. However, I never did an Ender-like thing in those cases. Mostly I cried and ran away. [grins] I was, after all, only six. Most humiliating, though, is the fact that the bully was five. No Ender here, obviously!

Paige Porter-Brown from paigepb@atlantic.net: You have diversified your interests recently, writing not only SF but mainstream fiction and screenplays while continuing your interest in the stage. If all goes the way you hope, what do you see yourself doing five and ten years from now? Do you think that you might choose one medium over the others? Or will the range of your writing interests remain as broad as or broader than they are now? I understand that it is very hard to predict one's own professional path, so I will not, in any way, feel offended if you choose not to answer this question.

Orson Scott Card: I really haven't "diversified my interests recently." My interests have always been diversified. My first published book was a child-rearing book; my historical novel SAINTS was published as WOMAN OF DESTINY, damn them in 1984, before ENDER'S GAME. All through my early SF years I was writing a series of audioplays for Living Scriptures in Ogden, Utah, dealing with American history, LDS Church history, and the New and Old Testaments hundreds of half-hour scripts, over the years. I think what you're seeing is the willingness of various publishers to gamble on publishing my out-of-genre writings. Even at that, they won't touch anything without some supernatural element. Straight mainstream stuff? Not a chance. No one wants to publish it, and I can't afford to write what won't get published. So...I tell ghost stories. I tell stories I care about and believe in -- but some stories I would love to tell I can't afford to write and publish. Yet. In film, however, I am writing things that are not completely in genre. There's a chance. In film, you aren't so locked in. Yes, if you're known as a sitcom writer, you won't get picked easily for a drama -- but if you write a spec pilot for a drama, and it gets bought, then you're picked for it! There's less of a chance of getting something produced at all -- but more of a chance of not getting locked into writing only one kind of thing.

Simon Tanner from University of Hertfordshire: Does OSC have any control or input over his book cover art? There seems to be such diversity of standard and style, accuracy to the book content, and appropriateness that I would be interested in whether he actually likes the way his own product is presented.... I'm thinking here of the lovely cover for PASTWATCH, the evocation of the LOST BOYS cover, the constantly changing art style for the Alvin series, some really great art RED PROPHET, and some really average art ALVIN JOURNEYMAN -- plus the changing appearance of Alvin, the disaster of HOT SLEEP, an early work with the nude robot woman, the spaceship theme for the Ender series, the good representation of content in the Homecoming series, matched by the dull edge to the artwork. There seems to be an evolution here, and I wonder if this is OSC's doing as he gains more overall control of his product.

Orson Scott Card: I have no control whatsoever over my cover art. Sometimes I love it the cover of MEMORY OF EARTH. Sometimes it's downright shameful the covers of the U.S. hardcover of WYRMS; the original U.S. paperback of WOMAN OF DESTINY. Most of the time, I'm grateful merely not to be embarrassed or annoyed by the cover. The changing style of art for the Alvin books is partly, I suspect, because the artist, Dennis Nolan, has become much, much more expensive in the years since the series began. [grins] Perhaps and I'm only guessing they're trying to keep the cost the same, and so they get less and less art from him for each new cover. [grins] I won't go into detailed criticism of covers on my work beyond what I've said. I know that the editors and art directors are generally doing their best. The fact that the HOMEBODY cover tends to disappear on the stands and the title can't be read is a design problem; the concept was all right. But could I have chosen or designed or thought up a better cover? I doubt it. I don't think that author control guarantees better covers -- it is likely only to reveal authorial ineptness at cover choice. I've published some books, you see, where I had cover control over other authors' books -- and most of them hated what I did. However, the thing to keep in mind is that the cover of a book is a billboard. It is the primary advertisement for the book. It is not an illustration, and it is not an art gallery. If you look at the book, pick it up, read some of the blurbs, read the opening paragraphs, then the cover was a good one -- regardless of what you think of it as art or as illustration.

Lanny from Denver: How did you think of the story idea for HOMEBODY? It is so imaginative.

Orson Scott Card: I'm glad you like the idea of HOMEBODY. I wish I remembered. It began by combining the idea of a haunted house with the idea of a guy who renovates houses. You can imagine that one might come up with a lot of silly plots for such a story -- imagine "Home, but Not So Alone" with all kinds of "antics." Or the mouse movie that came out this Christmas -- except that the "ghost" is a little rodent; it represents one set of clichés. What made this click for me was when I found who the ghost was and who the haunted man was. It was in the human beings that the story came alive. The little old ladies and one not so little lady next door were just a bonus. [grins]

Penny Freeman from Texas: Mr. Card: I think your book I relished reading most was SAINTS, as it put the human face/touch on an otherwise tight-laced history. Besides growing to love your main character, I was also intrigued with your treatment of Emma Smith. I appreciate your compassionate portrayal of a sometimes maligned/unsympathetic character. I also fancy I feel this same tone in your portrayal of Peggy Larner. My question: Would you be interested in penning a similar fictional historical biography of Emma as the main character? Her story is a Greek tragedy to which I think few could do justice. Sounds like a job for OSC.

Orson Scott Card: I'm glad you liked SAINTS, and the treatment of Emma was one of the most delicate tasks I set myself. She was a woman much to be admired, but came out on the wrong end of a quarrel with Brigham Young that permanently stained her reputation in the LDS Church. I think non-Mormons have no trouble at all seeing her sympathetically -- it's Joseph Smith they have trouble with. [grins] So my task was to make Joseph Smith sympathetic or at least comprehensible to non-Mormons and to Mormons who deify him, while making Emma comprehensible and sympathetic to Mormons, who have got the other version of her. However, I've done all the representation of Emma that I intend to do in my fiction. A full exploration of her character by a fiction writer will have to await another author -- why not you, since you believe in and care about her?

Kyle from humbuggy@earthlink.net: Dear Mr. Card, I would first like to thank you for all the hours of entertainment and reflection that your books have given me, though I do have a rather minor complaint in that I'm a person who had rather prided myself on being able to think deeply on different subjects, but after reading one of your novels I always feel quite humbled in that respect! Oh well. Now as to my knavish inquiries... I've noticed that in recent years, many artists seem to be communicating more and more with their public such as over the net, and so I was wondering whether, upon reflection, you feel that a writer's interaction with his readers is necessarily a good thing, or could it be a case of too much of a good thing in the sense of maybe having an overload of input or feedback, and thereby perhaps running the risk that some of a work's original vitality and freshness may be lost? Also, is there any topic or person that you haven't yet written about that you would like to? Anyway, keep up the good writing after all, someone has to keep me humble....

Orson Scott Card: I appreciate well-done flattery, and yours was clever indeed. [grins] I've found that the best interaction with my readers is in the form of writing novels or stories or scripts and then putting them out for volunteers to buy and read. [grins] I know that some readers like to put a human face with the author of a book, but the main frustration for me is that I know that readers are invariably disappointed when they meet me. My fictional characters all get to say the clever things that I only think of on the way home from the party; my fictional characters can be extravagantly noble or undergo great suffering, while my life is quotidian and my virtues of quite ordinary dimensions. Also, my characters are, every one of them, better looking than me. So with each public appearance, I can almost see people saying, "Oh. I was expecting someone more, um, Ender-like." And yet...writing is a lonely profession. I'm a dramatist by inclination. I need the audience. Sometimes I need to see them face to face, talking to them and feeling that enormous swell of energy that comes from such living communication. More often, I simply need to be among the audience, watching their response to something I've written. How can I get that for a novel, though? I doubt you'd really enjoy reading my novels the way my wife has to read them, with the author watching intently and at the faintest trace of a smile saying, "What? What was funny?" And then there's the problem of time. I get the same questions over and over -- why shouldn't I? They come from people who have read the same books! [grins] Each one deserves a courteous answer, yet if I answered each inquiry individually, I'd have time for little else. A web site helps me by answering some of the more obvious questions -- though it's discouraging how many people email me, tell me how much they liked my web site, and then ask me questions that are clearly answered on the web site already! I guess they don't read software manuals, either. [grins] Every public appearance I make ends up interfering with my writing -- and also with my free time with my family. So I am trying to hold them to a minimum. At the same time, it can be energizing and exhilarating to give a talk or reading or to do a signing -- I generally enjoy them when I'm actually doing them, except for the occasional needy person who perches him or herself near me at a signing and tries to dominate every conversation with every person who comes up to have a book signed. If you have ever done this, repent at once! Each person who comes to the front of a signing line deserves the undivided attention of the author for those moments. A signing is not a time for a three-hour chat with the author! [grins] There. You've heard my grousing. Thanks for listening.

Leslie from White Plains: I know you have written a great number of books. Do you have a favorite among your novels -- if so, why that particular one? Were any of your books especially hard to write in terms of writer's block? Do you ever put aside one and come back to it later after writing another?

Orson Scott Card: My favorite book is the one I'm writing right now. In this case, a novel of the waking of sleeping beauty in 1990 in western Ukraine, called ENCHANTMENT. The first few chapters will go up on my web site www.hatrack.com soon. Of past books, I can only say that each represents the best job I could do at that stage in my life and art of writing a story I believed in and cared about. Some are more personal, like LOST BOYS; some were more fun. I enjoy writing the Alvin books more than anything, though HOMEBODY and TREASURE BOX were lots of fun, too. ENDER'S GAME is the foundation of my career -- before it, I lived from advance to advance; after it, all my books earned out their advances, and I started getting royalties for the first time. If you think that doesn't cause an author to feel great affection for a book, think again! [grins] SAINTS is my love song to my own people. HART'S HOPE may be my best, most imaginative storytelling -- despite its flaws. As I think of each novel, I remember the things I cared enough about to make me write it. I suppose the thing I love best about these novels is that there's not a single piece of hackwork among them. That is, I wrote only books I wanted to write; I never wrote a book just for money, nor changed one for the money. The money lets me write more of them because I can do it full time, but it does not determine what I write, except that I can't take the time to write what no one will pay me for. I came close, recently. I was offered the chance to do the flagship volume of a franchised series. The only thing that tempted me to do it was money, and it was over money that I finally turned it down. But now I can say, with relief, that I'm glad I didn't do it. Because I think it's a book I would have been ashamed of later. Some might think that THE ABYSS my novelization is an exception. I can only respond by saying that I was paid less for THE ABYSS than for any book from that era or since. I did it because I loved Jim Cameron's script, and he gave me great freedom. I thought it a worthy project to adapt a fine film and make a good novel out of it. Having done it the once, I see little need to do it again.

Randy from Atlanta: As a multiple award winner, how has success affected your writing? Does it put any pressure on you as you sit down to write each new book?

Orson Scott Card: I've never thought of awards while writing. There was a time when I cared deeply about the awards -- for instance, when UNACCOMPANIED SONATA did not win a Hugo, I despaired of ever winning an award, because I did not think I had it within my power to write so good a tale again. By the time ENDER'S GAME and SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD won, however, I'd become a bit more cynical -- and even if I hadn't been, the nastiness and childishness of some members of SFWA would have cured me of any naive belief in these awards. Let's just say that when SFWA gives you a Nebula with one hand, there is no shortage of people taking away any pleasure you might get out of it with the other. The practical advantage of the SF awards is that you are more likely to make foreign rights sales than before. But...my work was already being translated widely. Since the awards, however, it's almost automatic, at least in some countries. And the awards, or the prospect of awards, have no effect on my writing whatsoever. These things have more to do with fashion than with accomplishment. I was suddenly in fashion in the mid-1980s. You don't see me being nominated at all these days -- and I'm doing better work. Why? Because there's nothing cool about "discovering" me now. But, maybe ten more years from now, I'll be "cool" again. Will it be because I've done something different in my writing? Of course not. But if an award is proffered, you'll never see me pulling a Brando or a George C. Scott. If nominated I will blush for the camera; if awarded I will hold the thing aloft with a big, foolish grin on my face. Why not? It's fun, and it does mean something, even if it doesn't mean as much as some people think.

Wanda from Sherman Oaks: What time of day do you write? I would imagine you are a night hawk. When are you most inspired?

Orson Scott Card: Generally I write when I'm awake. This time frame varies from day to day. When I'm writing at a leisurely pace, I generally have one session a day, which can be in the early afternoon after my rituals with the newspaper and Dannon Double-Delite Yogurt or late at night. When I'm under pressure, though like right now, I try for two sessions a day, about 5,000 words per session. Then I write both in the early afternoon and again during the evening. I'm doing this interview instead of a writing session. Even this gives too much of an illusion of planning and regularity. Most days I don't write at all -- and those are the best days. I'd rather read or watch movies or hang out with my family or go to fine restaurants or watch my favorite TV series. And even though what I wrote above describes what I have done for the last few years, I never decided to do any of these things, and it can vary. I once wrote a novel CHILDREN OF THE MIND in the afternoons and evenings while writing the dialogue for THE DIG during the morning and playing Colonization for several hours each day as well. I have no idea how I did it. Just the thought of it exhausts me now. I was younger then -- 44 instead of 47. Makes all the difference. [grins]

Samantha from Trenton, New Jersey: Forty novels is quite a lot. What is your average per year? Are you locked into a certain number by a publishing contract?

Orson Scott Card: I think I've written a lot of books. But all my publisher seems to see is that I've turned them all in late. Some years I write three books. Some years I write none. Then there are the books you don't see -- or the nonbook projects. For instance, in 1996 I wrote a religious novel, STONE TABLES adapted from my 1973 musical drama with Robert Stoddard, composer, and I also wrote a new musical comedy, "Barefoot to Zion," at the behest of the Mormon Church. It ran this summer in Utah to sold-out houses. My brother, Arlen Card, was the composer. It was some of the best writing I've done -- I'm especially proud of the songwriting we did for it. But this [past] year gets counted as a year of only one novel for the general public -- I wrote HEARTFIRE, the next Alvin book, this summer and early fall. Yet I worked as hard as ever, if not harder. I also wrote the script for the pilot of the series "The Gate," which I am creating for the WB. You may or may not see the results of that project, too. So how do I calculate an average? Can't do it.

Andy from Hoboken, New Jersey: Is it true that you have a new Alvin book releasing soon?

Orson Scott Card: HEARTFIRE is scheduled to ship the first week of July. An excerpt will be published in Amazing Stories, which will be relaunching this spring. I also have a separate Alvin story, called "Grinning Man," which will be in an anthology edited by Robert Silverberg. The concept of the anthology is to have stories from leading fantasy series -- but which won't be in any of the novels. I've also written an Ender story for Silverberg's anthology of stories from leading SF series. It's the story of how Ender meets Jane. I think it's fun; hope y'all like it too. [grins]

June from Georgia: What are some of your trade secrets on building suspense in a story line? Do you have a set formula which you try to use for each book? I notice in HOMEBODY that the root cellar appears in the first chapter but then doesn't really become a part of the story line until the last half...is foreshadowing a key part of your suspense mechanism?

Orson Scott Card: The root cellar isn't, technically speaking, foreshadowing. The rule is that any major device must be established well before it is used. There is no set "formula," though there is something of a toolbox. For instance, with HOMEBODY it was important to let the reader know before the ghost is introduced that strange things are possible with this house. In the first draft which was, by the way, a screenplay, I initially did not introduce anything odd until the tools started moving around on the floor of the house. But that wasn't soon enough, I realized, and so I introduced the self-healing doorjamb when the hero removes the old padlock assembly. That's really an exposition thing, though, not a suspense thing. Ditto with the root cellar -- because so many vital things happen in it, I had to establish its existence very early on. I even established rather a red herring -- or at least an innocent explanation -- so that you would think that finding it had only to do with discovering that it had something to do with hiding runaway slaves -- a sort of Micheneresque touch. When I used it for other purposes, later, well -- that was gravy, yes? In creating suspense, the key isnot to withhold information as most amateur writers suppose but to give as much information as possible -- preferably more information than is known to the characters. If you have someone walking up the stairs in a strange building, there's suspense, yes, because we always suspect that when a writer bothers to include stair walking, it's going to matter what he encounters at the top or bottom of the stairs. In movies, they can also put in oogly music, which is often all that they do to create suspense. But if I want you to be wetting your pants as you read that stair-climbing passage, I will give you information that the character has -- that someone died upstairs, for instance, or that there are strange noises, or footprints on the stairs, et cetera. I might even find a way to give you even more information than the character has. For instance, you might have seen a strange creature climbing the drainpipe outside, or I might have shown you the scene where the madman goes berserk and cuts several people to ribbons in the room at the top of the stairs, and you know that either the hero will find the scene of the massacre, or he will find the madman still there, waiting for him. Or worse! But the suspense is far greater if you know more. Only the outcome remains in doubt. It's like telling a joke. The better the setup, the better the gag.

Donna Ackerman from Prairie Du Sac, Wisconsin: I am reading PASTWATCH, and I am thrilled with the concept it presents. Where do you come up with your ideas?

Orson Scott Card: PASTWATCH arose from my reading of a book on Columbus and Cortez, whose title, alas, I cannot remember at this moment -- but I cite it in the acknowledgments -- or the bibliography -- of PASTWATCH. I read constantly. I also have a life. Between the two, ideas come all the time -- far more than I can write. In my fiction-writing classes, I show my students how easy ideas are -- the hard part is structuring them into fiction. In other words, ideas are cheap, but storytelling is hard!

Victor Neves from vcneves@plato.qi3.com: I first read ENDER'S GAME just after I went to a BSA leadership training camp, and the processes in the book reminded me a lot of my experience on the hill. Is this a coincidence, or have you been to some advanced leadership training in the Scouts?

Orson Scott Card: BSA = Boy Scouts of America? Forgive me, but Boy Scouts is officially incorporated into the LDS Church program for boys ages 11-13, and optionally beyond that. We are all forced to take part, and with rare exceptions I loathed every moment of scouting. I know that there are other boys who feel differently, but my idea of roughing it is staying in a hotel without room service. If I never camp again it will be too soon. Nor am I much enamored of the whole scouting program. I think it's good for the boys it's good for -- but for boys like me, who love theater and reading and poetry and debate and art and music, scouting is such an utter waste of time that it is beyond comprehension why anyone thinks that it's right for every boy -- as the LDS Church leadership persists in thinking. I realize that this may take you by surprise, and you certainly don't deserve the vehemence of my response! As I said, for those boys who enjoy and benefit from the program, scouting can be wonderful, I'm sure. But I was forced into it and found myself insulted by its feeble attempts at dealing with my interests. So...I guess my answer to your question is: No, I've never been to advanced leadership training in the Scouts. Furthermore, I am terrified if the monstrous training program in ENDER'S GAME reminded you of scouting. This may be the most disturbing comment I ever received from a reader. [grins]

Aaron Plikt from Temple, Texas:

Orson Scott Card: Thank you for the kind words about the effectiveness of my work. Let me suggest that for some readers my work has that sort of effect, but for many others my work simply leaves them cold or even annoys them. Would that I could write with universal insight. But alas, I'm merely mortal. As to the specific question dealing with SONGMASTER: I'm a musician, but not a good one. I was a boy soprano. I also played French horn and tuba now there's a change in embouchure in junior high and high school back in the days when California had a great school music program -- you know, before proposition 29. During the '60s I played guitar and sang folk songs with my friends. Nowadays I sing and and sometimes conduct the church choir I'm a baritone, but since I can usually hit the tenor notes, that's the section I generally sing in. Music is important in my life -- I have music playing constantly while I write at the moment, I'm playing through a nifty set of 13 CDs of the complete piano music of Chopin. Specifically, though, SONGMASTER was really my attempt to duplicate "Ender's Game" -- the short story. That is, the short story "Mikal's Songbird" was a deliberate attempt to imitate the short story "Ender's Game." That's because after selling "Ender's Game," I sold two more stories in rapid succession -- but each needing more rewrites than the one before. Then I wrote four or five stories that did not sell immediately and I panicked. I went back to "Ender's Game" and tried to figure out what worked. Like every idiot in Hollywood, I tried to duplicate the formula: Child in jeopardy; fate of the world hangs in the balance. Ender was a genius at war; what could I make Ansset a genius at? Ah! Music! Bingo! By the time I wrote the novel, I had outgrown that panicky need, and so the novel is much more mature and developed and nonformulaic. And, in case anyone's wondering, the many other books and stories that deal with children are not further attempts to duplicate "Ender's Game." Instead, they are merely reflections of the fact that character is formed in childhood, and you can't understand the adult without seeing the child. And because I loathe flashbacks and try to avoid them wherever possible, it is more direct and effective to begin the story with the main character's childhood and go from there.

Blake Davis from Morrristown: One of the reasons I always liked your books was that it was possible to find a three-dimensional human being in them who was genuinely "good," as opposed to many authors who can only draw true portraits of the bad guys. Is this the type of thing you try for that is, realistic portrays of good people?

Orson Scott Card: Blake Davis, I'd love to take you around with me wherever I go. You got it! That is the single most important thing I try for in every story I write. I am completely uninterested in exploring "evil." Evil and weak and wicked people are all evil or weak, or wicked in the same boring ways. But good people are infinitely interesting in the ways they manage to be good despite all the awful circumstances of their lives. People who sneer at "goody two shoes" are really either resentful of people who use their "goodness" as a weapon which is just one more way of being evil, or are themselves not good people and so experience the goodness of others as a rebuke. That's why I walked out of "Pulp Fiction." It was boring, tedious, affected, and thought it was clever. It's why I loved "The Apostle," slow as the story was -- because Duvall's script and performance were a fascinating exploration of someone doing his best to be good in spite of his own weakness. I don't believe in the character's religion, but the movie never made me decide whether I believed it or not. Rather it showed me people who did believe, and a man who finally had to decide to act on that belief. When he looks through the window in the diner and sees the woman he's been trying to seduce eating with her husband and children and realizes that he was trying to do to her and her family exactly what another man had done to his wife and family, he reached that epiphany of goodness where he took his own moral measure and decided to be a different man. That is something worth doing with a story. "Pulp Fiction" is not. And when I say "Pulp Fiction" is worthless, I mean that in every possible way. It is worthless as story. It is worthless as philosophy. It is worthless as art. It is worthless as film. It is even worthless as a bad example, because it made too damn much money. [grins]

Scott from Fillmore, UT: Did you write HOMEBODY specifically with the film market in mind? Seems it would make wonderful film fare.

Orson Scott Card: The first draft of HOMEBODY was a screenplay. The second draft was the novel. The third draft was a new version of the screenplay. Then another quick pass through the novel added the "cool stuff" from the second version of the screenplay. And it was done. One of the most exhilarating writing experiences I've had. So I thought I'd do it again with ENCHANTMENT. Nope, didn't work. I couldn't write the screenplay because I had to invent so much. HOMEBODY was set in Greensboro, right now. I didn't have to invent anything but the story and characters. ENCHANTMENT is set mostly in Russia and entirely with Russian Jewish and Orthodox Christian characters -- cultures I know almost nothing about. I had to do [shudder] research and I had to do exploratory drafts. It's been killing me because it seemed each new chapter was like starting over. The first chapter is in Ukraine in 1975. Second chapter is in an Ithaca-like city in upstate New York in 1990. Third chapter is back in Ukraine, but after independence from the USSR in 1990. Fourth and fifth chapters move us into the foothills of the Carpathians in the ninth century A.D. Nightmare time! As much research as I had to expend on PASTWATCH! No way can you do a screenplay to "explore" such material. It has to be done as a novel, then the screenplay can be pulled out of the novel. In the meantime, Del Rey is getting a bit impatient. Where's the damn book? All I can say is: It took me only a month and a half to write HOMEBODY. I honestly thought ENCHANTMENT would be just as painless. Oops. But it's nearly done. Just a week and a half of mad writing to go. Then back to my novel-writing class at Pepperdine to see what my students have been doing while I was writing ENCHANTMENT!

Moderator: Thank you, Orson Scott Card! This had been a wonderful online discussion of HOMEBODY and your other books. Do you have any closing comments for your fans?

Orson Scott Card: I appreciate the wonderful questions -- mostly things I've never been asked before. It was a pleasure to talk about these things. Thanks for taking part!

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2006

    Not what I expected...

    The book in itself is not quite what I expected. After reading the Ender series, I was almost dissappointed. Nonetheless, this is a good book, however, the storyline can be slow at times. The story has some interesting twists throughout the book. I would recommend this book to people, but I would not recommend it as one of Orson Scott Card's better works. The book delves into some situations that cause you to do some inward thinking as to what you would do in a situation like what Don faces. If you are a person who enjoys really happy endings... this is the right book for you. Also, if you are a lonely or divorced or widdowed or grieving for the loss of a child... this is the right book for you. Don has to deal with the grief of all these things and still try to survive himself. This book blends all these emotions and obstacles and fixes everything in the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    Camp Eagle Planning and Strategems

    Aall brilliant minds meet here. We discuss strategy against other clubs and organizations. All cluvs we are in war with will be posted here. Only General Eagle can declare war

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2013

    I really enjoyed this book... I wasn't sure what to expect, and

    I really enjoyed this book... I wasn't sure what to expect, and even with that, it wasn't what I was expecting, but was well written with those fabulous concepts that Orson Scott Card always provides.

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  • Posted January 21, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Fantastic Ghost/Love Story! Card has yet to disappoint me. This

    Fantastic Ghost/Love Story!
    Card has yet to disappoint me. This is quite a ghost story, with rich characters and wonderful settings discriptions. The hero is flawed and yet has such integrity. He remains true to himself and his friends, while predictably righting wrongs. Witty, scary, and nail bittingly tense but such fun.!

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  • Posted November 13, 2010

    Mystery and Ghost Story Lovers!

    No. This is definitely not a typical Orson Scott Card book, but for those who are not fully sci-fi fans, this book is great. I am a fan of fantasy, alternate reality stories and this hit the spot. I was pleasantly surprised to find his phenomenal writing at my local library, too. Orson Scott Card steps over the bounds of reality and mixes in a ghost story twist. Think Monster House! Must read for those who have never tried him! He has a few more like this, too.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2006

    It was okay

    Once again Orson Scott Card creates a novel where the charecters are as real as your close friends. He brings you into the novel from the first page and doesn't let go. I'm not sure I like the beginning very much though. I see it as pointless for bringing the Cindy charecter in, but the rest was great, with an unsuspecting twist at the end. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who wants to read a classic original haunted house story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2000

    WHAT A GHOST!!!!

    Again Card is able to create characters as real as your neighbors. You are sucked into the story from the first chapter and it don't let you go until your finished. I have lent my book to several friends and relatives and they all agree it's one of the best books they have read. This one should be made into a movie. YO! Orson, get busy on the script!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2008

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