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For Joyce Maynard, writing ‘Labor Day’ was a labor of love

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Published : 2014-02-13 19:23
Updated : 2014-02-13 19:23

From left: Kate Winslet is Adele, Gattlin Griffith is Henry and Josh Brolin is Frank in “Labor Day.”
(Courtesy Dale Robinette/MCT)
It took Joyce Maynard only 10 days to write “Labor Day,” the New York Times best-selling novel that serves as the basis for the movie of the same name that opened Friday.

That kind of speedy production isn’t typical.

“I don’t want people out there, who are trying to write a book, to get the wrong idea. I have been writing for 42 years and they didn’t all come out this way. My new book took two years to write,” Maynard says.

Had you asked Maynard the day before she started writing “Labor Day” ― the tale of a reclusive single mom, her 13-year-old son and the man who comes into their lives on one warm Labor Day weekend ― she would have had no idea such a story was in her. She woke up one morning with the idea and the book flowed out of her. She didn’t even know how it would end; she just knew it was a story she had to write. She felt like she was taking dictation from the young boy at the heart of her story.

“Labor Day” is one of 15 books written by Maynard. She’s also amassed a huge volume of essays and newspaper columns ― often about family and parenting ― all written with great candor. She’s been on the staff of The New York Times and wrote the weekly syndicated column “Domestic Affairs.”

This is the second Maynard novel turned into a film. Her 1992 novel, “To Die For,” became the 1995 production starring Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon, Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck that was directed by Gus Van Sant. Just like “To Die For,” Maynard opted not to adapt “Labor Day” into a screenplay. That task went to director Jason Reitman.

“Giving up the book for someone else to adapt is like seeing your children go out in the world. It something that has to be done and it would be worse if you didn’t let go,” Maynard says. “I love the way this movie gives a picture of a simpler time when no (one) is always checking their cellphone. It’s an old-fashioned love story.”

She felt confident Reitman would do a good job with the adaptation because of the skill he showed with the Oscar-nominated script for “Up in the Air.” It didn’t hurt that after reading “Labor Day,” Reitman told Maynard that he cried and wanted to learn how to properly make a pie.

The cooking request comes from one of the biggest moments in the book and movie. As Maynard learned from her mother, it’s not the filling and the ingredients that make the desert, it’s the way the dough is handled.

“When I was writing the book, I wanted to give a physical picture of tenderness. There’s nothing more personal than the gift of homemade food,” Maynard says.

When Maynard’s writing, she hears the voices of the characters in her head. They weren’t the same voices as the actors in the movie, but the author has no complaints about having Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin say her words. She’s even more excited about the casting of Gattlin Griffith as the youngster at the middle of the unusual relationship that unfolds.

Maynard was in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, Friday when the movie opened, where she has been teaching a workshop for 15 years. She calls the annual visit a “labor of love.”

“I like to help people tell their story. The biggest concern most people have is that they are afraid of what other people will think,” she says. “I tell them everybody should own his or her story. Otherwise, don’t tell the story.”

By Rick Bentley

(The Fresno Bee)

(MCT Information Services)

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