Steven Barron embraces flash fiction to create his first novel Madame Curie’s Piano Tuner

Steven Barron released his first book, Madame Curie’s Piano Tuner. // Courtesy of Steven Barron

If you would’ve asked Steven Barron what he wanted to do when he grew up, writer wouldn’t have made the list. However, after releasing his first book Madame Curie’s Piano Tuner, he has surprised everyone, even himself.

“I had to just do it,” Barron says. “Try to be fearless, and write what’s in front of me, mind-wise.”

Madame Curie’s Piano Tuner follows Raymond Dover when he travels to the small town of Bucksnort for one of his first jobs as a piano tuner. A mysterious stroke of amnesia leaves him stranded in the small town of Bucksnort, but the veteran retirement home gives him a place to stay.

Although the book follows Ray as he explores the small town, Barron created this world through a collection of flash fiction stories. As Barron explains, a reader could open this book on any section and start reading.

“You could cut into this book anywhere and be fine,” Barron says. “I use piano tuning as a launching pad to comment on different things.”

Barron began writing about 12 years ago. He left a job in the corporate world to spend more time writing after he tried a few community groups and received positive feedback. 

This pushed him to start attending writing workshops, sometimes traveling across the country. This is where he first heard the term “flash fiction” and was inspired to dedicate time every day to create a book. Flash fiction is a style of writing where entire plots are completed in less than 1,500 words. Not all of the stories in the book are this short, but they were built off of this idea.

He was coming up with new ideas all the time, but couldn’t fit them all. When it finally came time to choose which stories would go into the Madame Curie’s Piano Tuner, he had a unique system.

“It was really a haphazard thing,” Barron says. “I printed all the sections out, laid them on the floor, picked them up, and began putting them together.”

What he created is a novel that forces you to broaden your reading “rules.” Ray, a newly-trained piano tuner and healing amnesiac, is not the most reliable narrator. He may even lead readers in the wrong direction, dragging them along through incomplete thoughts. Barron says this was almost accidental.

“I think of myself as an unreliable narrator,” Barron says. “I know a little about a lot of things, but don’t know about most.”

He also goes from story to story without transitions and fills the pages with so many characters that there is a list at the end of the novel to help readers keep track. He created the people and the town of Bucksnort because Barron loves exploring the hidden aspects of small town life.

“People expect a lot of darkness in big cities, and turmoil, but it’s not all southern sweetness in small towns,” Barron says.

The humor is dry, but present on every page. Barron confesses that one reason he is proud of this publication is because some of the most favorite lines he’s ever written were pulled out of him while writing about Ray.

“I don’t think you can look at a page without seeing a unique piece of writing,” Barron says. “I had extra energy when I hit that vein. It was great.”

Barron admits that he doesn’t expect this flash fiction style of writing to be everyone’s favorite. Even his wife told him “this isn’t for me” after a read through. But, Barron cares more about his book finally coming together after years of doubt and practice.

“I didn’t care if anybody liked it, I just wanted people to appreciate what I’d done,” Barron says. “I’m just astonished. I can’t believe that I wrote it.”

Madame Curie’s Piano Tuner is available for purchase now.

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