canvasBy Jean Lawrence

For The Elmhurst Independent

Publishing a first novel is a lifelong dream for many writers. For Erik Fassnacht, that dream has just come true with the introduction this month of his novel “A Good Family.”

Erik Fassnacht grew up in Elmhurst and attended Edison, Sandburg and York, where many of his experiences shaped the writer he has become.

“The Elmhurst public schools really influenced the situations I wrote about and my descriptions of the dynamics between teachers and students,” the 2001 York graduate said. “I got great encouragement, especially from Mr. Powers in fifth grade. He gave us a short writing assignment and after he read mine he said, ‘The sky is the limit. Keep at it!’ and that was highly influential.

“And Mr. Chambers taught a philosophy class at York that was very instructive because he was able to translate philosophers like Descartes to a high school experience. That helped my writing because it started the process of looking at a mundane situation and seeing what’s going on under the surface.”

A Good Family, already praised by Goodreads reviewers and noted authors such as Judith Guest and Audrey Niffnegger, tells the story of a fictional family set mostly in Downers Grove.

“The book is essentially a year in the life of a Chicagoland family,” Erik explained. “It rotates among four main characters and their viewpoints about what it’s like to be alive in America today and about how those different viewpoints interact.”

He described the four characters in the family.

“The dad is very old guard and rails against the changes in society. The mom is a stay-at-home mom but that’s not her first choice. She gave up a modern dance career to raise her kids. When I was growing up in Elmhurst I saw a lot of moms like that – very talented women who gave up their careers and I felt that that idea is underrepresented in current literature.

“The oldest son is just back from Afghanistan and gives us the chance to examine America’s views of the war and also male romanticism of violence versus the reality. My grandpas were both World War II vets and, compared to then, there is a wide chasm in society between those who serve and their families and those who don’t.

“And finally, the youngest son is interviewing to teach at a high school in Downers Grove that I invented based on a combination of Fenwick and St. Ignatius. We see society through younger eyes as he is finding his way.”

Because “A Good Family” is mostly set in Downers Grove, Erik will be signing copies of his book at the Anderson’s Book Store in Downers Grove on Thursday, August 27 at 7 p.m. The book is also available on amazon.com, at Barnes & Noble, and at other retailers.

After graduating from York, Erik earned an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Iowa and a Masters in fiction writing from Columbia College. Now at work on his second novel, he shared advice with aspiring writers who may follow in his footsteps:

“Always know that the first version is not going to be the last. It’s so important to accept criticism and keep editing, even if what you wrote the first time is great. Also, confidence in yourself is huge. Have the attitude that you are moving forward and putting your work out there.”

Erik’s mom Chris Bauer, who lives in Elmhurst, explained that Erik earned a full scholarship to graduate school and demonstrated great persistence.

“[He] graduated in May 2013. Picked up by Regal Literary agent by June, (and the) book deal came shortly after with Macmillan,” she said. “A fairy tale story!”

 

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