I don’t actually know much official about Stewart O’Nan’s previous life before he became an author (and one of my personal favorites). What I can recall is from a guest talk he gave at my alma mater, Alfred University. He had previous studied Aerospace Engineering and had worked as an engineer until he decided to pursue publishing.
As I let my imagination take me, I would think that someone who is skilled in the art of fine details could definitely find creative writing attractive. O’Nan crafts words with the precision one might expect of an aerospace engineer. Where everything matters and added shaped thoughts can lead to revelations.
There isn’t anything inherently fancy or flamboyant about his style. He sits down because he has a job to do. The words he puts forth are short and to the point. Through his novels one key, unable to be understated, is that they aren’t very long. They are all short and to the point. Nothing is wasted on frivolous expenditures. It is all distinctive in that it gets right to the point, as if there was a mind watching over that saw how it all fit together. This to me, feels much like a trait that his engineering, scientific mind gave his writer self.
O’Nan’s writing exhibits an economy that I do not see in pure writers. By “pure writer” I am referring to those who have a history as English majors or in other artistic endeavors. I don’t mind 1000 pages books (Harry Potter, Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire, etc…) but they do lack a certain clarity and focus present in those with scientific backgrounds.