Feb 26, 2012

Author Matthew Quick, Movies and Boy 21

I'm so excited to welcome one of my favorite authors, Matthew Quick, to the blog today. You may remember when I gushed   talked about his first YA novel, Sorta Like A Rock Star,  which I read as an ARC back in 2009. That book totally blew me away and, for someone who reads dozens of books per month, that doesn't happen for me often.  So I started following his blog and found out that his debut (The Silver Linings Playbook - an adult contemporary) was not only optioned for a movie -  info here and here-  but it actually stars Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Julia Stiles and Jennifer Lawrence. AAAAHHHH! Can you say Oscar potential?? The movie wrapped recently; it'll premier in November. More on that below....

Matthew's third novel is another YA called  BOY21, which explores the friendship and lives of two teen guys in very different places. Watch the trailer here.  If Finley is anything close to Amber Appleton (the MC of SLARS) he's going to be one of my favs. 

1.  Let's talk about BOY21, which debuts March 5. It's about basketball, family, friendship and how tragedy brings two unlikely guys together. You said in another interview that the genesis of this story was playing pick-up ball with guys with whom you've since lost touch. In your observations, how does friendship between guys at this age differ than that between girls?

I'm not sure you can make a blanket statement about this. Gender issues are a lot more complex and individual than we'd like them to be. One thing I noticed when I was teaching high school was this: because we live in a culture that doesn't often encourage boys to speak about their emotions, I think many boys struggle to express their feelings for each other during the teens years. Ironically, it's the intense male friendships boys cultivate during the teen years that shape much of their identity. BOY21 explores this issue.

 2. Your target audience of teen boys can be a slippery one. What's your marketing plan to get these guys to give your book a try?

 BOY21 isn't a 'boy book,' nor is it a sports book. It's much more than that. It's a book for boys, girls, and adults too. That being said, I think there are a lot of teenage boys who are desperate to read about and discuss emotions, mental health, and the need to make their way in the world independent of their family history. BOY21 is about all of these things. I'm hoping that the book will speak for itself and find its audience. My publisher, Little Brown Books for Young Readers has a wonderful marketing team. They've done a tremendous amount of work getting Advanced Reading Copies to educators and librarians and mavens all over the country. They are a force; I'm very thankful for all their good work. I'll be doing a bunch of events too, which you can check out here.

 3.  How is publishing your third different from your debut? Do you get any more publisher marketing love - book tours? A private plane? Free hotel food? A plushy bathrobe? A case of bookmarks?

Ha! At the risk of killing my author mystique, I'll say it's a lot less glamorous than you'd think. No private planes yet. Although it's always nice to attend a conference or visit a new state, and I'll be doing both more than once. My publisher has done a great job getting my work and me out and about around the country. Sometimes when I am speaking to a room full of people I think, "Wow, you really are an author!" Those are nice moments. But then I go home and sit alone in a room for months growing a beard and trying to come up with the next book. That part doesn't change...ever.

 I was hoping you'd say that after the third book, the Good Idea Fairy sprinkles you with permanent best-seller dust. Or gives you a magic best-seller elixir. Now I am bummed.

 4. Talk about your revision process. What's changed as you've progressed in your writerly talents - does it take fewer passes to polish? Are you more aware of your strengths/weaknesses, etc? Do you need fewer betas?

BOY21 (my third published novel) was by far the hardest to write and required the most editing, so maybe I am regressing! Although, Alicia thinks BOY21 is also my best book. Each book is different. I think the biggest post publication change is that you know what's coming...the reviews, strange comments from friends and family members, how public publishing is. That and you also hear more voices in your head. All the positive and negative comments about your previous works want to yell at you while you write and revise--those voices want to write your books. All the Amazon reviews, everything you read on Goodreads, the bizarre asides at signings. And the praise can be even worse, if you take it too seriously. You have to silence those voices daily before you work, return to the writing place where only your voice exists, or else you're done. The more voices you accrue (and each books brings more responses) the harder this process can become.

I've heard via a NYT best-seller author-friend-of-a-friend that the instantaneous feedback on Amazon, etc. can get addicting. She's finding it hard to unplug and write amidst all the hoopla of her debut. However, still a problem most writers would love to have...

5. Let's talk movies.  You said in  a 2008 TV interview that the film rights to The Silver Linings Playbook  (Matthew's debut novel) sold faster than the US rights. Explain how it's possible that a film director can read your book before it's published and option it for a screenplay.

My search for a lit agent was long and arduous. I had one referral that went nowhere. I actually ended up befriending one of the agents who rejected TSLP, and she became a huge cheerleader/coach as I continued to submit and weather more than 70 rejections. Eventually the universe laughed and sympathized and TSLP was pulled out of a Sterling Lord Literistic slush pile. Doug Stewart fell in love with the manuscript and I signed with him. Little did I know that he had a partner in LA. Rich Green of CAA became my LA agent even before I knew I had representation in LA. Rich got TSLP into the hands of Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, both of whom loved the novel and made things happen quickly for us in LA. The book actually sold at auction to an Italian publisher before the movie deal was done. And the US book deal came third, if I remember correctly. It was a wild few months. I was living with my in-laws and had been writing full-time without a paycheck for three years. I had reached the end of our bank account. The news seemed to arrive at just the right moment. Before the deals were made, all of this would have seemed very impossible to me.

I love these kinds of basement-writer-makes-big stories. And they seem to happen with regular frequency. Hmmm. Maybe I need to get a house with a basement.

6. From what I hear, film rights for novels are sold on a regular basis, but very few continue into development. Talk about that process from the author standpoint - do you have any control over it once the rights have sold? And what's it like to be on the sidelines watching your characters go through the Hollywood grist mill?

I've heard other authors say it's like doing a drug deal. You walk up to the Hollywood wall, throw your manuscript over, they throw a bag of money back, and then--keeping your mouth shut--you run away and never look back. Lucky for me, one of my storytelling heroes was tapped to write the screenplay and direct. I have always admired David O. Russell's work. I loved the TSLP screenplay and enjoyed my day on the movie set. I can't wait to see the film. When I met David we talked about how the book was my baby and the movie was his to raise up into final form, and I got that from the beginning. Film and books live in two very different worlds. I'm glad my characters will get to live in both.

David O. Russell's film credits include Three Kings (George Clooney, Mark Wahlburg) The Fighter (Christian Bale, Mark Wahlburg) I Heart Huckabees, and more.

 7. Most writers and readers dislike watching a movie based on a book - the plot wanders, the plot is unrecognizable, there are extra scenes or a character is ruined, etc. Did you have any control over how the screenplay was written, or any authority to nix something that didn't follow your plot?

David O. Russell is a master filmmaker. I love his work. I wouldn't want to exert my control over David. He's an artist. He needs to make the movie his way. And many of my favorite films were originally based on books.

That's because writers rule the world. 

8. Will you attend the November premier with your wife (the most awesome Alicia Bessette, a novelist whom I interviewed here)? Do you get to walk the red carpet and pose with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence? can I come?

I hope to attend one of the premiers. Of course, Alicia will be my guest. I have no idea what that will be like, but I'm looking forward to finding out. I met Bradley Cooper when I visited the movie set. He walked right up to me and said hello. I liked him and his take on Pat Peoples a lot. Unfortunately, you cannot come.

What?? You're not going to let a stalkerish virtual stranger attend this event with you? I'm stunned. *wipes a tear*

9. So, two YA books under your belt and one adult fiction. You've said you're writing an adult genre novel next. How long will it take you to finish?

Each book has a life of its own. Some books get written rapidly. Some feel like melting an iceberg with a hairdryer. I hope I finish the next adult book soon, but I know that it will be finished when it wants to be finished. Was it Thoreau who said you can't rush a sunrise?

Ooh. I had no idea the MS had an opinion about deadlines. *vows to ask next time*

Thanks, Matthew! And another huge congratulations on selling your fourth novel, FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK to Little Brown Children's. It's supposed to launch spring, 2013. Keep an eye out for it, people.

Have any questions for Matthew? Leave them in the comments.


Scott Humfeld said...

Interviews with Matthew Quick are always interesting. I have read his novels and loved them all. I do think BOY21 is best best work to date. I very much look forward to seeing the film version of The Silver Linings Playbook. Maybe I'll buy him a plush bathrobe.

kent said...

I don't read as much as I should (huge cinema guy, though) but I've read every Quick book and have loved them all. My favorite, so far, is BOY21. Keep it up, Matt!!

Emily R. King said...

Congrats on the your fourth novel, Matthew!
I look forward to reading your book. I like the premise of delving into the relationship between two boys very much.
And thanks for sharing all the information about film rights, not that I'll ever use it. But hey, a girl can dream!

Q said...

Thanks everyone for the kind words. And thanks to Melodie for the fun interview questions!

elizabeth seckman said...

Great interview!

Sarah Pearson said...

What an interesting interview. And how have I not read any of Matthew's books?

'Like melting an iceberg with a hairdryer'. So true :-)

ilima said...

I may or may not have developed a little crush on Matthew Quick in the course of this interview. Nice job, both of you.

Laura Barnes said...

Ditto what ilima said.:) Awesome interview.

Ilana Weiner said...

great interview! excited to see the movie and read the book!