An FAQ About “How Lucky,” My Novel Coming May 11
I have been very careful, in these regular pieces I’ve been writing for Medium for months now, not to go over the top with the promotion of my new novel, How Lucky, which will be released by Harper Books on May 11, next Tuesday. But with publication date so soon, I’m afraid I will no longer be so careful. I apologize in advance.
I have been asked a lot of questions about the book, and while we’ll be doing a publicity tour over the next fortnight, I thought a little Frequently Asked Questions primer might come in handy. Hopefully this helps you understand what this project is, and why I think you should buy the book. If you have further questions, or you are a media person who would like to do an interview, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org. For now: Here’s the FAQ.
What’s the book about?
I’m not particularly skilled at, or even eager to be a part of, condensing a 304-page book I wrote into one paragraph, so I will let my friends at Harper do it:
For readers of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Nothing to See Here, a first novel as suspenseful and funny as it is moving, the unforgettable story of a fiercely resilient young man named Daniel living with a physical disability, and his efforts to solve a mystery unfolding right outside his door.
That sounds interesting. Is this your first book?
It’s not. It’s my fifth. The first four, however, were written more than a decade ago: The ten-year break was mostly because I got married, had two children, moved across the country and generally kept busy writing constantly and didn’t have time set aside for book writing. Fortunately, the children got older and more autonomous. To be honest, I don’t even know where they are right now. I’m sure they’re fine.
This gap between books has caused difficulty in accurately classifying the book. It’s not a debut — I’ve written five books, after all. Three of those four books were non-fiction, but we can’t call it a fiction debut because I wrote a YA novel in 2005. (And it feels weird to say “adult fiction debut.”) I think they’d decided on “contemporary fiction.” The book world has a strange sort of obsession with genre classification. I just call it “How Lucky.”
The plot synopsis says it’s about a character with a disability. Do you have a disability? Do you have a connection with someone who does?
I do not, and one of the obvious challenges of this book was writing from the perspective of someone who does when I do not. I am certain I did not get exactly right, because I could not possibly know what it’s like to have a disability better than someone who does. I do have a connection to Daniel’s disability, which is Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA. My nine-year-old son William’s best friend Miller has SMA; Miller and his parents were the initial inspiration for the novel. I’ve spoken with them constantly, as well as many other families who live with SMA, to understand their stories and their lives the best I can. There’s an inherent limitation there. But the book is not about Daniel’s SMA, or the story of every person who has SMA. It is simply about Daniel.
How long did it take you to write it?
Start to finish, from the first sketches of who Daniel was publication date, about three-and-a-half years. But the actual writing of the book was about six months or so. Then we had to clean it up, rewrite it, sell it, clean it up again, and then a bunch of very smart people had to physically make the thing. But it was written on spec. I wrote the whole thing without even telling my agent I was working on it. I met him for dinner one night in 2019 and just handed him a printed-out version of the thing, like we were in Wonder Boys or something. It took another year, but eventually Harper Books bought it, and here we are. (Yes, this book was purchased during the pandemic. It has been a very long pandemic)
Do people like it?
I hope so! The first few reviews have (mostly) been positive, including this very kind one from Amazon Book Review:
But I’ve perhaps been most blown away from the writers, authors with far more experience and acclaim writing books than I do, who have reached out to say nice words. Including one guy you may have heard of:
That, uh, was pretty insane. But also Richard Russo, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls and Nobody’s Fool, blurbed it as well:
So yeah. If you don’t trust me, trust them.
Are you going on a book tour?
I’m afraid not: Pandemics are no joke. But we are having a virtual launch event, on May 12, 7 p.m., hosted by my local Avid Bookshop here in Athens, Georgia. I’ll be joined by the great Kevin Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Nothing to See Here and The Family Fang. You can get tickets, and pre-order signed copies of the book, right here.
The paperback will be out in March 2022. We’ll tour then, and also hug.
Where can I pre-order the book?
All sorts of places! At Amazon, HarperCollins, Barnes & Noble, my local bookstore, Bookshop, your local bookstore, even freaking Walmart. You can also get a copy through the Book of the Month Club, where it was a May selection.
These questions have not been particularly probing. I feel like you are constraining me as an interviewer.
It’s a promotional post, man. We’re trying to sell some books here.
At the very least, can you tell me how you think the book will make people feel?
Fair question. The book is hopefully funny, and suspenseful, and even moving, but if there’s an overarching message to the book, it’s that everything in our lives is temporary and could be snatched away from us at any point. But that’s not something to be scared of, or saddened by. We should find it revelatory, even something to embrace and celebrate. What we have in front of us is glorious, every single freaking day, and we are so lucky to have any of it. We should drink it up in big huge gulps, because if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t know what the world has in store for you so you have to hang on to what you have and be grateful for all the wonderful things you have now, right now, this very second. The book is, at its core, an attempt to put something good and positive and hopeful into the world. Those things seem as valuable right now as they have ever been. I just hope people like it. I hope it makes them feel like things maybe aren’t so terrible.
That was nice.
Hey, you should see the book. Thank you for affording me the opportunity for this promotional transmission.
Will Leitch writes multiple pieces a week for Medium. Make sure to follow him right here. He lives in Athens, Georgia, with his family and is the author of five books, including the upcoming novel How Lucky, released by Harper on May 11. He also writes a free weekly newsletter that you might enjoy.