Matthew Quick’s debut novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, was adapted as a movie of the same name starring Bradley Cooper and received multiple Oscar nominations with Jennifer Lawrence winning the Academy Award for Best Actress. The Good Luck of Right Now is his latest offering. His upcoming book, Love May Fail (2015) is being developed for film by Sony.
NAW- You’ve been pretty open about your life and struggles. How difficult was it to quit a regular job and pursue writing full time? Do you feel an artist should also be judged by the quality of his work and not just in monetary terms? Is that an inherent problem with art today, because barring a few exceptions, a writer is famous because he makes enough money out of his books?
I’ve often told young writers, if the writing life were easy, everyone would be living it. That being said, I don’t think you really have a choice. If you are meant to write or make any sort of art at all, you must do it or the best part of you will die. Yes, there are all sorts of tests and obstacles—such as making enough money to live—but you find a way to make it work. I’ve heard people say that it’s not avoiding but navigating failure and hardships that make a career and I think that’s largely true.
When THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK was adapted into a very popular film the book began to make money too. This definitely changed the way many people viewed my work, career, and even me. I’m very grateful for the break the movie provided. The book hasn’t changed since 2007. I stood by it when it was first published.
Maybe the problem is that we spend too much time judging the work of artists and too little time simply enjoying the art.
NAW- How is it basking in the success of a project like Silver Linings Playbook? Does the success affect your future work because now readers have come to expect a certain standard from you so you need to produce a better book the next time? Does that rattle you in any way when you are writing?
I wouldn’t say I’ve done a lot of basking. I’ve been writing consistently for the past ten years. There are new pressures. More people are paying attention, which means there are more voices trying to get into my head. Some of these voices like what I do, and some don’t. I try to block out all of those voices when I write. Success turns up the volume. I’ve had to adjust somewhat, but I’ve always done a good enough job beating myself up regardless of who is paying attention and who isn’t. At the end of the day the writer’s biggest battle is with him or herself.
NAW- I don’t think anybody can become a writer. You are either born one or not. Do you remember that pivotal moment for you, when you realized that writing was what you coveted?
There were many moments. I used to dress up as a cowboy named Tex when I was little and ask my mother where Matthew was. She’d play along and it gave me a great sense of satisfaction, creating this fictional identity. Looking back I can see that I was a storyteller at five.
NAW- Who are your favourite writers? Are there any who have influenced your writings?
Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Albert Camus, Mark Twain, Gao Xingjian, Haruki Murakami, Wally Lamb, J.D. Salinger, Ernest Hemingway, so many others.
NAW- How do you write, in fits and starts or in one go? Take us through your writing process?
I usually go through several long false starts (sometimes up to fifty thousand words) until I find a voice and then I’m off. Once I have my voice and understand what my protagonist wants, I usually write six to ten hours a day until the first draft is finished, at which point I edit. My wife is my first reader. (She’s an amazing editor.) My European friend, Liz Jensen, is my second reader. Literary Agent, Doug Stewart, is my third reader and if he likes what he sees he sends it off to my official editor at the publishing house, who usually makes me do much more editing even when she loves the manuscript. There is always a lot of editing. No getting around that.
NAW- What do you enjoy and hate the most about the publishing process?
I most enjoy hearing from readers who connect strongly with my work; it always makes me feel less alone in the world. I most hate hearing from readers who don’t like my work; it always makes me feel so horribly alone.
NAW- What are your upcoming projects?
My next novel for adults, LOVE MAY FAIL, will be published in 2015—most likely in the summer. It’s being developed for film by SONY.