Michael Perry is what so many people are trying to be. Not a writer, though he’s that—many times over—too. He’s a local. A local boy who went off and came back and made it big by putting down roots and celebrating his people and his place. But he’s not exactly your garden-variety local because he writes. And because his work has high literary merit and aspirations.
Perry self-published four books before he got an agent. Then, writing about his hometown through the lens of his work as a first-responder, he found his deepest material. Swinging for the fence, he produced Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time, published first in hardback in 2002.
“You have to write something every day, even if it’s junk, to keep those gears turning,” said Perry, now the author of nine trade books, to a group I’m affiliated with, Hospice of Central Ohio. He was the keynote speaker last Thursday for our annual conference, held in the depressed middling-size Ohio city of Newark.
In Population: 485, here’s how Perry says he tells aspiring writers the secret of his success: “Stubbornness and blind luck, I want to say, but they’re looking for something tangible, so I tell them I discovered the secret years ago while cleaning my father’s calf pens. That is, you just keep shoveling until you’ve got a pile so big, someone has to notice.”
The plot of Edan Lepucki’s debut novel California is quite absorbing, but the story about her book is pretty engrossing as well. First a recap—then a review.
Award-winning author Sherman Alexie was a guest on Stephen Colbert’s television show, The Colbert Report, June 4 to discuss the dispute between Amazon and Hachette Book Group. Books by both Alexie and Colbert are part of the Hachette Group, as is Lepucki’s novel. Colbert had asked Alexie to recommend a forthcoming Hachette book that he liked. Alexie picked California. Colbert held up a copy of the book and implored his viewers, “the Colbert Nation,” to preorder California (but not from Amazon) to demonstrate their power. Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, agreed to handle the process. Before long, Lepucki found herself signing over 10,000 copies in just three days to meet those preorders. California was published July 8. Then, on July 21, Lepucki herself was a guest on The Colbert Show. Her book tour included a talk on July 30 at BookPeople in Austin, Texas, which I caught.
“I didn’t realize how much power Colbert had,” Lepucki told the audience. Someone asked how the unexpected event had changed her life.
“I’m in a different city every day. I know how hotels work now,” she replied. “It’s no stage. I’m on this publicity machine that is like a real monster. I figure it’ll end by September. I’m still a good ol’ girl.”