Silver Linings Playbook author Matthew Quick talks about his new novel The Good Luck of Right Now, his journey of self-discovery, and that Bradley Cooper/Jennifer Lawrence movie adaptation.
Like the characters in his new book, The Good Luck of Right Now, Matthew Quick has done his fair share of soul-searching. “Magical things happen when you’re drinking dark beer and golden whiskey in Irish pubs. It’s true,” says the 39-year-old American author.
It was on this particular pilgrimage, back when Quick was a teacher and coach, with his novelist and pianist wife Alicia Bessette, that he decided he would be a writer. After sipping Guinness and Jameson to live music in pubs, reading Thich Nhat Hanhin (a Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist from Vietnam) in hostel beds, and braving Ireland’s winding roads in a tiny rental, Quick declared one night that he would start writing fiction full time.
“That statement would have seemed wildly ridiculous to most people who knew me at the time, but Alicia said, ‘Yes, you will’,” Quick says. “Looking back now, that conversation really seems like the beginning of my writing career. We were generally unhappy with our lives back home (in the US). And we felt so free and alive in Ireland that we vowed to make big changes.”
Now, it seems wildly ridiculous that Quick – who grew up reading Hemingway, Camus, Vonnegut, and now looks
forward to the next Murakami novel (“Murakami is like drinking
good scotch for me. I know exactly what buzz to expect.”) – would do anything but write.
Since his debut in 2008 with the bestselling Silver Linings Playbook, he’s written three novels – Sorta Like a Rock Star, Boy21 and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock – following by The Good Luck of Right Now just out, and Love May Fail slated for 2015. His engaging stories, all of which have been optioned for film, are told in a voice that's humorous, thoughtful and honest, with plots that teach life lessons.
Does his teaching past have anything to do with this?
“I don’t really think about that at all when I’m writing," he says. "It’s my job – as someone who writes fiction in first person – to channel my protagonist and tell his or her story as authentically as possible. I try to become that character and allow that voice to flow through me. When I’m writing well, it feels like I have very little control, like I’m just recording as the words flow through my brain – maybe like my mind is a radio receiving frequencies. Of course, the subconscious is at work, but I’m not really in control of that either.”
Film buffs who enjoyed the award-winning 2012 movie adaptation of Silver Linings Playbook will be pleased to hear that Quick has another film adaptation in the works. The Good Luck of Right Now is set to be directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the duo behind the sleeper hit Little Miss Sunshine, which features a bunch of quirky characters not dissimilar to those of Quick’s.
Those familiar with Quick’s work will know that he writes about people who are different – maybe a little crazy – and their journeys of self-discovery. His characters are frustratingly quirky but extremely endearing. In his latest work, written as a series of letters to Richard Gere, deranged protagonist Bartholomew Neil soul-searches with an unlikely bunch of characters who are dealing with different forms of grief, a delicate subject Quick handles with care and skill.
How he manages to deal so well with the subject might have something to do with his past: Quick struggled with anxiety and depression as a teenager, which drove him to put pen to paper and, inevitably, tell these stories from the point of view of someone who has “been there”.
Having Silver Linings Playbook brought to life on screen was a surreal, thrilling and frightening experience, Quick says, but also a chance to raise awareness.
“I experienced so many emotions. It helps when you have such a brilliant director. I was a David O Russell fan long before he adapted my book. Mostly I felt extremely grateful – not just for the attention I received, but also for the chance to raise awareness about mental health,” Quick says. (In Silver Linings Playbook, Pat Peoples returns to his childhood home after time in a psychiatric hospital and rediscovers his suppressed memories, as well as his life.)
When it comes to adaptations, there are bound to be differences from the book, but Quick doesn’t see this as enhancing or taking away from his novels.
“Moviemakers have to tell my story on screen, which is a very different process. I write novels. I’m always grateful when my work is adapted with care and passion. I love seeing what the filmmakers do. I try to learn from my fellow storytellers. But then I return to my writing space and write another book. That’s what I do. That’s my world,” Quick says.
His world involves having your work laid bare to criticism from strangers, and increasingly, Quick finds himself heading in the direction of many authors who refuse to read any reviews.
“My writing friend Liz Jensen tells me to believe all of the good reviews and disbelieve all the bad. It’s sort of a joke, but kind of important too. I always tell the absolute best story I can – offer the best of me. When people enjoy my work I’m very happy. But I’m going to keep doing what I do regardless of who likes it and who doesn’t. Every artist comes to a point in his or her career where reviews become irrelevant to the process of making art. They may at times be important for sales, but you have to keep the art and the business separate in your head.”