Honor Your Process
An interview with Edan Lepucki
by B. Lynn Goodwin
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Right now, the drought in California is changing our landscape-literally.
Between our lack of water and the threat of earthquakes, Californians could
be in the early stages of a dystopia saga. We could also be in the midst of a
political one between local shootings and international terrorism. In Edan
Lepucki’s California, the world is living with the consequences of unexpected
natural phenomena, overuse of resources and the environment, and distrust
of one another.
When asked what inspired her to create a dystopian story, Lepucki, said,
“One day, the phrase "post-apocalyptic domestic drama" popped in my head…
and before I knew it, I'd imagined the lives of this married couple, Frida and
Cal.” Former residents of Los Angeles, Cal and Frida now survive in a shack in
the wilderness. Like all independent dwellers in this post-apocalyptic world,
they face hardship and isolation. When Frida finds out she's pregnant, they
need more of a community, more goods, and a world that will nourish their
Faced with this new responsibility, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, but Cal and Frida soon realize it poses dangers. The settlement is
a guarded and paranoid community. Who is the enemy? Who can they trust? How will they protect their daughter and themselves?
A gripping and provocative debut novel, California imagines an unnerving future that could be closer than we imagine. It urges readers to question how
far they will go to protect the ones they love.
In this interview, the author talks about her writing process and the role of luck. She also shares valuable writing tips.
Edan Lepucki is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a staff writer for The Millions. Her short fiction has been published in McSweeney's and
Narrative magazine, among other publications, and she is the founder and director of Writing Workshops Los Angeles. This is her first novel.
LG: Tell us about yourself. When did you know you were a writer and what did you write before this novel?
EL: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, though for the past two years I've been living the San Francisco Bay Area. Aside from writing fiction, I
write essays and the occasional review for The Millions, and I am the founder and co-director of a private writing school called Writing Workshops Los
I have a four-year-old son named Dixon Bean, a husband named Patrick, and a dog named Omar Little. I've always wanted to be a writer--ever since I
learned to read and fell in love with books.
Before California came out, I published a novella called If You're Not Yet Like Me. I also wrote another novel, called The Book of Deeds, but it was
LG: Tell us about being on Colbert. How did you contact him, what did you share, and how do you think it affected your promotion and publicity?
EL: I didn't contact Colbert. Sherman Alexie went on the Colbert Report last June to discuss the Amazon-Hachette contract dispute, and he
recommended my book. Colbert then made it his personal mission to sell my book to his audience, and before the book came out I'd sold 10,000 copies
at Powell's Books in Portland alone. It was very exciting and all out of my hands!
I went on The Colbert Report a couple of weeks after my book was released to announce that it had debuted at #3 on the New York Times Bestseller
list. I was so happy to get the chance to thank the Colbert Nation for buying my book and supporting authors and independent bookstores. My big
Colbert bump made a big difference in sales and publicity, and I am forever thankful!
LG: Why do you think dystopian literature has become so popular?
EL: I'm really not sure why dystopian literature has become so popular lately. Perhaps we've all been inspired by recent canonical additions, like The
Road by Cormac McCarthy and the Madaddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood. Maybe we just live in anxious times, and, as usual, these narratives act as
a kind of balm for our troubled minds.
LG: Who was the most intriguing character to write and why?
EL: The most intriguing character to write was definitely Frida's brother, Micah, who has done--and is doing--some terrible stuff. He is the story's
villain--and yet, I also wanted to make him complex and even perhaps sympathetic from certain angles. I wanted to make him magnetic, too.
LG: What ideas do you hope readers will take away from the book?
EL: That's up to the reader to decide! I just hope that the book moves, engages, scares, entertains, and challenges them!
LG: How did you find your agent, and why do you think she picked you as a client?
EL: I found my agent, Erin Hosier, through another writer, my friend Emma Straub. Erin has been my agent for years, and she was the one who tried
to sell my first novel. Although we were not successful in finding a publisher, we maintained our working relationship because we are very well
I suppose Erin took me on as a client because she likes and believes in my voice and style. She has always been supportive of my work, and me and I
love her honesty and insight so much!
LG: What recommendations do you have for unpublished writers? Do you think it’s better to find an agent of self-publish?
EL: I always recommend that unpublished writers read as much as they can, and that they write, rewrite, and write some more before even thinking
about getting published. I recommend finding a class or joining a writing group to get feedback and to feel like you're part of a supportive community
of like-minded artists.
I think most writers get impatient and want to get their work out into the world before it's truly ready; take your time, and revise once or twice more
before trying to find an agent. Although self-publishing is a valid path for many writers, I have valued my agent and her hard work immensely, and I'm
glad I didn't self-publish my first novel.
Looking back, I don't think it was quite good enough to be published, and I'm happy I wrote another book (California), and that I found a publisher
who not only paid me for the book, but also helped me edit it, publicize it, and so on. Publishers do a ton for their books and that's hard to replicate
on your own!
LG: Can you share your most helpful writing tip?
EL: Try to keep a regular practice, and honor your process--if you write better at night, then carve out that time; if an hour a day is a better fit for
you, listen to that, and make it happen. Also, sometimes you just need to step away from the page, eat some chocolate, cry, and go walk the dog.
Day dreaming about a book, working out its problems in your head, counts as writing!
LG: I might just take that last sentence, print it in 72-point font, and keep it in plain sight at all times. Thanks!
What are you working on now and where can people learn more about you?
EL: I'm writing a new novel called Woman No. 17, which is scheduled to be published in 2017 by Hogarth/Crown. In the meantime, you can learn more
about me at edanlepucki.com
LG: Thanks so much for sharing your experience here. You’ve been described as “brilliant” and “talented,” accolades that I hope you take to heart. I
found a wide range of reviews on Goodreads. All kinds of readers are interested and intrigued I look forward to reading Woman No. 17.