Last night we heard my old friend Peter Heller read from his new novel, The Dog Stars at the Odyssey Bookshop. There was a good turnout and we learned from Joan Grenier the owner that she had ordered 300 copies of the book. Her bookstore has a first edition club and more than 250 of the members were eager for a signed copy mailed to them all over the US.
This book has really struck a cord with many people I know who have read it. Set in a dystopian future where only 3% of the world has survived a flu epidemic, it tells the story of one man who flies a plane around what’s left of his world, and is haunting in its descriptions of his barren yet hopeful life.
I knew from the moment I started reading it that it would make a terrific movie, and I told Pete I thought all of his booksignings should be around Hollywood. But this guy has been in the business for decades–he too had a good feeling and last night we heard the great news that the book has already been optioned for a movie.
I know many other people who have written books and too often, these books have a hard slog to get people to notice them. I am mailed so many books at my office, readers are harder to find than authors it seems. But this one is resonating–there are already more than 279 reviews on Amazon and people are really reacting strongly…that’s what you wanna hear as a writer!
But Knopf is a big time publisher, and this one, they’ve put quite a bit of energy and money into promoting, and it’s paying off. Already after just a month he’s sold 45,000 hardcovers and 30,000 ebooks which must make the accountants in New York pretty happy.
Peter and his wife Kim have been on an east coast visit for a month….but every day, six days a week, Pete still writes his 1000-1500 words, in a coffee shop along the way. He said his method is to write more, way more than he needs, and then cut unmercifully. The Dog Stars, he said, is about 70% of what he originally wrote. This kind of selective pruning makes any work better, and it’s a good tip. He also said he stops where ever he is during the day’s writing…leaving decisions unmade, and hanging off cliffs. That makes him eager to get back to it the next day, he said.