In January this year, Matthew Hanover self-published his first novel ‘Not Famous’. He shared the book with us at ‘book lovers’ and asked us to review it so we also took the opportunity to interview him. We understand that often knowing the author and getting to hear about the writing process as well as the reasons behind the content, can enhance the reading experience. As Matthew is based in USA, this interview took place over an email exchange.
What made you want to write a book?
I’ve been a fan of the novels of Nick Hornby and Jonathan Tropper for quite a few years now, but they just weren’t writing books fast enough! I wanted more, so in addition to seeking out other authors in the “lad lit” genre I thought it would be a good idea to immerse myself in a world of my own creation that I could put out there for other people who were anxiously waiting for more books from my favorite authors.
Was it always this book you wanted to write?
The idea for Not Famous was definitely the first novel I conceived of when I decided to actually write a novel. Of course, the book has evolved since I first started, but the core ideas have been consistent. It’s not autobiographical, like many debut novels tend to be, so I can’t say that there was something I’d experienced I wanted to write about via fiction… but there are pieces of me throughout the book… including some experiences that have been fictionalized… but it all started with a concept that I thought would make a unique and interesting story.
How did you come up with these 2 main characters and their ages and decide to put them romantically together?
Alli was the first character I developed in my head… her backstory, what motivates her, her quirks… Nick may be the narrator of the story, Alli is the main character. I wanted the reader to struggle with Nick as he balances his relationship with Alli with the demons of his past. In many ways they are an odd couple. At the start of the novel, Nick is 26 and Alli is 19. He’s freshly out of a long term relationship while Alli is naive and inexperienced. There were a lot of reasons to have such a large gap… One significant reason was to put both of them out of their comfort zones. Alli is way her way out of her element by having a relationship with someone older. Nick is out of his comfort zone when Alli bonds with his 15-year-old sister, whom he has trouble connecting with. The differences in their ages gave them obstacles to overcome, but opportunities for me as an author to introduce various sources of tension into that relationship.
The Boston music scene features a lot throughout the novel, why did you want to capture that?
I knew that Alli was going to be an aspiring musician before deciding to set the story in Boston. I’ve had the opportunity to visit Boston in the past, and in addition to being taken with its history, I got to experience some of the night life and the local music scene and, as I developed the novel, felt it was the perfect setting. I hope I captured it well… quite a few venues mentioned in the novel are actual places, and others are fictional.
Who is the book aimed at?
While I technically set out to write a lad lit book that was aimed at male 20- and 30- something readers, I believe I ultimately wrote a book that both men and women can enjoy, and younger and older readers too. One of my beta-readers even told me that YA readers would enjoy it too. I’d like to think anyone can readNot Famousand get something out of it.
How long did it take you to write the book from having the first thoughts to the end?
I first started Not Famousin July 2011. The first draft was completed in April/May 2018. Then began the beta reading and editing phase… I had several beta readers read the manuscript, with major edits in between each based on feedback. Then I had an editor proofread the entire book. That was done in the Fall. I felt it was too late in the year to release the book, so I made the decision to publish it in January. It was tough to wait that long, but it also gave me time to make any final tweaks I thought were necessary, and prepare for launching the book.
What was your writing process?
It began with me writing ideas and scenes in a pretty unorganized manner. I wrote scenes as they came to me out of order. It was not the most efficient process, for sure, but getting the scenes that came to me first was, to me the best thing to do… When inspiration for a scene came, write it down, doesn’t matter where in the novel I intended to put it. I’m not an outliner, but as I got closer to finishing the first draft I became a timeliner. I used Excel to help me organize the scenes I’d written, and see how they flowed, when and where events took place… did they take place on a weekday, a weekend? Stuff like that all helped me create the final version of the story. It was exhausting, but I learned a lot from the process and hope the next novel will be easier because of what I learned.
What were the easiest and hardest parts of the book to write?
Those early scenes I wrote out of order were probably the easiest part. In those cases, it was like the story was telling itself without much thought on my part.. Sure, most of those scenes have been refined since they were first written, but they are, for the most part, unchanged. It was the stuff in between that was tough… The narrative the propelled the story between the main scenes. Pulling each arc of the story together in a way that make everything come together seamlessly was no easy task.
What advice would you give to any budding writers?
Don’t give up! If you really want to write a book, write it! Make the time. It’s worth it. But also remember that the final product takes a lot of refinement. I thought I had a pretty darn good book when I finished my first draft… and it was nearly 108,000 words long. The published version is about 94,000 words. So I cut out alot. Budding authors are going to have to go through a similar process of making tough decisions to get rid of parts of your novel in order to make it stronger. Don’t delete anything! Maybe a scene you cut can work better rewritten into your next novel… as long as you allow yourself to recognize when something has to be cut for the greater good of the story as a whole.
Do you have any favourite books or authors you would recommend or have influenced your writing?
Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity is by far my favorite novel. If not for it, I’d probably never have written my own. I also enjoy the novels of Jonathan Tropper. It’s no surprise that a number of people who have read Not Famoushave compared it to their work.
How has the book been received?
So far, very well. As I write this, Not Famoushas ten reviews between Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, and they’re all five-stars! I think that’s pretty good. As for sales, coming in on a blank slate was quite daunting and intimidating… I remember thinking if I sold just five books I’d be happy. I’ve sold a lot more books than I honestly ever expected. I haven’t got a bestseller yet, but hey, maybe one day.
Are you surprised by readers’ reactions to your book?
I am. I’m thrilled that people have been reading and enjoying this book. Like many authors, I wrote a book that I’d love to read, and knowing that other people love the book is very humbling. Publishing is a very competitive and oversaturated market, so I feel incredibly fortunate that people are even finding my book, let alone reading and enjoying it. There are bound to be negative reviews eventually, and that’s fine. I’ve prepared myself for that. But it’s an incredible feeling that this story I created from my own imagination has been as well-received as it has!
What did you learn about yourself whilst writing the book?
I think the biggest thing I learned was that “I can do this, I can write a novel.”
Where can readers find you on social media?