“When David Pepin first dreamed of killing his wife, he didn’t kill her himself. He dreamed of convenient acts of God. At a picnic on the beach, a storm front moved in. David and Alice collected their chairs, blankets, and booze, and when the lightning flashed David imagined his wife lit up, her skeleton distinctly visible like in a children’s cartoon, Alice then collapsing into a smoking pile of ash.” The opening lines from American writer Adam Ross’s debut novel set it apart from many books these days. Mr. Peanut is a mesmerizing book and a fantastic beginning for Adam. The novel has been circulating around Random House for several months, and the advance comments have been fantastic, with many saying it’s one of the best books they’ve read in years. The editor of Mr. Peanut says it “immediately struck me as being as audacious and fully realized as any first novel I’d encountered as an editor.” Needless to say, the literary world took notice; eleven publishing houses around the world have already bought rights – an almost unheard of number for a first novel – and Jonathan Cape will publish it here in June, right after its release in America.
Adam started writing in the last few years of high school and continued right through university, eventually majoring in literature at Vassar College. From then on it was all about finding inspiration for his fiction which takes daily, from his wife and two young daughters, friends, or events being kept in evidence for law suits. He’s currently working on a short story called “Wrecks,” an idea he developed after seeing a junkyard full of cars being held for law-suit cases. Adam says that “the wrecks were so bad, the cars so mangled, the gestalt of the place so violent, that I felt I somehow had to write a story about it.” He knows where the story and the cars end up, but the trick and joy of fiction is coming to understand how these accidents happened in the first place. This, as Adam puts it, is the core of his mission: to find some piece of information that he can wrap around with fiction. And once that moment has been captured, the rest of the story will flow from there in response to the event. For Adam, the joy of writing comes from its execution. He will envision an idea and watch it expand and transform into fiction, where the real joy and understanding is, as he says, “When I’m writing and things are going well, I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing in life. In short, I’m happy to be on the planet.” He also compares the feeling of satisfaction he gets from great writing to hitting a great golf shot: he’s an avid golfer and has kicked my ass around a golf course many times. He will envision how he wants the story/shot to go and when it goes well everything is great. When it doesn’t go well it’s how it feels to hit a bad golf shot (so Adam would shrug off bad writing and keep going much as he does a golf shot, I on the other hand would likely end up throwing either my laptop or golf club depending on what activity was taking place!)
For Adam the best advice that he could offer a budding writer is to learn “how NOT to write,” which he achieved by reading extensively and through developing his own writing techniques. Having found his own technique Adam explained that he would set up a routine to make sure that he was writing at least once a day, what he was writing about was not important just as long as he was writing something. Beyond that a thick skin is essential, as he says part of being a writer involves taking a good amount of criticism , being able to take this criticism and turn it to your advantage is essential. Adam’s final and most important piece of advice for anybody wanting to be a writer “read everything and then read it again.” My advice for anybody wanting to be a writer is to start by reading Mr. Peanut.