I took Shotgun Lovesongs with me to Florida after the Oscars last year, with no intention of actually reading it. I was so exhausted from the media tour and all of that and I just cracked open the spine and gave it a shot, and I was hooked, almost immediately, by the quiet and simple prose. It seemed so honest, it seemed so real. It wasn’t trying too hard. Before I knew it I had fallen in love with all of these characters. I read it on a beach, I read it straight through in one day — I just couldn’t stop.
I had just attended the Oscars and it was a very heady experience for me, not that I had the type of fame that the character, Lee (or Bon Iver) has. There were moments at the Oscars when I watched celebrities on the red carpet play a role and then as soon as the cameras were off they became somebody else entirely, in front of my eyes. The way Lee just craves normalcy, that was something that I felt was brilliant.
The idea of fame was something that at that point, I was thinking about for the first time. It was wonderful to go to the Oscars and go to the parties and stand at the bar next to Quentin Tarantino, but there was part of me that just wanted to return home and write the next novel. So the idea of balancing those two things — you know, when you make art and you have success and you’re thrust into the limelight, trying to return to where your heart is, where the art comes from — I think I could relate to that.
I always say to young novelists that the best thing you can do, if you can find it, is to present an authentic version of who you really are. I think that we all have stories to tell and part of writing is coming to terms with what type of storyteller you are going to be. That’s one of the things that really struck me about Shotgun Lovesongs. I have never met Nickolas but after reading his book I felt like I knew him. When I read his book it just seemed so authentic. I wasn’t surprised to find out later about all the time that he spent driving around that area, and living in that area.
I’ve never been to Wisconsin but I write about Philadelphia, which is where I grew up. I have a love for Philly, but it’s also sometimes hard for me to be there, it’s sometimes hard for me to write there — and when I go back home, it doesn’t always match my memory of being home. I think that’s exactly what happens with the characters in this book.
Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler is published by Picador.
Matthew Quick’s debut novel was adapted into the Oscar winning film, Silver Linings Playbook. His next book , The Good Luck of Now, will be published in November.