Not Famous… Two Years Later

Two years ago today, my first novel, Not Famous, was published.

It’s hard to even think about it as a two-year-old novel when it actually took more than seven years to complete from first inception to publication. But, yes, it has been two years since Not Famous was made available to the public.

The tremendous effort it took to complete my first novel made me wonder if I could even write another. Alas, not only did I write another novel, but it only took me seven months, not seven years to complete the first draft. That novel was Not Dressed, which was published in February 2020.

And my writing still continues. While finding my muse during the pandemic in 2020 was a challenge, I am actually now writing two new novels. This wasn’t planned. The idea for my third novel (no title reveal yet, but I’ll call it NA for short) was probably almost as old as when I first came up with the idea for Not Famous, but progress was slow as the pandemic drained me of creative energy. NA currently stands at roughly 43,000 words—nearly halfway to my target word count.

Curiously enough, an idea for two more novels came to me while I was struggling to write the third. To make a long story short, I experienced an incredible burst of inspiration for the fifth novel, NP, and churned out 25,000 words in two weeks. This ultimately led me to move NP up in the release order and it will now be my fourth novel in my Wallflowers series.

So, yeah… things are happening!

Finishing one novel was a huge accomplishment for me. Today, I’ve had two published, two in progress, and another planned. I’m very excited about this coming year.

A Playlist for ‘Not Famous’

Earlier this month I was made aware of a Spotify playlist that had been created by a reader of Not Famous. I checked it out and was very impressed by it.

I asked @lit_tracks0 about the process of creating the playlist. “While I’m reading a book I’ll start to get inklings of music I’m associating and begin compiling. There are times it does not happen until after the reading phase has completed. But typically it’s a trickle, and then there’s a scene or a phrase that usually hits and all of a sudden there’s a downpour,” I was told.

“The playlists usually start out with about three times the number of tracks and get wittled down as the story progresses. For instance, in Not Famous, the downpour ticked off pretty quickly when Nick was wondering the streets after being eviscerated. Of course, the rest of the novel was so hopeful that I had a hard time keeping anything too dark and melancholy.”

In Not Famous, the character Alli Conwell, an aspiring singer/songwriter, takes gigs playing cover songs to help pay the rent, so there are quite a few songs mentioned in the novel that appear in the playlist. “If a novel makes mention of specific tracks those are added (sometimes they make it on the final, sometimes they don’t),” explained @lit_tracks0. “@Once I’m done reading and have a draft playlist the story marinates and the playlist is pretty much on repeat until the ambiance lines up.”

There are a lot of songs on the playlist that are referenced in the novel, and quite a few others that weren’t. I’ve considered trying to make a similar playlist in the past without much luck, but I’m happy to see one created by a reader! If you have Spotify, check it out and tell me what you think!

Working on Novel #3

Okay, well, it’s been a while since I’ve added anything to this blog, so I’ve decided it’s time for an update.

The biggest thing going on right now is that I am working on my third novel. I planned to start it not long after Not Dressed was released, but I needed time to think over the new story for a while, how I wanted to structure it, and you know, let everything congeal for a while.

Then the coronavirus lock downs happened and I was in a bit of a rut, not having much inspiration to write. Eventually, I did get over it, and I’ve been plugging away. Currently, I’m at roughly 26,000 words with a target of 90,000 to 95,000 for the first draft.

This new novel will be a bit different than my previous novels.

Before I explain what’s different, I should note that this novel will be set in the same universe as Not Dressed and Not Famous—though if you follow this blog you know that already.

So, what makes it different? Well, both my previous novels took place over the course of several months. But, the bulk of my new novel will be taking place over the course of four days. This has presented some unique challenges for me in the planning stage, as I have to plan the events of the novel in smaller time segments. Previously, it was easy to fast forward through trivial periods of time in the story, but in this new novel I can’t do that. Virtually every period of the day needs something to happen, and that action has to contribute to the overall plot somehow.

So, it’s a bit of a learning experience. So far I’m happy with what I have done, but there’s a lot more to add. Lately, I’ve found myself tweaking the same scenes over and over, rather than writing new ones, which told me I need to step away from writing for a while and wait to be properly inspired again.

While I’m not writing as much as the moment, I am thinking about the characters, their backstories and other traits. So, while maybe I’m not adding to my word count, the process is still moving forward. It took me 7 years to complete Not Famous and there were times that I didn’t touch it for months, so a little break from actual writing doesn’t concern me. Some of my best ideas have come while I’m not writing at all.

Sequels aren’t my thing, but…

After finishing my first novel, Not Famous, it was difficult to get my head out of the world I’d just created, and it was sad to leave those characters. I used to say that I could have made the novel twice or three times a large because of how much I wanted to explore those characters more.

Of course, there were also thoughts of a sequel. And why not? With a sequel I could just continue the stories of the characters, maybe even delve more into their backstories. Perfect solution, right?

Except it really wasn’t. As much as I loved those characters and the story, I knew I was done writing the story of Nick Forrester and Alli Conwell.

And I knew this before I even finished the novel. I can’t really explain without giving away spoilers, I knew that another novel focusing on their story just couldn’t happen. I had the basic plot of my second novel in my head already, and it didn’t work for them. The solution came towards the end of the writing process: to set my next novel in the same universe as Not Famous, without it being an actual sequel.

This is hardly a new concept, so I’m hardly claiming to pioneer this idea. Nick Hornby quietly did this with his novels. In About A Boy, the main character Will shops at Championship Vinyl, the record shop Rob Fleming from High Fidelity owns. In his third novel How to Be Good, the main character Katie Carr encounters Dick from the same shop. DJ GoodNews from that novel is referenced in Hornby’s next novel A Long Way Down. All of Matthew Norman’s novels take place in the same universe as well, as the fictional novelist Curtis Violet, a central character in his debut novel Domestic Violets, is referenced in his subsequent novels.

This became my solution. My next novel would be set in the same universe. Those of you who have read both Not Famous and Not Dressed probably recognized that Nick’s one-night-stand Emma has a larger role in Not Dressed as Jake’s friend and co-worker at Burnham & Modine, the architecture firm that Nick and his business partner Jay design a website for during the events of Not Famous.

It was a lot of fun to expand on the world I’d created in Not Famous in an entirely separate story. And I even used the opportunity to give a peak about Alli and Nick’s future.

The question I ultimately had to answer was whether I’d connect the books as part of a series or not. To keep a long story relatively short, I chose to brand them as part of a series, and I settled on calling it the Wallflowers Series. Calling it the Not Series just sounded weird, and naming the series after Alli Conwell seemed disingenuous because even though she’s ultimately the primary character of the universe, she does not make an appearance in Not Dressed.

I chose Wallflowers as the name of the series because Wallflower is the name of a song and album of Alli Conwell’s and also a unifying characteristic of both Alli Conwell and Kaylee Cooke, the main female character in Not Dressed.

Of course, I am working on my third novel now, and it will also be set in the same universe, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it, and there will probably be a few surprises for fans of the first two books.

Not Famous… A Year Later

One year ago today, my first novel, Not Famous, was published.

It was the end of a seven-year journey from its original conception.

Prior to this, writing a novel was always something I thought about doing but never expected to. Forget all the stuff about publishing is a tough business and it being difficult to market yourself… It took a long time for me to feel like this was something I needed to do and set out to accomplish. I’d had stories in my head for a while before finally having the courage to put anything down on paper.

To finally complete Not Famous, and to put it out there, was no easy feat for me. While I personally loved the story, there was no reason to believe others would—or if it be read at all. If people read it, maybe they’d hate it and I’d get mostly one-star reviews.

Honestly, those concerns went through my head for a short while before I’d finished. But after the novel was complete, I didn’t care. I was proud of the final product, and if no one else liked it, so what?

If I’m also being honest, it’s an amazing feeling when people did read and enjoy Not Famous. One glowing review can make you feel like a bestselling author.

Here are some excerpts of reviews Not Famous has received. 

“I love this book. Nick and Alli are brought to life in this sweet story. My only complaint is that it ended too soon, I’m hoping there is a sequel in the works.”

“From the very first page, the author managed to grip me and make me want to read more.”

“I am an avid reader but I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) put this book down! It held my attention, engaged me with not only the story and characters but the writing itself.”

“Great book. I was almost crying at the end.”

“A huge triumph…”

“Really delightful book to read. I wanted a good story with interesting characters and this book hit the mark.”

“A charming and intriguing tale of love and relationships.”

“Here’s hoping that is just the first of many books coming from this author. I know I’ll be reading more.”

It’s a great feeling to know that there people out there who took the time to read your novel and responded so positively to it. I didn’t write the novel with the expectation of selling thousands of copies and being able to quit my job and write full time. I wrote the novel because I wanted to create a story. People reading it and enjoying it is just a bonus.

It was surprising to how quickly I was ready to jump in start working on my next novel, Not Dressed, which comes out next month. It took roughly seven months to complete the first draft of Not Dressed, compared to seven years for Not Famous.

I admit that after completing Not Famous, it was difficult to imagine writing another novel. I’d poured so much into it that for a while I was quite spent, and it was hard to get my head out of Not Famous and start thinking about new characters. Could I even love another novel as much as I do Not Famous? Could I ever feel as proud of another novel? The answer to both questions is: yes.

Not Famous will always be a special novel for me for being my first one, but I feel as though I’ve truly earned the right to call myself an author after writing Not Dressed.

Today being the anniversary of Not Famous being published is quite a moment for me. I didn’t get rich off the book, but I sold quite a few copies, and most people who read it really enjoyed it. I accomplished something I’d wanted to do for years but never had the courage, and I got to meet some wonderful fellow authors and readers as well.

I must thank everyone who took a chance on Not Famous by reading it—particularly those who chose to review it afterwards. I hope you read Not Dressed and find it to be a worthy follow up!

My Rules For Writing A Novel

Okay, let me be the first to say that I’m probably not the correct person to ask for advice on novel-writing. But, as someone on the verge of publishing his second novel, I’ve been asked for advice by emerging indie authors and figured I should really sit and think about what works for me, and offer that my advice.

1. Write a story you’d love if someone else wrote it 

I’m a big believer in the idea that you should write a novel that would be your favorite if someone else had written it. If you have a favorite author who inspires, think about the novel you’d love for them to write, and write it yourself. If you love your story, others will too.

2. Write love interests you’d fall in love with if they were real people

I think this is self-explanatory, but if there’s a romantic plot or subplot to your novel, the best way to make that romance feel genuine is for the love interest to reflect the qualities you admire and are attracted to in a partner. That doesn’t mean if you write a dozen novels with a love interest that each one will be the same. Far from it. The love interests in my two novel, Alli and Kaylee, are very different people, with different backstories, interests, and attitudes. Yes, there are similarities between the two, but for the most part, they are are unique characters, each with their own set of qualities that I find attractive.

Also, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be flawed characters either. Your characters should not be perfect personifications of your ideal mate. Characters need flaws to be realistic. You shouldn’t be afraid to have these characters dabble in behaviors and attitudes you don’t approve of. No one is the perfect mate.

3. Write multiple arcs to help move the story forward 

One thing I realized from reading a lot is that a novel needs multiple arcs to be interesting and to keep your attention. Both my novels feature multiple story arcs that occasionally bump into each other. Not Dressed, for example, is both a romantic comedy and a workplace comedy. In addition to those primary plots, there’s a sibling rivalry arc that is generally a minor plot point until the last third of the novel, but it’s still very important. 

4. Don’t share your novel until your first draft is done

For me, writing a novel is a private process. I don’t discuss details with anyone, or share snippets of my work until after the first draft is written or even after a preliminary edit. You are writing your first draft for yourself, not for the readers, and your writing process should be unsullied from outside opinion until you got the story down in it’s complete, but rough form.

Once you’ve done the first draft, let your trusted beta readers have at it to point out its strengths and weaknesses.

5. Write with the knowledge you’re gonna cut stuff out.

Editing is part of the process. When I finished my first novel, Not Famous, it was over 104,000 words long and I couldn’t imagine cutting a signal word. It ended up around 94,000 words after my beta readers helped me identify areas that weren’t necessary. Eventually, editing actually became fun for me because I knew that the tighter the novel was the better it would be.

6. Write in whatever order you want.

Some authors write from start to finish. Not me. I write out of order, as scenes come to me, and then piece everything together afterward. There’s no right or wrong way. I just happen to find it easier to write what I’m inspired to at a particular time, not to write in the order scenes are supposed to appear.

7. Don’t write with an agenda.

Fiction lets people escape from the real world—so let them. Everyone has an opinion on various issues, but if your story feels like you’re pushing an agenda, it can easily overshadow your story. Write for everyone, not just people who agree with you. Even those who do agree with you might be turned off. Your characters have their personal politics and religious belief systems, and that’s important to who they are and how you developed them, but don’t alienate your audience—especially if you’re an indie.

8. Dialogue and action don’t always cooperate in real life, so they shouldn’t in your novel.

I’ve been told I write realistic dialogue. I attribute that mostly to the fact that in real life, people struggle to come up with words on the spot, and get interrupted by other people and events. That’s just how it is. I think this is something that many authors do not reflect in their writing. Everyone, for the most part, gets their point across before someone else speaks or something happens. The phone or the doorbell almost never interrupt dialogue. Is that how real like works? I don’t think so. I like to incorporate stutters, awkward pauses, and abrupt breaks into my dialogue because that’s how it usually goes in life. Not everyone has the perfect punchline either. Dialogue and action don’t cooperate all the time in life, and they shouldn’t in your novel, either.

9. Take a break if it ever stops being fun.

When you’re writing a novel, you’re using your imagination to create a world or a universe. If you’re not enjoying the process, you need to step back from it and allow time to pass to allow yourself to look forward to entering that world again. If you’re not enjoying the process, it will reflect in your writing. I’ve taken breaks from writing, and each time I knew when to come back into it full throttle.

Frolic Talks Lad-Lit!

Yesterday, romance writer Lauren H. Mae wrote a piece for Frolic about lad lit titled, “Lad Lit: The Subgenre the Man in Your Life Needs” which explains what lad lit is, and features three lad lit book… including Not Famous!

Female romance readers, do you love reading romance but hate that you can rarely discuss books with the men in your life? A lot of men wrongly assume that love stories are for women only, and in a world where almost every other form of entertainment is geared toward men, it can be just fine to have our own thing. Sometimes, though, it would be great to share a good book recommendation with your husband, or boyfriend, or male best friend, and have them actually agree to read it. Well, it turns out there is another whole section of romantic fiction that you’re probably missing out on and it just might bridge the gap. It’s called Lad Lit and you’re going to love it just as much as he will. 

After explaining the genre to Frolic readers, Lauren highlighted three recently published lad lit books and their authors: Undergraduate by Ian Shane, Time for a Change, by Adam Eccles, and Not Famous, by yours truly. I can confirm that all three books are exemplary lad lit titles worth reading!

Click here to read the entire article!

Ranking Nick Hornby’s Film Adaptations [Updated]

Though it received a limited release in the summer of 2018, Juliet, Naked, the latest film adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel, wasn’t released for streaming/video until November… which is when I finally got to see it. In my original blog post, I said I was “cautiously optimistic that it will be a solid entry in the growing list of Nick Hornby novels adapted to film.“ Now that I’ve finally had a chance to see it, and let the movie simmer in my brain some, I’ve finally decided to update my rankings… Where does Juliet, Naked rank? Well… read on!

6. (Tie) Fever Pitch (1997 and the 2005 remake)

I hesitate to even include these adaptations since they are basically fictionalized versions of Nick Hornby’s nonfiction book of the same name.  The 1997 version featuring Colin Firth marginally beats the 2005 American version with Jimmy Fallon since the former actually involves Arsenal, the football/soccer team at the center of Nick Hornby’s 1992 autobiography. The 2005 American remake had nothing to do with Hornby’s book, and despite technically being a film adaptation of it, isn’t even listed on his (seldom-updated)  official website as one of his films, and with good reason. Rather than taking place in England, the film takes place in Boston. Instead of football/soccer, the protagonist is obsessed with the Red Sox. It seems they merely licensed the use of the title, and that hardly seemed worth it to me. The 1997 film is not my cup of tea either. So, these two basically get honorary positions at the bottom of the list.

5. Slam (2016)

This was a tough one to rank because this adaptation was produced in Italy and therefore, is in Italian. In fact, I hadn’t even bothered to watch this adaptation, figuring it be too difficult to enjoy by reading subtitles. But, for the purpose of this list, I decided I had to watch it and as luck would have it, it is currently on Netflix. One thing I will say about it, is that, it stays quite true to the source material, which is why it comes ahead of the Fever Pitch movies. It’s been a while since I read Slam, but I still recognized that much of the dialogue was straight out of the book, and what was changed was mostly minor. I don’t know whether it was the fact that I was reading the subtitles or not, but I felt the acting was only fair and some of the characters were miscast. Generally speaking I like it when movies stay true to the source material, there are always reasons to cut things from the movie, and this movie could have been improved by taking out some characters. In the book Sam has a dumb skater friend called Rabbit who is in this movie, but didn’t translate to film very well. Also, the arc involving Sam’s mother getting pregnant happens in the film, could very easily have been left out.

4. A Long Way Down (2014)

This was a somewhat disappointing movie even though it mostly stays true to the source material. I was mostly bother by what I felt were some unfortunate miscasts and a few unforgivable plot changes—most notably the romantic relationship that is revealed at the end between the JJ & Jess characters.This novel is not as loved as other Hornby novels, but I’ve read it a few times and was excited about another Hornby novel-to-film adaptation. Perhaps it just wasn’t going to meet my expectations because they were too high. In fact, I’ve only bothered to see this movie one time because I didn’t want it to poison the novel. Perhaps I was too harsh and should watch it again, but the casting of the film always bothered me. Aaron Paul was just not right for J.J. and Toni Collette (who previously starred in the adaptation of Hornby’s About A Boy) just didn’t match what I envisioned her character to be. The best casting of the four main characters was Imogen Poots as Jess. I suspect this was difficult to adapt properly because the novel tells the story via each of the four characters rotating POVs. The story progresses with us returning to each character’s perspective many times very effectively, while the movie tries to accomplish a similar effect, though only once per character—it was pointless to attempt in the film.

3. Juliet, Naked (2018)

This was a film I had high expectations for, like A Long Way Down, which disappointed me. For some reason, I felt that Juliet, Naked would translate to film better than A Long Way Down would, and it turns out I was right. This adaptation was, for the most part, perfectly cast and I enjoyed the movie despite some disappointing omissions in the film. Some omissions were understandable. Annie and Duncan’s Tucker Crowe-themed trip to the United States, which opened the novel, is one such omission. It really would have given extra dimension to Duncan’s obsession. It made sense to not have it in the film… but where I really missed it was the moment when Duncan starts to accept that Tucker Crowe might actually be Tucker Crowe. In the novel, he uses information he got from sneaking into Julie Beatty’s house to verify that Tucker, is, in fact, Tucker… which sends Tucker into a rage because he knows how Duncan got the information. The moment, as depicted in the film, was far less intense and mildly disappointing knowing the source material. Still, Juliet, Naked is a solid romantic comedy flick that I’ll watch again.

2. About A Boy (2002)

I love this film. It’s a huge leap ahead compared to A Long Way Down. Personally, I enjoyed the novel of A Long Way Down more than the novel of About A Boy, but I’ll prefer the film version of About A Boy over A Long Way Down. No question. This film definitely takes some liberties with the source material, seeing as the novel takes place is 1993 and the movie came out in 2002. The music of Nirvana and the death of Kurt Cobain plays a significant role in the later events of the novel which would not have worked so well, and so the climax of the film is completely different. Marcus’s father’s role in the movie is greatly reduced from the novel. But, it is still a solid film, perfectly cast, and it was even nominated for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. I’ve watched this movie several times over the years because it is a great flick in its own right.

1. High Fidelity (2000)

Not only is High Fidelity a phenomenal film adaptation, I would consider it the gold standard of film adaptations. I’ve read the book and seen the film multiple times each and love them both. The film stays surprisingly true to the source material (with really only a few changes), and the moving of the story from London to Chicago was flawless. The novel is rich with monologues from the main character Rob, which is translated to the film with voice overs and the character breaking the fourth wall by talking directly to the viewer. The casting is spot on. Bruce Springsteen has a cameo. Jack Black was perfect as Barry. The only negative that can really be said about it is that Harold Ramis had a small role as Rob’s (John Cusack’s) father that was cut from the final edit of the film. It is a shame there hasn’t been a director’s cut released on DVD/Blu-Ray because it be great to see Ramis’s role and other scenes restored.

This post is an update to an earlier version from June 19, 2018.

‘Not Famous’ … One Month Later

Today marks one month since the launch of my debut novel, Not Famous.

It’s been quite an interesting experience!

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. Publishing is so competitive… I didn’t even try to query agents or publishers, I just jumped right into self-publishing it because I believed in my novel and felt that even if managed to get a publisher interested I’d still do pretty much all the heavy-lifting anyway, so why not do everything myself, and if by some miracle the book sells, great, I’m not splitting royalties with a publisher—that is, if the book sells at all.

So, how did my first month go? Well, I’ll tell you…

Over a hundred copies of Not Famous have sold in more than six different countries. My Kindle Unlimited pages reads are in the five figures. That’s right, five! Not Famous made it into the top 10,000 Kindle books overall in the Amazon UK store.

And people aren’t just buying and reading the book, they are really enjoying it, too!

Between the US and UK Amazon stores, Not Famous currently has 10 reviews, all of them five-stars.

Here’s a few of those reviews…

From Ian Shane, a fellow lad-lit author:

“Matthew Hanover delivers a pitch-perfect story in his debut novel. It’s a funny and touching story about learning to love and trust again. […] Not Famous is a story that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it. I’m holding up my lighter, because I want an encore.”

From M. Becker:

Here’s hoping that is just the first of many books coming from this author. I know I’ll be reading more.

From Scott Richardson:

“I love this book. Nick and Alli are brought to life in this sweet story. My only complaint is that it ended too soon, I’m hoping there is a sequel in the works.”

From Amazon Customer:

As someone who’s been anxiously waiting for a new book from Jonathan Tropper, Matthew Norman, Nick Hornby, or some of the other “lad lit” authors, I enjoyed NOT FAMOUS a ton. It’s a heartfelt and charming story that has you rooting for the characters from start to finish, and, framed in Boston’s independent music scene, it has a sense of place and purpose that you don’t always see from debut novels. I look forward to reading more from Hanover in the future.

Amazon Reviewer

“From the very first page, the author managed to grip me and make me want to read more.”

From Mr. J. M. Vidamour:

From the first page I was hooked. Interesting characters who you root for an care about and a believable world that you wished you lived in.

A fantastic read that will be loved by fans of Nick Hornby with a twist in its tail that you won’t see coming.

From SThaw:

A very impressive debut. I’m looking forward to what comes next. This novel was funny and heartfelt. I was hooked from the first chapter, loved the characters and read the whole thing in one day.

There are more, but you get the idea. There are also reviews on Goodreads, where an overwhelming majority of readers loved the book.

I still have a lot of work to do to keep the book in the hands of readers, but I’m thrilled that things have so far gone this well… It’s great to know that people are reading Not Famous and enjoying it!

‘Not Famous’ is Being Produced as an Audiobook!

I’ve very excited to announced that as you read this, my debut novel, Not Famous, is being produced as an audiobook! A very talented voice artist name Lucio Leone is narrating, and I am very impressed with what he’s recorded so far! Recording should be finished by the end of February!

I can’t wait for this audiobook to be available, and I hope audiobook lovers out there are looking forward to it! I’ve decided that I will give away a free copy of the audiobook once it’s ready to one lucky person. Click here or scan the QR code below to enter yourself for a chance to win!